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Mailing lists: How many email subscribers do I need?

One of the most common email marketing questions I get asked is: How many email subscribers do I need? How big do my mailing lists need to be? Do I need thousands of email subscribers before I can expect to see results or will a couple of hundred do the job?

If you’re like me and maths was far from your favourite subject at school, I’m sorry to say that working out the ideal size of your mailing lists is a bit of a formula. 

But because maths certainly isn’t my native language, I’m going to break it down super simply for you.

WORKING OUT THE IDEAL SIZE OF YOUR MAILING LISTS


STEP 1: WHAT ARE YOUR SALES GOALS?


What results are you hoping to get from your email marketing efforts? Let’s say you’ve got a course launch coming up and you’re hoping to make $50,000.

The next things you need to consider is: What is the price of the product or service you’re selling? Let’s say the course you’re selling is $2,000. If you want to make $50,000 you’re going to need to sell your course to 25 people. 

Now if you were instead selling a $500 masterclass, you’d then have to sell it to 100 people to make $50,000. So you can probably already start to see how, depending on what you’re selling and what sales target you’re aiming for, the ideal size of your email list will vary. 

STEP 2: WHAT UNIQUE CLICK-THROUGH RATE CAN YOU EXPECT FOR YOUR MAILING LISTS? 


If you don’t have your own data to look at, take a look at the average for your industry and region.

STEP 3: WHAT’S YOUR WEBSITE CONVERSION RATE?

What is the conversion rate of your website? 

It is the percentage of users who take a desired action (most likely make an inquiry or purchase) of all the users who visited your website during that period. 

For example, if in your last launch, you had 300 users visit your website and 12 people purchased something, the conversion rate of your website is 4% (because 12 divided by 300 x 100 = 4).

STEP 4: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER 

So, how does all this help you figure out your ideal email list size? 

Well, going back to your sales target of $50,000, if you’re selling a product or service for $2,000 we know you need to sell 25 to hit this goal. 

And if your website is typically converting 4% of visitors into customers, we know you then need to get 625 visitors to your website (because 0.04 x 625 = 25). 

And, if we know your unique click-through rate is, let’s say, 10%, we can determine that you’ll need an email list of approximately 6,250 (because 0.1 x 6250 = 625) in order to drive 625 of your email subscribers to your website.

In super simple terms, you can determine how much revenue your email will generate for you by:

[number of subscribers] x [unique click through rate] x [product/service price] x [website conversion rate]

Now you might be thinking, “Ahhhhh did you just tell me I need 6,000+ subscribers Sam? Because, ahhh, that’s going to take me… I don’t know… probably… YEARS to get to?!”

THE QUALITY OF YOUR MAILING LIST IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE QUANTITY

 

So here’s some good news: You don’t necessarily need thousands of subscribers. 

I mean, sure, having thousands of subscribers is awesome. Because more subscribers can mean more revenue. But more subscribers don’t automatically equal more revenue.

Why? Because *cliche alert* the quality of your list is way more important than the quantity. 

We all want big email lists. Just like we all want bucket loads of social media followers and huge revenue months. 

But as you likely know by now, thousands of followers don’t necessarily equal more sales, and seven-figure businesses don’t necessarily put more money in their founder’s back pocket.

So why should you focus on the quality of your email list more than you should focus on the quantity?

Because a quality subscriber base – and by quality I mean subscribers that are interested in what you’re sharing, opening your emails, and clicking on your email links – absolutely changes the game for your ideal email list size.

Let’s look at that formula again: 

[number of subscribers] x [unique click through rate] x [product/service price] x [website conversion rate]

Now, let’s use the same example. You’re selling a $2000 course and hoping to make $50,000, so you know you need to convert 25 leads into customers. 

But this time, let’s imagine your expected unique click-through rate is 25% and the conversion rate of your course landing page is 15%. 

If this were the case, you’d only need to drive 167 people to your landing page. And with an expected click-through rate of 25%, that means you’d only need 668 subscribers. 

Of course, we’re talkin’ in hypotheticals here, but we just went from ideally needing over 6,000 subscribers to under 700. 

That my friends is the beauty of quality over quantity.

If someone tells you, you need at least 1,000 subscribers before you can start selling to your list, they’re not necessarily wrong. Their unique click-through rates and website conversion rate likely isn’t that high. 

But if someone else tells you they made five figures from 200 subscribers, they’re probably not wrong either. They’ve just got a highly engaged audience.

It all comes down to strategy. Are you aiming for quality or quantity? 

So before your next email effort, be it at a launch or promoting an evergreen product or service offering, tackle the formula again. Figure out what sales result you can expect based on the data you have. 

And then ask yourself: “Do I need to focus on quality or quantity (or some kind of mixture of the two)?”

Do you need an expert’s helping hand to improve the quality or quantity of your mailing list? We’ve got you! Head to our services page to read more about what we do.

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