Ascend2 has released their newest email marketing report, this one focused on email list growth, the importance of it, and the obstacles to it. I was not surprised to see email list growth is a high priority, However, I was surprised by the top three obstacles to list growth: content, expertise and hygiene. From where I sit, these are obstacles that are easy to overcome.

Email list growth is very important to most marketers…
Of the 251 marketers who were interviewed for this report, 67% say email list growth is “very important” to the success of their email marketing programs. (At the other end of the scale, 4% say it’s not important at all and another 29% say it’s only somewhat important.)

…but it’s not the most important
Email list growth isn’t the marketers’ most important objective, however. For 57% of the respondents, increasing conversion rates is the highest priority. Second on the list is improving lead generation at 51%. Although email list size was third on the list of most important objectives at 48%, that still makes it a priority for almost half of the marketers surveyed.

email list growth statistics

What’s getting in the way of email list growth?
Just because something is a priority, however, doesn’t make it a no-brainer. As much as marketers want email list growth, there are obstacles to achieving it. When it comes to the obstacles to list growth success, this report shows that relevant, valuable content is the biggest obstacle, list growth expertise the second biggest, and list hygiene third.

email list growth statistics

Given that those are all three obstacles that are easily tackled, in my humble opinion, I explain my suggestions for doing so below:

Challenge #1: Relevant, valuable content
Again and again studies show that content is a challenge for marketers, whether it’s for blogs, content marketing, or—as with this study—email marketing. I suspect this is because email content continues to be self-serving and mediocre. If this is the number one obstacle at your company, perhaps a content audit is in order. My suggestion for overcoming this obstacle is to get an objective review by an expert outside of your company, in order to find ways to improve your content’s relevance and value.

Challenge #2: Email list growth expertise
A lack of expertise in strategies for email list growth might be the reason this is the second biggest obstacle to that growth. According to this report, 58% of those surveyed only use in-house resources to execute email list growth tactics. Yet, as the report says, “Attaining the level of expertise required to create and execute an effective list growth strategy is a challenge often difficult to overcome without the use of external resources.”

My suggestion for overcoming this obstacle is to seek email expertise from outside of the company. You’re not required to be an expert in everything, nor should you be. Find the expertise elsewhere, and put that strategy to work to grow your in-house email list.

Challenge #3: Email list hygiene
It’s interesting that list hygiene is an obstacle for 40% of marketers pursuing list growth, as you can see in the second graph. Yet it’s only an important objective for 21% of the marketers, as you can see in the first graph. Could there be a correlation between not paying attention to email list hygiene and then be challenged by it? My solution for overcoming this challenge is simply to make email list hygiene a regular part of your email marketing program, and to use these tips for improving your email list hygiene.

Is a lack of growth always a bad thing?
When 61% of respondents say their email list is not growing, we’re likely to assume that means the obstacles cited above are not being overcome. However, a lack of list growth is not necessarily a bad thing. I am reminded of the client we just blogged about. That client was diligent about email list hygiene, and as a result, they enjoyed a quality email list that performed consistently and well. However, that was due in part to their hygiene and the fact that they aggressively removed inactive emails. Their list did not grow in size but it was a quality list that stayed the same size and performed well. Too often companies focus on list growth alone, and then end up with quantity lists, not quality ones. Yes, a lack of list growth can be a bad thing, but so can a growing list that’s made up of uninterested and inactive recipients.

Your in-house email is a critical component in your email marketing success. Obviously, based on this new research by Ascend2, marketers are challenged to keep those email lists growing. But they’re not facing insurmountable obstacles in doing so. Rather, there are ways to face these challenges head on, and if that means calling in an expert for help, it also means getting past these obstacles faster.

Published On: February 2nd, 2015Categories: Miscellaneous email marketing topicsTags: ,

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

Recent Posts