Email Marketing: WHO Is On Your List Is More Important Than HOW MANY

In marketing, building an audience is one of the main steps towards success. It is what most of content and social media marketing is all about. And many efforts are directed towards building a list of subscribers in form of a list of email addresses. And rightly so.

Email marketing lists have some huge advantages:

You can get in touch with your email subscribers over and over again. Subscribers usually already are relatively interested in you and the information you provide. If done right, a consistent email sequence gives you the opportunity to build a connection and build up buying interest over time.

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Email subscribers are a lot closer to buying anything from you than followers in social media.

In a large email list lay multiple opportunities for making money from your audience. This knowledge makes some people run for the big numbers of email addresses. This results in some doubtable and some rather stupid methods of raising the number of subscribers. And losing the focus on the right subscribers at the same time. And it is basically wrong. It is not the number of addresses in your list that makes or breaks your marketing success. (Apart from there being more to email marketing success than a huge number of subscribers).

Much more significant is WHO is in your list.

It is more than dangerous only to look for more and more subscribers, no matter who they are and where they come from. The wrong people in your list can cost you a ton of money; it can cost you credibility, and it can seriously hurt your email marketing success.

Untargeted recipients of an email list will make your statistics look rather bad because they will never open your mails and certainly never convert to customers. Also they can simply click on the spam button in their email program and your next emails will be seen by fewer and fewer people on your list, because they ended up in their spam folder. Also, if you have a huge number of “subscribers” on your list, sending out newsletters will not come for free. With a ton of “bad” email addresses on your list, you will end up spending lots of money on sending useless emails to uninterested people.

A couple of well targeted and interested subscribers most certainly will give you much more than hundreds of un-targeted or – even worse – annoyed and uninterested recipients. That is why heading for “Number of Subscribers” as a marketing success metric may well be very deceiving. And the next metrics like open rates for your emails, click through rates – and eventually, conversions will then drop to nothing.

Here are some examples of how some people are filling up an email list and which you should certainly handle with care:

Buying an email list

In some countries, it is not even legal to buy “subscribers” who have not explicitly agreed to receive your newsletter. However, the central problem with these kinds of lists is that usually they are not overly targeted. A lot of the email addresses are already dead or deserted. And these lists cost a considerable amount of money for questionable material.

If you have some money to waste and need a quick audience, you may want to see what kind of list you can get for your money. However, always keep in mind, that bought email addresses can never have the same value as real subscribers, which you gained by providing value over a long time. And these lists will never give you the same kind of results a couple of real subscribers can give you.

Collecting Business Cards

This is a rather dubious practice I have seen at various startup events. Some events even force this by organizing some games with the sole goal of exchanging business cards with random people. And then these young entrepreneurs count the success of an event by the numbers of business cards they could collect not counting who the owners of the business cards actually are and if they can and will in any way be interested in their venture. Most of the time what they collected is this: Tons of business cards from other desperate founders who neither are from their target group nor have the money to invest or buy their product.

To make the best use of these business cards some entrepreneurs then put all the emails from the business cards on their email newsletter list. Do you still wonder, why they do not get any results from their email marketing?

Events are a great way of connecting with people. But instead of grabbing as many email addresses as you can, you would be much better of by connecting to 1 or 2 targeted people. And these couple of people then most likely are much too valuable to treat them like anonymous email subscribers. Instead, you should pamper them on a much more personal level.

Collecting email addresses over the net

I receive a ton of newsletters I have never subscribed to. And being located in Berlin, Germany, you may understand that I am not a happy recipient of a daily newsletter of a massage practice in Vermont, US. While most of the time I simply unsubscribe – failing to provide me with an unsubscribe button is a sure way of ending up in the spam folder.

But as much as it annoys me as the unsolicited recipient – it is hurting your marketing efforts. Again you are wasting your marketing budget on entirely untargeted people who will never convert.

Even if you target these collected emails a little better and only collect email addresses from local people or people from your target group – These people are not interested in you, they do not know you, they do not trust you. And you are starting the conversation with a scam, and they know it. That is never the best way to go.

Final words:

Building a list of subscribers and nurturing them with useful information is one of the most efficient marketing methods there is – and it is also a kind of science on its own. Trying to take a shortcut by adding addresses the fishy way – is most of the time not going to solve your marketing problems but seriously going to hurt them. Like most things in marketing building a list of email addresses that gives you good results takes time and some learning curve. It also takes a lot of effort and knowledge to nurture these leads in your list with care and eventually be able to convert some of them into loyal customers.

In case you are wondering which email marketing tool we are using: Drip. And here is a full review of the email marketing software Drip.

Email marketing should be part of any blog or online business venture. But you also need a couple of things besides an email list and an email marketing tools.

When you are just starting out, there are many things you need to consider: From choosing the topic, setting up the blog to selecting the best tools and generating traffic.

We can help you to find your way through that jungle of a beginner blogger. Check out our ebook “Start, Run, And Make Money With Your Blog!”

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For successful email marketing you need to build a list of subscribers. To find targeted and interested subscribers is much more important than how many.

  • Umane Paul


  • Nathan FunnelMonster

    Great post 🙂 I understand why people want to grow their email list as quickly as possible – studies show that for every $1 (0.88 euro) invested in email marketing, companies gain $44 (38 euro) in revenue. But as you say gathering email addresses using fishy methods is so short-sighted.

    What makes it worse is that its totally possible to collect lots of email addresses using well placed signup forms and by using content upgrades.

  • Zhivko Stanev

    Quality over quantity is pretty obvious, but the problem is that quality is a lot harder to sell than quantity.