A Quick and Easy Tip To Maintain Accurate Customer Email Lists

Author: 
Nathan Wakefield

Email marketing can be a very important tool to use for your business. This can be especially relevant to small B2B online marketers who are trying to keep their customers informed about promotions and new products to maintain lasting purchasing relationships.

As you begin creating a system for a customer email campaign, it can be confusing to manage an accurate list without a substantial time commitment at first, especially if you are a new business.

If you are in a company where new customers are added to your email list when they first do business with you, they should be recorded in a master source. This can be something as sophisticated as a proprietary CRM program or as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. For the new email marketer, the logical way of thinking might be to simply create a new customer database export from this source periodically and use that as your current email contact list. However, this can pose a major problem.

The issue with this is that not all email blast providers treat opt-outs the same way. When someone opts out and indicates that they no longer wish to receive email communications from you, some email blast providers will opt out the contact for all future communications from your entire account, whereas others will only opt them out for that specific list within your account. If you utilize a provider that uses the latter technique, as soon as you replace that list with a new one, all the opt-out data will be cleared out, and they will be back on your email list. It is especially important to avoid this, because under the CAN-SPAM act, continuing to email someone that has opted out of your communications is not only annoying to them, but it can be grounds for legal penalty.

Streamlining Customer Contact Lists

Large enterprises will have systems in place for an accurate and streamlined process to manage this, but what about the small business or startup marketer who lacks these resources? Here is quick tip to streamline your customer contact list management for small online businesses to utilize.
First, create a free account with an email blast provider. One of the main limitations with free accounts is they cap it at a certain number of subscribers, so if you are just starting out, this should not be an issue to you initially.

Next, export your current customer list from whatever system you store your customer information in. In most cases, the export should be a CSV file (nearly every data program can export as this file type). Then import the CSV customer list as a new contact list in your email blast provider. When you name your list, call it something to denote that it is a current customer list and put the list creation date in the title. An example of this would be “Current Customers – 7/1/2017”.
Do some internal analytics to determine the rate at which you want to add new customers. This can depend on a number of things, such as your email blast frequency, rate of new customer acquisitions, importance of your email communications, etc. For small companies just starting a customer email marketing campaign, a monthly addition rate will probably suffice.

This next part is where the technique differs from the conventional thinking of a new startup marketer; When the time comes, rather than replacing the existing list with an new list, you instead want to add to the existing list. The date in the title going forward will not be a list export date, rather it will indicate a list revision date.
Once a month (or whatever timeframe you have established has passed) open up your master customer data source application and run a CSV export of your current customer data. Once you have the new export open, sort it by date. Then delete all the entries that match or precede the date on your current email list. The remaining contacts should only be new customers that are not yet on your drip email campaign.

Suitable For Other Lists

Once this new data is isolated, open up your original email list (“Current Customers – 7/1/2017”) in your email provider and copy and paste the new contacts into this list using the add new contacts function. Alternately, if your new customer dataset is large and adding new contacts is impractical, save the CSV as it is with the old contacts removed, then use a merge list or add to group function, which should be found in most email blast providers. This will allow you to put all the new data into your existing list at once. When done, go into the edit function on your list, and update the name to reflect the date in which you made the latest revision.

Now, your list is up to date, and your email list data and opt outs are preserved. If it’s helpful to you, you could also create a monthly reoccurring calendar entry to remind you to update your customer email blast list on a regular basis.

This technique can also be helpful for other forms of list management, such as maintaining an internal list for sending mail items to leads or customers while leaving out the ones that have opted out or are no longer a good fit.

As your business and marketing efforts grow, you can take on more advanced email blast features like list segmentation, but for someone starting out, this can be a quick and easy way to maintain accurate customer email communication without having to worry about inadvertently contacting opted out contacts.

Nathan Wakefield is a marketing analyst at MBEMRO, the e-commerce initiative of integrated supply chain firm PSMI.