2 Ways To Use Competitive Intelligence On Email Subscriber Lists

If you’re like most email marketers, the size of your email list is an important metric to measure. The problem is that there’s no perfect size for an email list. It varies based on industry, audience and business.

However, most marketers can, and do, measure the monthly rate of growth using their own numbers as a benchmark. If you’re currently doing this, I’ll show you two new ways to measure the growth of your list using data from third-party competitive intelligence tools — so you can be not only best in class, but also be better than your competitors.

1. Benchmarking List Growth Against Your Competition

You’ve grown your list 26% since last year. You pat yourself on the back, and your management team commends you on a job well done. Unfortunately, your competitor grew their email list by 65%.caribou coffee vs einsten list growth

In 2012, Caribou Coffee had a nearly 7% larger email list than their competitor Einstein Bros Bagels, according to Return Path (my company) data. Looking at year-over-year growth tells a different story, however. Einstein Bros Bagels grew its list 65% in the following year, and now has a subscriber list that’s 20% more than Caribou’s.

One could chalk this up to growing pains; but, when looking at the percentage of total emails read, Einstein Bros Bagels achieves a 47% higher rate of emails read than Caribou, showing it’s not only the size of your list that counts, but what you do with it.

Caribou also sends five times more emails than Einstein Bros Bagels, likely to make up for the lack of list growth and engagement. Nearly twice as many people delete Caribou’s emails without ever opening them.

The moral of the story here is to benchmark your list growth against your competitors rather than yourself. The trends and insights you notice in your own program will make more sense when compared to your competition.

2. Shared Subscribers

Using email competitive intelligence tools [Editor's note: examples of such tools include eDataSource, Emailium and Return Path's Inbox Insight, though each has different capabilities], you can measure how much of your subscriber list is shared with your competitors. This can yield insights such as the health of your list, how many of your active subscribers were lost due to churn, or that you’ll likely lose because of churn. And, if you’re the underdog, you can determine how well you’re doing to chip away at a competitor’s audience.

hrblock vs turbotax

I looked at two of the biggest tax preparation packages, TurboTax and H&R Block.  TurboTax may be the underdog here as far as email list size is concerned, but do they have a winning chance? Of course they do, but only if they see where their strengths and weaknesses are.

By comparing H&R Block’s list to TurboTax’s email list, I see that H&R Block has an email list over seven times larger. The more interesting part is the number of subscribers shared between the two. Five point three percent of TurboTax’s subscribers also subscribe to H&R Block. Looking closely at those shared subscribers, however, we see that TurboTax has a read rate 175% higher than H&R Block.

The “so what” here is that TurboTax is continuing to eat away from H&R Block’s subscriber base. H&R Block can look at the engagement rates from the shared subscribers to determine if they can realistically outperform TurboTax in the inbox if they want to stop this trend.

What other ways would you use competitive intelligence and subscriber lists to outperform your competition?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing


About The Author: is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter.

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