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Email Marketing by the Numbers: How to Use the World’s Greatest Marketing Tool to Take Any Organization to the Next Level by Ali Sales, Chris Baggott

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What Is the Ideal List Size for an Email Send?

By Morgan StewartDirector, Strategic Services, ExactTarget

When Chris asked me what I thought the ideal list size should be, I answered, “One.” Of course, I understand that there is a big difference between what is ideal and what’s possible, but let me explain my reasoning.

As marketers, we want to grow our email subscriber database. But we should not send undifferentiated broadcast emails to our entire database.

I recently compiled a study of our organization’s clients and found that list size was an incredibly strong predictor of both open and click-through response rates. Open and click-through rates were approximately 2.5 times higher for emails sent to fewer than 100 subscribers than for emails sent to 100,000 subscribers or more—indicating that smaller is better when it comes to targeting our messages.

There are two scenarios to consider:

  1. Subscriber initiated: emails triggered based on the subscriber doing something and initiating contact.

  2. Sender initiated: emails that are sent based on the sender’s desire to leverage the subscriber database to initiate contact.

For subscriber initiated emails, the subscriber has started the dialogue through an event such as registration, cart abandonment, site search, or a telephone call. These emails respond to subscribers showing interest through their behavior. This is the best time to send a highly personalized message. Studies consistently show significantly higher response and conversion ...

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