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Do you send regular e-mail newsletters? If you do, do you know how many people actually receive them, open them, read them and click on the links?

How many people who subscribe to your e-mail lists do so just to get the freebie you are offering as an enticement? Yes, I am guilty of this. Why pay for something if you can get it free?

One of the Social Media Companies whose e-mails I do open, as their content is excellent, is Social Media Examiner. They run a huge conference Social Media Marketing World in San Diego and have/had an e-mail marketing database of 450 000!! They were recently faced with the option of having their account blocked or having to delete 150 000 accounts because the mails were not being delivered. You can watch their video where they discuss this.

In the good old days we used to stuff thousands of envelopes with our marketing material, take them to the Post Office and pray that they would be received, opened and actioned. A response rate of between 3% and 7% was considered normal. What a lot of effort for such a small return. 

In more recent times, let’s call them the bad old days, we built large databases of e-mails of our customers, random contacts, bought e-mail lists and enthusiastically sent out newsletters to all and sundry. No un-subscribe links and if someone complained we might have removed them from the list.

Consumers are no longer tolerant. Annoy them with SPAM and they will block you, never buy from you and even report you. In Europe you have the GDPR Act - which prohibits you from e-mailing people without their written permission. In South Africa we have POPI .

Is it still worth sending e-mails?

Does offering freebies as an incentive to subscribe really increase sales?

How often should you be sending e-mails? Daily, weekly, monthly?

The only way to answer these questions is to delve into the analytics from your e-mail service provider.

Here is a screenshot from a mailer that I sent to my database in November 2018. I sent it to all 2296 people on my database as a test to see who responded, who unsubscribed, and which mail addresses no longer existed. My database was un-segmented and included people I had e-mailed since 2015.

Newsletter stats

I knew I needed to clean up my database but it had always seemed like a daunting task. How to segment my subscribers was another challenge. I am involved in a variety of businesses and have many interests and have written on several topics over the past few years. Perhaps the people on my list share my varied interests. I needed to find out and get compliant with the POPI Act and GDPR.

First step was to remove the unsubscribes. When someone unsubscribes,I have 3 questions asking why. Some elaborate and some don’t.

When people unsubscribe it can be quite a rejection but I have learned that there are a variety of reasons for this.

  • They are not interested in what you are communicating. 
  • They initially subscribed because a particular post or newsletter was of interest but their needs changed. 
  • They simply get too many e-mails and are overwhelmed.

Second step - remove the undelivereds. Some may have been rejected as SPAM and others have left their jobs or the country. SPAM filters are getting increasingly strict.

The third step was to go through and do a filtered search for all those who had not opened a mail in the past year. SOB! This removed more than 1000 people from my database.

I chose a year as the time period because I have found that subscribers may miss a few e-mails and subsequently open one. A few months ago, I got an email requesting a booking as a result of an e-mail I had sent a year prior.

I am ashamed to say that I have several 1000 e-mails in my GMail Promotions tab that I have not opened.  One day … I will get to it. 

So, I now have less than 1000 subscribers in a new list and I am starting to segment them according to the links they click on.

Maintaining an e-mail list is a lot of work and for me, the jury is currently out as to whether I should continue to send newsletters or share my content via Social Media and good SEO which will help those who are interested to find me on Google Search.

I would love to hear your experiences with E-mail marketing and how it has changed.

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