DM News' Essential Guide to E-mail Marketing: General Mills Builds House List Through E-Mail

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E-mail marketing has matured and is commonly viewed as a customer retention tool rather than a strategy to acquire customers. But many marketers may be unaware that they can expand, improve and refresh their inhouse lists by working with third-party providers.

As part of an integrated online marketing campaign, e-mail is one approach to achieve these results. First, you need a marketing partner that provides online customer acquisition solutions and services. Naturally, you will want one with proven success. But it is equally important to find a partner that follows industry best practices. Hallmarks of best practices providers include: 100 percent permission-based approach; consumers agree or request to be marketed to through clear, opt-in confirmation; use pay-for-performance methods (cost per click, cost per action); maximize targeting capabilities; attitudinal, behavioral, demographic, geographic selects; use the right lists, creative and offer to maximize response; dynamic and immediate auto-e-mail confirmation; confirms registration and capitalizes on consumer interest in real time; immediate, one-click opt out; clear, easy one-click opt out at bottom of each message; respect consumer privacy; do not sell or share e-mail addresses without the express consent of list members; clear, visible privacy policy; include link to clearly stated privacy policy; adhere to CAN-SPAM requirements; protect your brand; do-not-e-mail list.

The next step is to design and implement a campaign that delivers the customers who are eager to learn more about your products and services. The following case study illustrates a number of proven approaches for building house lists through e-mail.

General Mills and its brands (Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Dinner Made Easy and Box Tops for Education) needed to expand their online presence among their core audience - women ages 25-54 - while gaining valuable information to help establish direct customer relationships through tailored online communications like recipes and offers.

General Mills and Prospectiv created a two-prong approach that consisted of:

· HTML newsletter e-mails were created that promoted e-newsletters from General Mills' brands, offering recipes, cooking tips and discount coupons. General Mills targeted these e-mail campaigns at Prospectiv's database of millions of active, self-profiled consumers.

· General display banner ads highlighting free coupons, samples and newsletters from various Prospectiv clients were placed on relevant Web sites. These ads directed consumers to, Prospectiv's online consumer property featuring offers from leading brands. Here, consumers were presented offers from General Mills' brands to sign up for a free newsletter.

New signups for the Betty Crocker newsletters alone exceeded 500,000. Betty Crocker paid only for the qualified consumers it acquired. In addition, General Mills acquired a high-quality list of names, e-mail addresses and comprehensive data, including consumer preferences for relevant cooking and food information.

Betty Crocker leveraged this data to create and deliver custom-tailored marketing offers to consumers, helping to begin building direct relationships with its audience.

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