I know you have been extremely busy. But while you were attending all those email authentication summits, learning what the heck "Domain Keys" are and understanding what it really means to be CAN-SPAM compliant, your email file, um, well, shrank! In fact, I fear some email marketers have been so preoccupied with the bumps in the email road that they now find that they have misplaced their car.
It’s time to get lots of revenue-generating email addresses (a.k.a.: prospects) back into your database so you can hit those lofty 2007 targets your boss just handed you. The good news is that there are plenty of ways in which to do this. Even better news is that most are extremely budget friendly.
Here are five solid ways to build your email file, from least to most expensive.
Author notes: Michael Mayor is SVP of strategic business development at Aptimus, Inc. and co-author of "Sign Me Up: A Marketer's Guide To Creating Email Newsletters That Build Relationships & Boost Sales." Read full bio.
Before you pick up the phone to call a vendor, walk down the hall and understand what your internal options are for free list growth. For example:
- Consumer touch points: Most brick-and-mortar, catalog and call center operations now ask for your email address as a natural course of business. In fact, it’s written into their script. Determine all of your company’s consumer touch points and make sure your interests are being served.
- Offline campaigns: Much has been written about how traditional advertising can drive prospects to a website. However, don’t assume that the first thing they’ll do is sign up for your newsletter when they get there. More than likely they will be preoccupied with the call to action that got them there. Add a simple line of text, such as "Be sure to sign up for our free newsletter" to all direct mail and print creative. You can even include the url string, but only if it’s simple and obvious such as "www.xyz.com/newsletter."
- Direct mail lists: Speaking of direct mail, it is commonplace for companies to conduct friendly direct mail file exchanges from time to time. These are usually free, one-time uses that have plenty of caveats. I have long been an advocate of well-executed email swaps but, as you can imagine, with about triple the caveats. Don’t simply swap files and send or you’ll end up with a result that’s the polar opposite of the one you’re seeking. Craft a co-branded introductory email that explains why they are receiving the offer and why it’s valuable to them.
In the email world, imitation isn’t the highest form of flattery-- forwarding is. There are many things you can do to make your newsletter "forward-worthy." My personal favorite, one that worked wonders on a B2B list, was a simple flash game that cleverly tied the objective of the game to the brand. It had an easy, one-step sign-up field just below the game and then hinted at the cool games to come. There are other ways as well: polls, jokes, quotes and so on.
By far, the fastest growing trend in building email lists today is using lead generation. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re flat out wrong. Today’s lead generation programs have little to do with the forced, fraudulent and utterly shameful practices of the past. Today’s methods are highly sophisticated, highly transparent and highly permissioned. What’s more, lead generation makes perfect sense for email marketers. You want someone to sign up for your newsletter? Why not put your offer at the end of another newsletter path? Brilliant. Add in a little geographic/demographic targeting and you’ve got a nice, targeted acquisition machine that runs all day long and has the potential to build tremendous volumes in very short periods of time. Pure genius!
Still not convinced? Consider this: lead generation has a paid-performance model. This means your offer and brand sit in front of the right audience "for free" until you score an acquisition and then you only pay on a per lead basis (minus any rejects). Can you give me one other example of "free" targeted branding? Sweet!
Email list rental has many of the same attributes as lead generation. For one, most lists are built by using these same paths. However, your offer doesn’t get served up immediately, and most of the "good" lists that I know of are still CPM-based.
The trade-off is segmentation. Generally an email list carries much more data than any other type of online media. This means that you can be reasonably sure your message is getting to the right audience. It also makes a lot of sense to "build email with email." The fact that they are willing to be on one email list is quite a valuable thing to know about them isn’t it?
For help in selecting an email list vendor, read the "Email Marketing Cheat Sheet".