How To Grow Your Email List & Set Good Subject Lines - Interview With Matthew Paulson

8 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
February 9, 2016
Last updated: August 19, 2019
How To Grow Your Email List & Set Good Subject Lines - Interview With Matthew Paulson
Matthew Paulson - entrepreneur, investor and author of Email Marketing Demystified.


What is the biggest email marketing mistake or mistakes that you see companies make every day?

MP: The biggest mistake that companies make regularly is that they email people they have no permission to send mail to. Many companies, especially small businesses, will enter the email address of everyone they know or have gotten a business card from into their mailing list without asking permission from them. Inevitably, recipients of their email will click the “report spam” button and all of their messages will start going into the spam folder or not delivered at all.

The other big mistake that people make is that they fail to segment their list. I can’t count how many companies I’ve purchased a product from and then gotten an email from them promoting the product that I’ve already purchased. Every email marketer should break down their list based on their subscribers’ past behaviour (such as purchasing products, signing up for a lead magnet, etc.) and then only email the people who are relevant to any given email.

There have been a lot of changes this past decade – CAN-SPAM act, mass migration of personal communications from email to social networks, meteoric rise of mobile messaging apps and so on. Which email marketing strategies still work despite these changes, and which ones are now obsolete?

MP: Mass email blasts to everyone on your mailing list are a lot less effective than they used to be because of the sheer volume of email that people receive. If a message that an email user receives has no relevance to them, it’s going to be ignored or deleted without being read. What continues to work well is sending relevant content to people based on their past actions. In the email marketing world, this is known as marketing automation. More and more companies will need to move toward sending much more targeted email toward subscribers that show interest in a specific product or services and away from sending generic blasts to their mailing lists.

How do you see email marketing change during the next 10 years?

MP: It’s going to become harder and harder for email marketers to get their content into their subscribers’ main inboxes. Gmail’s inbox tabs is the first wave of innovation in email that cordons off commercial messages into a separate folder that people will rarely (if ever) look at. There are dozens of apps that are trying to “fix email” by making it only so the most relevant content shows up in a user’s inbox. Email marketers are going to have to make sure their list stays very engaged with their mailing list to make it past the filter of this new generation of “smart email” apps.

Given how popular WhatsApp, Viber, SnapChat, Telegram and others have become, how is this going to impact marketing, since it's MUCH harder to reach clients via IM than email?

MP: I think that SMS alternative apps like SnapChat are great communication tools for individuals to chat with each other and can be good ways for brands to advertise, but I don’t think that they will replace email. Email remains the preferred communication channel for most people to do business, receive order receipts, get coupons, etc. A 2015 MarketingSherpa survey showed that 72% of consumers say that email is their favourite way to communicate with the companies that they do business with.

Self-restraint is probably one of the most important traits for email marketers. Do you have any tips how to resist the urge to send emails to clients or prospects too frequently?

MP: The key with email sending volume is to determine what the right volume is for your clients and set that expectation from day one. Depending on your industry, it might be appropriate to email your subscribers daily or only email them once per month. A lot of it depends on how much your subscribers want to hear from you. If your industry is in a niche with a lot of hyperactive fans, you might want to email them three or four times per week. If you’re in a slow moving B2B industry, you might not want to send out more than one or two emails per month.

Would you mind sharing a few tips and tricks from your book Email Marketing Demystified about growing your subscriber list, writing subject lines that get emails read, and cold emailing effectively?

MP: Growing your list – Try to get past the mindset that your website is the only way to build your email list. You can do cost-effective list building campaigns through co-registration advertising network, Facebook Lead Ads and Twitter Lead Cards to build your mailing list. You can often pay as little as $1.00 or $2.00 for a new email sign-up on your list. You can also leverage your other channels, such as social media and in your physical location (if you are a retailer), to build your mailing list. The key is to attack list growth from every angle. Yes, you should put highly-visible opt-in forms on your website, but you should also work other angles as well.

Good subject lines – If you want to get your email opened, the best way is to make the message appear personal in nature. The “from name” of the email should be your full name and not the name of your business. The subject line should be something simple like “Quick question for you”, “I had an idea the other day…” or “Hey, check out this thing I made.”

Cold Email – I wrote a blog post about this in detail.

What resources should email marketers use/read to stay on top of their game?

MP: I like to read the blogs of major email service providers:

Thank you for the interview.
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