Email marketing is a powerful tool that every online business should leverage. Email enables you to communicate with different team members effectively, as well as to get your products and services in front of thousands of prospective customers.
While one of the most cost-effective marketing channels, with an ROI of 3800% ($38 for every $1 spent), email marketing can get a little hectic. If you have no previous experience with creating and distributing marketing emails, you’ll likely be overwhelmed by all the different variables that go into creating an effective email campaign.
While there are no certainties when it comes to email marketing, due to the fact that every business and target audience is different, there are some best practices you can follow. One of those practices involves segmenting your mailing list and sending the right marketing message to the right people.
In this article, we’ll discuss what an email distribution list is and show you how you can create one or multiple lists in Gmail, Outlook, or your autoresponder.
Let’s jump right in!
If you’re using email as a way of communicating with existing and potential customers, you’re likely aware of the fact that you can’t send out emails manually. It would take ages to CC every single contact, but even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a good idea to send the same email to everyone.
People join your mailing list at different times, so you can’t keep dishing out emails with no regard to when someone entered your marketing funnel and what your relationship with them is. This means you’d have to automate the entire process.
Automating email marketing inevitably leads to creating different mailing lists. An email distribution list is a list of contacts that you will be sending marketing emails to on a regular basis. The two terms—email mailing list and email distribution list—are synonymous, at least in the context of online marketing.
That said, there are a few differences between the two.
Email Mailing List vs. Email Distribution List
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The main reason behind creating different mailing lists is that you want to send people content and promotional emails that align with the stage of your marketing funnel they are in and their level of interest.
You wouldn’t want to start bombarding someone who just joined your mailing list with promotional emails every day. At the same time, if a prospect is at the bottom of your funnel and is an inch away from making a buying decision, you want to help facilitate the purchase by introducing them to the benefits of your product/service and presenting them with great deals.
The process goes way beyond adding people to the same mailing list and creating a linear, automated sequence that will send out emails every other day. You can also leverage triggers and events that most autoresponders offer and further segment your email leads based on how they interact with your emails.
For example, if someone opens your emails and clicks on the links continuously, you might want to move them to a different mailing list and send them case studies and promotional material to nudge them towards making a purchase. Following the same logic, if someone doesn’t open your emails in, say, a month, you might want to remove them from the current mailing list.
The key thing to realize is that, in order to get a high return on investment from your email marketing efforts, you must manage your list effectively and ensure that you send the right message to the right people at the right time.
Now that you understand why an email distribution list is essential, let’s take a look at how you would go about creating one.
If you do not have a sizable list of email addresses already, there are various lead generation methods you can employ to “capture” the email addresses of your target audience. Today, it is no longer enough to simply feature a newsletter sign-up form in the footer of your website.
In order to generate email leads reliably and consistently, you must offer them something valuable in exchange for their contact information. In the online marketing world, that something is referred to as a lead magnet.
A lead magnet can be anything from:
A case study
A PDF report
A free trial for a software
A special discount on the first purchase
Regardless of the nature of the lead magnet, it needs to offer your target audience good value—whether it’s actionable advice that will help them overcome a problem or a discount that will help them save money.
Here’s an example of a lead magnet from Digital Marketer:
Digital Marketer Facebook Ad Template Lead Magnet
The lead magnet also needs to be directly connected to your business. Its primary purpose is to help you collect the email addresses. That said, the lead magnet should also pique your leads’ interest and make them eager to learn more about what it is your business does and how your products and services can help them improve their life or business.
In other words, the lead magnet needs to act as an incentive for people to join your mailing list. At the same time, it needs to showcase that you’re not just interested in their hard-earned money but genuinely want to help them by adding value to their lives.
While you can create a single lead magnet that would collect all the email addresses into a single mailing list, we suggest creating multiple ones for different entry points of your marketing funnel. This way, you’ll be segmenting your audience right from the get-go, and you will have access to different distribution lists before you start creating your campaigns.
Here are examples for the different stages of your marketing funnel:
Top of the Funnel (TOFU)—For instance, a lead magnet for the top of the funnel can be a PDF report. Everyone who downloads it will join the associated mailing list, and you can slowly nurture those people by sending them a ton of valuable content and mixing in a few promotional emails here and there
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)—Something like a case study would be an excellent lead magnet for the middle of the funnel. The people there are already aware of what your business is and what type of solution they need, and they want to learn more about your products and services
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) — Finally, for the bottom of the funnel, you can offer something like a customized pricing plan, a free consultation call, or a time-limited discount. These people are already on the verge of buying and only need a gentle nudge in the right direction
From there, you can segment your audience further based on their engagement and interaction with your business. Let’s take a look at how you can create different email distribution lists in Gmail and Outlook, as well as an average autoresponder.
Apart from sending promotional emails to a specific segment of your target audience, distribution lists can be a great way to facilitate internal communication.
Instead of CC-ing 15 people in the company, you can create a distribution list for specific departments or roles and choose the said list when sending out an email. Setting the distribution list up in Outlook is fairly easy, and it will save you a lot of time in the long run.
To create a distribution list in Outlook, log in to your account and navigate to People.
If you’re using a compact navigation bar, you’ll find the icon in the bottom left corner of your inbox.
The People Option in Outlook’s Compact Navigation Bar
If you’re using the expanded navigation bar, instead of the icon, you’ll see the option named People.
You will be redirected to a new page automatically, where you can see an option labeled Your Contacts.
Select the folder Contacts or create a new folder to save the email distribution list you’re going to create.
Creating a Folder to Save Your Contacts
Here, you’ll have two options:
Add contacts—add email addresses one by one
Import contacts—import a list of contacts and use it as a basis for your distribution list
Once you’ve added the contacts, name the group and click Save & Close.
Add or Import Contacts in Outlook
From here on out, you’ll be able to use the distribution list when sending out emails in the future. Type in the name of the group in the recipient field when creating a new email, and it will be sent to everyone on the distribution list.
At a glance, Gmail may appear deceptively simple.
Despite its minimalistic look, Gmail offers a plethora of options that you can take advantage of to facilitate email correspondence, both with customers and team members.
One such option allows you to create a customized email distribution list by leveraging labels in Google Contacts.
One thing that seems a bit counterintuitive is that you won’t be creating a mass email distribution list straight from your Gmail inbox. Instead, you would have to navigate to the Google Contacts center.
Similarly to Outlook, you’ll have an option to add contacts manually or import a list of contacts.
You can create a label (distribution list, group) before importing the contacts
If you already have a sizable list of contacts in your Gmail account, you can select the ones you want to add to the group and then click the Create label button to assign them to the same group.
How To Label Contacts in Gmail
After doing so, you will see the group name under Labels, along with the number of contacts in that group.
That’s all there is to it! The next time you want to message the entire group, type in the Label name in the recipient field when composing a new message. The email will be sent to every member of the group automatically.
There’s no denying that the ability to create an email distribution list in Outlook and Gmail is great. It can save you a lot of time in the long run since you won’t have to CC a dozen people each time you’re sending an email to your team or a business partner.
The thing is, that’s the extent of the usefulness of these lists created in the two email service providers. While you could technically create distribution lists for all the different types of leads you generate, that’s next-to-impossible in practice.
Say you have a thousand email leads. In order to take advantage of distribution lists, you would have to know which opt-in for every single one of them subscribed through, as well as how they’ve interacted with your emails and your business thus far. It would take ages to sort your contacts out like this.
A much better approach would be to create different mailing lists using email marketing software.
Nobody in their right mind would send out promotional emails manually, not when there are hundreds of email automation tools that can make the whole process a lot easier and infinitely faster.
That said, only a small percentage of email marketers—primarily those with extensive experience—are aware of and know how to utilize all of the features and functionalities an average autoresponder has to offer.
One of the key things rookie email marketers often overlook is the ability to choose which emails their leads will get based on their behavior, demographics, buyer personas, and other parameters. This process of breaking down your email lists into smaller chunks, based on specific criteria, is called audience segmentation.
According to a study by Mailchimp, creating different email distribution lists and sending customized campaigns to different segments of your audience results in:
Open rates increasing over 14%
Click-through rates increasing over 62%
Unsubscribe rate dropping over 8%
While these are all averages, it’s evident that segmenting your list impacts your email marketing ROI positively. The segmentation process depends on the email automation software you’re using, but it always follows the same logic.
Segmentation is based on triggers and events, which are either predefined by the software or created from scratch, following certain rules and principles.
Here are a few examples of the triggers you can add to your autoresponder to segment your audience and move your leads between different email marketing campaigns:
A subscriber interacts with your emails frequently
They don’t open your emails for a specified period of time
Someone clicks a link in your email or downloads an attachment
They click the CTA (call to action) in your email and visit a specific page on your website
A subscriber makes a purchase and converts into a customer
The logic behind including these triggers in your email marketing efforts is to “follow” a lead on their buyer’s journey. What this means is that you’ll be adjusting your approach and sending them specific marketing messages based on the actions they take (and don’t take).
For example, let’s say someone makes a purchase. You wouldn’t want to continue spamming them with emails promoting the same product. Instead, a much better approach is to move them to a different sequence where they’ll receive emails for complementary products or reminders to renew their subscription to your service.
Rather than just sending the same monotonous, robotic email to every single contact on your list, segmentation allows you to personalize your email messages. In turn, this will help increase open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, resulting in a much higher ROI.
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