Opt-In List Mix

Dear Email Diva,

Our B2B services business operates an opt-in email alert program from our corporate Web site. Web visitors are given the option to subscribe for alerts sent when new content is posted, either anywhere on the site, or within certain business unit sections of the site. Each quarter, I analyze the list to see what percent of subscribers are from our existing and target client company list.

The portion of client subscribers for business unit lists can range from less than 1% to as much as 5%. Other subscribers include our own employees, media, other consultants and business services, and college and university students and staff. I've been challenged in meetings to state how well our list composition compares with benchmarks. I've never found any benchmarks or standards, and our email marketing group isn't aware of any for this kind of email marketing program in our industry or overall.

Do other marketers care about this statistic? Is there truly no quantitative research on the topic?

Communications Manager, Major Consulting Company



Dear Communications Manager,

The Email Diva will give you some data, but must first hit you upside the head. If regular communication with customers and prospects is important to you, the question should never be "are we doing about as well as the other guys," but rather, "how can we improve?"

First consider how you can optimize the opt-in process on your site. Marketing Experiments has a wealth of information on this subject, based on scrupulous research and testing. They advise you to eliminate "anxiety and friction" in your opt-in process. When I subscribed for email on your site, I had no idea what I was going to get, how often I would get it, and whether it would be relevant.

Your email content options seem to be arranged by business units rather than customer needs. The majority of your list is made up of those motivated to separate the wheat from the chaff, while customers simply want what they want when they want it. Talk to customers and get feedback on the communications they receive as well as what they would like to receive.

You require a double opt-in, which puts an additional barrier between your communication and your customer. What percentage of subscribers don't confirm their opt-in? Is it really necessary? If you were offering a popular incentive for opting in, it would be wise to confirm the transaction, but for your site, it isn't necessary.

Immediately after opting in, I got four emails from you -- one for each content option selected, plus the double opt-in request. This also raises a red flag that you are deluging your audience with information rather than providing the highlights and allowing them to drill down.

To steal a phrase from a presentation by Stephanie Miller (Return Path) and Sean O'Neal (Datran Media), the invitation to opt-in for email on your site should be "prominent, compelling and everywhere." While the "Email Alerts" button is in the global navigation, satisfying the "everywhere" guideline, you fall short of making it prominent and compelling. What is the value of signing up for your email? Condense the answer into a persuasive sentence or two and feature it throughout your site. If you don't have a compelling value proposition, it's time to scrutinize and improve your program.

The Email Diva rant is now completed, and I will furnish some information provided by my colleagues in the Inbox Insiders. Remember that you are almost certainly comparing apples and oranges.

"The range is between 18-25% of the marketing database for B2B and 30-40% for B2C." (Jeanniey Mullen, OgilvyOne Worldwide and the Email Experience Council

"An ecommerce site with 15 million unique viewers a year has an email list of 3.5 million, nearly 20%. But they run very aggressive list-building operations, like contests. A retail chain with 7 million customers has a list of 1 million names. Among that [number,] 500,000 are estimated to be customers, so [it's] 7% of the customer base. Their target is to reach 20% of their customer base. (Marc Desenfant, Come&Stay)

"Most customers I talk to in B2B are around 30% to 40%, and B2C is about 15% to 25%." (Jeff Mills, eROI, Inc.)

Looks like you have some work to do. You have great content, now you need to package it in a way that is accessible to your audience.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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