Maybe you should pay more attention to your email addresses...
Email addresses are valuable, everyone knows this in the business world.
Email is the one medium that’s universally used and will never go out of fashion.
While having a million Twitter or Facebook followers for your business might be great, it’s not nearly as valuable as having an email list of a few hundred real people. The reason is simple: if a person willingly gives you their email address it means they’re showing interest in your product or service.
Because you’re a good business owner, you try to market yourself as much as possible. You maintain and frequently update your company’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
Every day you share a few articles and pictures and before you know it you’ve built a following. People enjoy reading the things you share, so they follow you on social media and become a fan of your brand.
This is what every business owner strives for!
The only problem is that these “fans” are all passive. They’re not purchasing your products. Yes--they enjoy reading the things you share, but at the end of the day they aren’t your customers.
A lot of people mistakenly think that social media is the way to massive business growth. While this may work for some very niche industries, it certainly won’t work for most.
Instead of optimizing for social media fans, try optimizing for email. Write articles about your products and services and ask readers to sign up for your newsletter if they’re interested in learning more.
Sharing free information (like this article) and educating people is a great way to connect with potential customers who are interested in what you have to say.
Instead of trying to attract and share that perfect 140 character Tweet, why not spend some time building a database of highly targeted interested people that care about what you have to say? These people are far more likely to become your customers as:
- They’ve willingly given you their personal information
- They’ve explicitly told you that they like what you’re doing and are interested in what you have to say
- They’re exactly your target audience and have self-qualified themselves on your behalf
Once you have a list of these sort of people, making sales becomes much easier. Sending an email off to all your subscribers notifying them of new products and services, discounts, etc. will generate direct revenue.
Having a direct way to communicate with people interested in your service is something that only email can deliver, which is why email is such an incredibly valuable tool in building a successful company.
Because email is so valuable, you’ve got to treat it with care.
When a person gives you their email address, the responsibility is on you to do two primary things:
1. Validate that the email address they’re giving you is real and accurate
2. Not send the user spam or being overly aggressive with your email campaigns
Now, #2 is easy enough to accomplish. You can easily make a decision not to spam your users or send them overly aggressive email campaigns.
But #1? Not so easy.
Validating a user’s email address is actually quite the technical challenge. There are a number of validation techniques you need to use to actually figure out whether or not an email address is valid, all of which require a decent level of technical understanding.
Let’s talk about some common problems that require email validation.
When a user is registering for your website or newsletter, entering the wrong email address can cost you a lot of lost revenue. I’ve done this myself several times: registered for a website, put in my email address, then left to do something else and forgotten about it.
Because I never received an email from the company (because I entered the wrong address), I never remembered the company, and they never had the opportunity to convert me into a paid user of their product.
This is the worst possible thing that can happen to online business owners. Making sure you prevent this from happening is crucial.
Luckily, there is a way to validate email addresses and make sure they can receive mail. This technique is known as SMTP emulation. When the user first gives you their email address, you can use software behind the scenes to connect to the user’s email provider (like Gmail, Outlook, etc.) and emulate email sending to that address in order to determine whether or not the address exists and can receive mail.
This allows you to quickly figure out whether or not the email address you’ve received is valid. In the event that it isn’t, you can show the user a message on the screen telling them their email is invalid. This way they’ll have a chance to update it and you won’t lose a potential customer.
The only downside is that this isn’t something technically easy to do. There are some fantastic services, however, such as the Email Verification API that make this simple. But I’ll talk more about this later.
Another common issue you might run into is that users might try to give you fake email addresses instead of real ones.
This is particularly a large problem for freemium web businesses that give small amounts of their service away for free to new users. For instance: if you run a business that offers new users 25% off their first purchase, that might incentivize a user to create a bunch of fake accounts in order to get the discount for each purchase they make.
Detecting fake email addresses can be really tough: there are a ton of services that exist specifically to enable this sort of behavior. Services like Mailinator and 10 Minute Mail allow users to quickly generate fake email addresses that will only last for a few minutes. This way they can register for your service without sharing their real identity with you.
There’s no simple way to prevent this sort of behavior, except to build your own database of restricted email providers as well as check the email addresses for words or phrases that appear to be disposable.
Much like before, this requires a lot of technical expertise to protect against--but it is worth it. Being able to tell someone “this email address is invalid” is a powerful way to ensure you’re not being taken advantage of.
The only real solution to detecting and preventing users from giving you fake email addresses is to rely on a service that constantly updates its rules and patterns to help you detect when an email is fake. I’ll dive into this more later on.
In addition to invalid email addresses and fake email addresses, there are lots of other problems that email validation can fix.
- Checking email addresses for restricted words or phrases (profanity, etc.)
- Checking email addresses to make sure they go to one person and aren’t just a global alias. For instance: you wouldn’t want a user to give you an email address that hits an alias as their company. Instead: you’d want their actual business email address that just reaches them.
Each of these potential problems can be averted by building special checks into your your website/newsletter/etc. such that when a user gives you their email, you validate it first and tell them if it’s acceptable or not.
The Easy Way to Validate Email Addresses
So now that you’ve seen how important having valid email addresses are and have an idea of some ways to deal with them, let’s talk about solutions.
Just like with most things in life, you have two choices: you can do it the easy way or you can do it the hard way.
The hard way to solve this problem is to hire engineers (or have your existing engineers) spend a lot of time building software and learning how to automatically validate email addresses in all the ways mentioned above.
I’ve done this myself in the past. While I learned a lot going through the process, it wasn’t at all easy, quick, or cheap. I spent hundreds of hours learning how to properly validate email addresses and writing software to validate them in my website.
The easy way to validate email addresses would be to just use an existing service like the Email Verification API to do all that stuff for you.
Here’s how it works.
You can sign up and create a free account on the Email Verification API website: https://emailverification.whoisxmlapi.com/
Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be taken to a dashboard page and given documentation and examples of how to easily integrate the email verification service into your website/newsletter.
By giving your developers/engineers access to this service, they can easily integrate it into your website in just a few minutes.
The best part about using a service like the Email Verification API is that it’s cheap--really cheap.
If you need to validate 1,000 email addresses per month (or less), it’s completely free. Need to do more than that? They have plans as cheap as $9/mo that allow you to easily validate tens of thousands of email addresses on demand. Regardless of how many validations you need to perform, you can quickly and cheaply do it using this service.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, validating email addresses will help you earn more money by proactively preventing problems with your most valuable communication channel: email.
The first and simplest way to make a difference is simply to validate email addresses in your website when users attempt to create an account. By validating their email address early, you’ll be able to guarantee you have a valid email on file for this user, which you can use for future email campaigns.
Ensuring you have a valid email address upfront also saves you from the pain of sending email campaigns out to invalid email addresses. If you do this too much, your email might start getting flagged as spam because providers see that you’re firing off email to invalid destinations: a practice that can cause a lot of woe to a business owner.
Another way to capitalize on email validation is to validate emails when a user signs up for your website newsletter, blog subscription, etc. If a user is trying to give you their email address because they’re interested in something you’re doing: don’t squander the opportunity! Be sure to validate their address immediately and show them an error if it isn’t valid. This is the best possible outcome because you’ll let the user know quickly that there’s an issue and can reprompt them to enter a valid one.
For those of you working at larger companies, email marketing is a normal part of life. Many larger companies purchase email lists from vendors and send campaigns to these users trying to sell their products and services.
Validating email addresses from vendor databases is absolutely critical. If you don’t validate these email addresses before sending, you’ll often times find your email getting marked as spam. Many email lists you can purchase will be outdated or invalid, and attempting to send email to invalid addresses will get your company flagged for spam by all major providers.
This is a position you do not want to be in.
It can be very difficult to get your company “whitelisted” by providers after things like this. It takes a lot of time and effort, and can be an expensive endeavor.
So, to sum things up:
- Every time you get an email address, validate it. This will save you money, time, and problems in the future.
- Use a service like the Email Verification API that allows you to easily validate emails in a number of different ways. This will save you time, effort, and expensive engineering costs.
If you do those two things, you’ll be able to earn more money for your businesses and reduce lost opportunity cost in no time. Have any questions? Leave a comment below or email me directly.