No one wants to receive unsolicited email messages when checking their inbox. However, businesses often forget this and want to acquire as many new customers as possible by emailing people regardless of whether or not those potential customers signed up to be on their email list. Poor list building practices and maintenance can hurt email delivery rates and damage businesses’ reputations. When delivery rates are damaged, even those who want to receive your emails can’t get them. Many businesses mean well, but don’t know how they should handle email marketing in comparison to direct mail.

Here are 5 things to look for that may indicate trouble when working with your clients’ lists:

1. Generic email prefixes

Most people don’t sign-up for an email list with a generic email address. If you notice a large number of email addresses with prefixes like info@, sales@, webmaster@, etc. it may be a sign the addresses may have been scraped from the Internet.

2. Age of list

If your client is sending to their list for the first time, find out how long they’ve been collecting email addresses and if those addresses are permission-based. If the list hasn’t been mailed to in over 6 months, it is likely there will be a number of bounces and spam complaints the first time it is mailed to. If your client has sign-up data, sort and remove outdated records before sending. You may also want to send to small sub-sets of the list to measure how email addresses perform before sending to the rest of the list. Lastly, it’s a good idea to remind subscribers where they signed up for the list and the value they will receive by being on it.

3. Spike in list size

If your client regularly sends to a list of 2,000 people and suddenly gives you a list of 20,000 it’s unlikely the additional 18,000 opted-in to be on their list. Discuss how the addresses were collected with your client and inform them of opt-in best practices (PDF).

4. Small business with a big list

If you’re working with a new client who runs a small business and provides you a large list, you should ask them how they acquired the list. Perhaps it’s a combination of purchased, rented or organically acquired email addresses. Speak with your client to understand how the list was grown and cull out only those who opted-in to receive emails.

5. Website traffic

If your client has low website traffic, but a large list this could be another red flag. Alexa is a great tool for looking at site traffic data. If their page ranks in the hundred thousands, but they have a list of 50k or more this could be a red flag for a non opt-in list and warrants a conversation with the client.

By educating your clients about and reinforcing good email list growth practices, you’ll be able to help your clients realize better results.

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Written by Christina Hoheisel, Business Development Manager at VerticalResponse.

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