Grow your e-mail file

Tuesday, Jan 6 2009

If you visited either presidential campaign site this year, you were greeted by a simple page that was 100% focused on one result:  getting your email address. Everything else—policy views, press clippings, and personal histories—was tucked behind this signup curtain (with only a subtle option to “skip signup.”)

Last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that “the Obama campaign collected about 10 million email addresses, and its database contains details of the issues of concern to many of those citizens.”  Well.

Whether you’re a business looking to engage new customers, a trade association going after new members or a non-profit trying to grow your donor base, e-mail marketing is likely the sledgehammer in your marketing  toolkit.  So here’s the basic blocking-and-tackling on how to grow your list.

There are any number of ways, but the best way is to ask. A lot. Ask everywhere:

  • On your site: Is your email capture conspicuous? Does it appear globally (on every page)?
    In anything transactional: research shows that transactional e-mails are the most widely read. Yes your order is ready for shipping, m’am. Would you care for a news alert?
  • In offline materials: If your content is worth it, it’s worth advertising in other channels, like ads brochures and direct mail. Promote something of value and tell users where to go get it.
  • Use tell a friend functions: this way, you capture one for the sender and another for their unsuspecting friend.

Those are the freebies.  Paid search and purposeful landing pages can help you grow the file, too.  And perhaps the most obvious way to collect more contacts is to buy a list. But that takes the fun out of marketing, doesn’t it?

Opt-outs and unsubscribes are akin to getting dumped in real life. Here’s how to avoid being rejected:

  • Stay organized. Manage your contacts in a database. Not in a spreadsheet. Not in a simple text program. An organized repository helps you build customer/member/donor profiles.
  • Study patterns.Track opens, click-throughs, pass alongs, bounces and other user behavior to figure out what’s working and what’s not. Then revise your content accordingly to optimize each communication.
  • Cater to personal preference. Google Alerts do a good job at this. They let you set the frequency. At the minimum, let the user manage their areas of interest.
  • Respect your list. Hitting them once a week is plenty, unless they ask for more.

And don’t get discouraged by the opt-outs. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Wouldn’t you like to know!  That’s where the real money is, right? If you’re interested, holler back in the comments. And don’t forget to include your email address.

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