Don’t Buy that List! Best Practices for Email Marketing

By Jason Cormier     |     March 11, 2016

What does “big data” mean to you? To Kurt Diver, who’s in charge of deliverability and compliance at SendGrid — it means deep and meaningful insights from a technology platform that sends over 22 billion emails every month.

To us, it means staying educated about consumer behavior, best practices and technical challenges: What’s opened? What connects consumers to brands? What falls flat?

If you have a few minutes, catch our conversation here:


Top tips from an email marketing expert:

  • Don’t ever buy a list: You will likely be violating all kinds of governmental and internet service provider (ISP) regulations, and you won’t have the high-quality contacts you really need. Your reputation matters. Protect it and don’t buy or lease lists that could tarnish your brand, Diver says.
  • Give your customers options: Even with your opt-in customers and brand fans, you will want to give them choices. Do they want to hear from you daily? Weekly? Are they more interested in your new high-end offers, educational updates, or your sales? Tell them how they will be interacting with your brand, check in to determine if that interaction is good, give them ways to tell you what they want. Opt-in practices are not just for complying with various national laws, they also can create a positive bond between your brand and your customers.
  • Personalization matters: The more personalized your emails are, the better. Look for ways to go beyond simply using the subscriber’s first name in the salutation. By the way, Diver references Michael’s as a company who’s really doing it right when it comes to email marketing. The “database of one” is Diver’s ideal scenario. Bulk messaging, compared to more personalized messaging, won’t get delivered as consistently.
  • Email authentication and testing: This is the technical nitty gritty, and Diver says too many brands don’t go there. You’d be surprised at how small of a percentage of emails land in inboxes for a variety of reasons. Only 3% of all emails marketers wish to distribute get past the ISP. 20% from there make it to a recipients inbox. Crazy! Make sure your emails are validating that your company is who it says it is, so you won’t be swept up with the legion of spammers out there. And test your email data to adapt or change your messaging or methods based on the results with multiple ISP’s (Key Insight: ISP’s build a profile on senders to establish filtering parameters.  Hotmail and Gmail have different standards of deliverability acceptance at any given time).

Even basic, tried and true email marketing skills are essential to nearly every brand, large and small. Email is the No. 1 way of communicating, even considering a host of other social media and marketing channel opportunities. Diver explains that the regulatory and technological landscapes are always changing, so analyzing the data is more important than ever.

SendGrid’s customers include Airbnb, HubSpot, Pandora and Costco. The enterprise did a study from Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2015 that included the results from several billion emails. There’s a lot brands can learn from from that kind of big-data analysis:


Room 214 is a team of people dedicated to being remarkable. Focused on digital marketing since 2004, companies hire us to take their social and digital to the next level: from awareness and leads, to sales and advocacy. Join the conversation: on Twitter @Room_214, via email at

About Jason Cormier

Jason is a co-founder and leading strategist at Room 214. With a rich history in information architecture, user experience and online marketing, Jason contributes to the social media and digital marketing efforts that help brands create online communities, tell meaningful stories, and gain more customers.

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