May The Best Lists Win!

Last month, I talked about acquisition in an article asserting that good acquisition is also good customer relationship management. I’d like to say more about that this month, as Q1 of 2013 will be upon us sooner than anyone ever thinks, and starting the new year thinking about new-customer acquisition is the best way to set you up for the best CRM ever.

Here’s something that you might not expect to hear: CRM is—or at least can be—all about lists.

We all have a tendency to think of lists in terms of numbers. We want people on our lists to engage, to subscribe, to convert, to repeat purchases; but in the process, we sometimes lose sight of the first part of that statement—the fact that they are people. Your lists aren’t just numbers: your lists are your customers, the people you’re here to serve, the people you’d like to see become your very best customers.

I subscribe to a number of internet discussion forums relating to e-marketing, and I’m sometimes amused by the vehemence with which marketers defend their own particular favorite methods and ideas:

“Always put an exclamation mark in a subject line!”

“Never put an exclamation mark in a subject line!”

… and so on. At the base of these arguments, though, is a simple fact: marketers don’t know what works. And the reason that they don’t know what works is that they don’t know their customers. And the kernel of great CRM lies in that simple fact: marketers need to know their customers. Whether or not an exclamation mark works in a subject line doesn’t depend on you: it depends on the people who will be reading and responding—or not responding—to it.

And you get to know your customers through the actions they take on your email lists.

So once again we’re back to my primary assertion: that good CRM is absolutely dependent on good acquisition. Knowing your customers begins with knowing that your lists have been vetted and verified, and that they contain names of people who really want to hear from you. 

Size matters, but when it comes to email lists, quality matters even more. The winners this holiday season are the marketers with the best lists. And you know you have a great email list when:

  • positive activity (opens/click/conversions) is high

  • negative activity (complaints/unsubscribes) is low

  • the list is significantly bigger than it was a year ago

When you have a great email list, you get into the inbox, and superior results follow: the people on those lists will engage with your brand, they’ll become satisfied customers, and they’ll spread the word to others to join your list!

In fact, the impact of a great list on performance is multiples greater than the impact of the most advanced segmentation, design, and triggering tools.

Owning a great email list also tells a lot about who you are as a marketer. It says that you …

  1. understand the frequency needs of your clients, because you mail frequently enough to keep the list active, and not so frequently that your subscribers drop off and/or complain

  2. understand the types of subject lines that your subscribers respond to, subject lines that separate you from the competition

  3. understand the offers and content your subscribers respond to positively, and what they share with colleagues, friends, and family

This holiday and post-holiday season is a great time to think about the importance of building your company’s most valuable asset: your email list.

There are three major priorities you need to focus on to find the Holy Grail of email lists:

  1. Understand and manage the sources of all your acquisition programs.

  2. Nurture your incoming leads so that only highly qualified prospects are added to your database.

  3. Manage your CRM programs to keep your list both responsive and virally driving new customers and prospects.

It’s not rocket science: it is, simply, great CRM. And may the best lists win!

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