Winning the Internet

List building crash course: Avoiding the spam traps

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

taryn rosenkranzAs we get ready for Netroots Nation 2014, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s most exciting training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Taryn Rosenkranz, who’ll be leading List building crash course: Avoiding the spam traps.

NN14 Training Session

List building crash course: Avoiding the spam traps
Email is still king when it comes to driving in online revenue. That means building your email list is one of the most important things your organization or campaign does. This session will analyze the pros and cons of paid and non-paid acquisition and help you develop a road map to successfully develop a qualified list that actually delivers to in-boxes. We will teach you how to build a list successfully (even if it is from scratch) and how to continue to maintain its overall health (what to look for in your reports and what tests to run to check your list health). We also will cover how to optimize landing pages and asks, as well as techniques to employ when trying to engage your newest contacts.


Q: Tell us about yourself and your experience building an email list.

A: I have been building lists since email really busted on to the scene in politics in 2004. Yes, that means I am older than I like to admit. But, I got my feet wet building a list at the American Academy of Pediatrics for their advocacy work growing their email list from just 2000 supporters to nearly 50K without spending a dime. After the 2004 elections, I migrated over to work for a political committee where I helped the DCCC build their program to one of the strongest lists in Democratic politics.

After leaving the DCCC and opening my own firm, I founded it on the principle that building lists doesn’t always require a big budget or a big name candidate. My proudest moment has been working with an organization who started with just 500 names and is now over 200K strong (spending very little in acquisition!) in just a little over a year. Going viral is a lot easier when you are Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren but for everyone else it gets a little tricky without a big budget or lots of name recognition and that’s where we come in.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most common mistake that organizations make when building their list?

A: Uploading old lists or worse uploading the voter file or some unverified list they bought off the “street”. I always liken buying lists from people who call you on the phone and claim they got a great list as the same idea of drug pushers so you should “just say no.” It may feel good for a minute but the devastating effects after aren’t worth it. These old lists can be chock full of spam traps and the percentage of “dead” addresses can ruin your mailing reputation. People love the idea of a big fat list full of names but if they aren’t good names – it’s not worth anything.

Q: What are the two most important things to keep in mind when doing list acquisition?

A: Test, Target and Track. Ok, so that’s three but that should be everyone’s motto when it comes to list acquisition. If you are spending resources (even if it is not dollars just the names you are swapping), you have to be tracking the results which means testing and targeting to find the right source for names for you. What works for someone else may not work for you and you have be smart about where you are focusing your efforts. Most campaigns and organizations are not going to have the same results as the Obama campaign – mostly because they didn’t have the same budget to start with or high name id. That being said the Obama campaign didn’t do anything without testing, targeting and tracking and neither should you. Our session is going to be about finding the most strategic and efficient way to test, target and track so you get it right the first time.

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation and how can they connect with you?

A: I think this session is going to be super informative but also collaborative. We all struggle with list acquisition and I think the case studies, ideas, and tips not just from me but from the group are going to prove invaluable to anyone who is using email. The truth is somebody else’s bad experience is good knowledge for the rest of us. Mistakes are key to everyone else’s success so let’s have a confessional of sorts so we can all get on the right path to delivery for the future. Plus, we know how hard it is to build a list from scratch without a budget or just a tiny budget – we want to help others who are out there struggling on what to do first. You can connect with me on Twitter at @tarynrosenkranz and @New_BlueDC.


To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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