Email List Size is a funny thing.

In online marketing circles, your list size is almost like your income. The larger your list, the more valuable your business.

Like income, it is also something left to the imagination. It’s not something we talk about.

We talk about the importance of having a list. We talk about how to get more people on that list. We even talk about open rate, click through rate & conversion rate percentages. But the actual number of people on our list – well that is held close to our chest. Something ultra personal.

So when it comes to talking “list size”, often all we hear is that bigger is better.  And this often leaves us feeling deflated with our “small lists”, especially when starting out.

There are hundreds of blog articles, podcasts, video trainings and online courses about how to build your email list.

They are full of tips on opt in incentives, content upgrades, giveaways, and webinars.

But is bigger always better?

As always, this isn’t a black & white answer. There are many shades of grey and it depends on your situation. In this blog post, I am going to try to shed some light so you can make the call for yourself.

the case for quality

Yes, of course, we want quality I hear you say!

Quality means you have a list full of people who fit your ideal customer. They are people that want or need what you offer. They are the most likely to actually buy – without you needing to be too sales-y.

This is definitely a good thing and an easy argument to make.

It is much better to have a list of 100 quality people that have a high chance of buying from you vs 10,000 of people that never will.

BUT…. Quantity Still Counts

the case for quantity

In the end, you need to sell to a certain number of people to make your business profitable.

And, in online business especially, it is a bit of a numbers game.

Online marketing statistics tell us that each time we do a promotion 0.5%-2% of our list will buy (if they are the right audience).

That means for every 100 people on your list 0.5 – 2 people will buy.

When you think about it, that is a pretty depressing number!

Especially when you take into account how much traffic you need to get your website to get them to sign up! A 5% conversion to all website visits is a good one.

That means you need 2000 visits to your website to get those 100 people on your list, to get 1 person to buy.

I’m not telling you this to scare you – but as a bit of a reality check.

In fact, you could find your conversion rates are significantly higher if you have a heavier focus on quality.

These numbers are considered average by the “bigger guys” and it is why you see such automated sales funnels out there. They are there as a numbers generating machine!

These businesses play the odds and figure that if they get their offer in front of enough people, they will get that 1 sale.

the middle ground

Of course, as with anything this isn’t a case of it’s one or the other.  We will all find ourselves somewhere on the spectrum between quality and quantity.

What I do want you to take away from this is to look at your current numbers. How many people who come to your website sign up? And how many on your email list buy when you have an offer?

Take these numbers and figure out what the ideal list size growth is for you to achieve the goals you want.

If you are unsure how to do this, you might want to check out my blog post on “How to Understand your Google Analytics

your business type matters

The type of business you have and what you offer will also greatly influence these numbers.

The numbers I gave above for 0.05% -2% conversion rate are typical online business statistics. These are typically leveraged income products like online courses and e-books. And for these type of businesses, it leans more towards the need to have higher numbers.

For high-end services on the other hand, you don’t need as many – because what you are selling is worth more. For example, if you sell a $2,000 package you don’t need as many sales to reach your income goals as someone with a $200 e-course does.

Products and e-commerce will fall somewhere in the middle.

You also need to take into account the “lifetime value” of a customer. Products like e-courses are only purchased once unless you have a number of other courses that interest the same person.

However, if you sell clothes via your e-commerce store, the chances of repeat business are significantly higher. Even more so if you sell beauty products that someone buys and then needs to regularly replace.

All this just reinforces the need to understand your own numbers and what a good number is for you.

It is easy to fall into the comparison game and think you need to have 10,000 on your list before you will be “successful” – most likely, though, you won’t.

the benefits of “small”

I’d like to round this all up with a bit of a focus on why “small” can be really good.

Firstly, when you are smaller, the conversion rates tend to be higher anyway! It is when you begin to scale that it might be more about the numbers.

Secondly, when you are smaller, you can build much closer connections and get personal!

Yes, it is tempting to use fancy email automations (and, yes, I do teach those). BUT, it can be much more powerful to write a personal email, interact on social media OR (*gasp*) pick up the phone and speak to someone!

You have the time to really invest in your potential customers on this personal level.

This provides not only a great opportunity to learn more about how you can truly help them but also means they are much more invested in you as a business – you aren’t just someone sitting at the other end of an internet connection.

 

So, whatever your list size… keep going and keep growing! As long as you remain authentic and focus on getting those “quality” email addresses the customers will follow. Once they follow you can begin to see what the right “quantity” is for you.

The important part is to just do it!

Author: Yael

Yael is an experienced marketer, mum of 2 and passionate about helping guide small business owners through the confusing world of online marketing and finding the best solutions for their unique business. Like a matchmaker but for marketing!

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2 thoughts on “Does Email List Size Matter? A Quantity vs Quality Debate

  1. Great post Yael and a good reality check. Often people feel bad when they don’t get many sales – yet their conversions could actually be awesome and it just means that what they are doing right now is working. They just need to scale it a bit more – and then pow.
    The key is to not be scared of knowing your numbers, small doesn’t mean bad or not good enough. It just means small.
    Understand what our numbers are telling us and then we can make wise decisions.

    Posted on September 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm
    1. Thanks Leanne… you are so right! So many people look at “low” numbers and doubt themselves… We do all like to think we are the exception though! ha

      Posted on September 12, 2017 at 8:45 pm