The Quality vs. Quantity Debate Who Reigns Supreme blog header image

The Quality vs. Quantity Debate – Who Reigns Supreme?

There are plenty of articles out there all too ready to tell you that you should be prioritizing the quality of your email list rather than cramming it full of subscribers who are unlikely to ever convert. These articles will (rightly) tell you that engaged subscribers are better than disengaged ones. That engaged customers are more like to convert into paying customers and that the more engaged your email list, the better your open and click-through rates will be. The case of why an engaged subscriber is better than a disengaged one has been made (even though it’s fairly obvious) time and time again.

Rarely though, will these articles properly explain just how important it is to ensure that your email list is engaged and the penalties you’ll pay for having disengaged subscribers on your list.

A question you may have after reading why engaged subscribers are more valuable than disengaged ones is: Why can’t I have both? Fair question. Let’s say you have 1,000 engaged subscribers who are actively opening your emails, clicking through to your site, and making purchases—great! But you might be asking what the harm is in adding another thousand lesser quality subscribers. After all, even if these only have a fraction of the chance of converting compared to your engaged subscribers, a few may make a purchase.

Seeing as you might be able to squeeze a few extra sales from adding these lesser quality subscribers to your list, is there still any harm in doing so?


While it is tempting to grow your list as fast as you can and send to as many people as possible in the hope that some will convert, this strategy is guaranteed to damage your email marketing efforts. Why this is the case is not so obvious, so we’ll explain why this approach is so poisonous.

It seriously damages your sending reputation

One of the biggest hurdles email marketers face is simply getting their emails into their subscribers’ inboxes. Even if a subscriber actively signed up to receive your emails, there’s a very real chance your emails are going straight to their spam folder. This is part and parcel of living in a world with rampant email spammers (which you risk becoming by sending to as many people as you can).

The reason why this is happening is that to combat the problem of spam, inbox service providers such as Gmail are constantly trying to determine what is spam and what is not. One method they employ is measuring senders’ sending reputations. To determine your sending reputation, they look at how their users are interacting with emails you’ve sent in the past. If people are opening and clicking your emails, you are less likely to be marked as a spammer. On the other hand, if people are ignoring your emails, inbox service providers will lower your reputation score, possibly to the point all your emails will be sent straight to the spam folder.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, you need to make sure that your subscribers will actually want to open your emails. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that you are only adding people to your email list who are going to be engaged subscribers.

Quantity over quality costs more

While ensuring that you are sending quality emails and not defaulting in spammy behaviour takes more time and energy, it also saves you money on your marketing budget. The reason for this is that most email service providers charge depending on the size of the mailing list, meaning a larger list = larger fees. Because of this, the slim additional profits you might gain from mass unpersonalised email marketing might actually not provide a net benefit to your bottom line, let alone your brand image.

The unfortunate truth to email marketing is that success is very closely correlated with perseverance and constant tweaking, and that there is no one-stop fix to building a massively profitable channel. This is not a journey you have to take alone, however, and at SmartrMail we’ve spent time building an archive of tips, tricks, and guides to get you there.

Not sure how to grow your email list to ensure you prioritise quality contacts? Check out our articles on the subject, namely:

5 Steps to Supercharge Your Store’s Email List Growth,
5 Little Known Ways You Can Grow Your Store’s Email List, and
How to boost your email list with a pop up.

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