Increase Web Traffic Through Your Opt-In List

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Is traffic to your Web site a one-way street? It flows through but never comes back?


This is the challenge we all face with commerce sites. It's no mystery how to attract traffic to your site: Buying ads in key sites draws visitors - but depending on where you buy, it can be expensive.


The most effective method to create repeat traffic is through an opt-in e-mail list. There is no better way to reduce the cost of online customer acquisition and increase the lifetime value of each customer.


When customers opt in to your list, they are giving permission to e-mail them regularly and invite them back to your site. Through the use of promotional and informational teasers replete with hyperlinks to each associated offer, consumers are not only given enticing reasons to return to your site, they become more familiar every time they return.


As a result, the increase in your orders may reach as high as 30 percent to 40 percent, reducing your traffic costs and ensuring a maximum return on investment.


Here are six tips for growing your opt-in list as quickly as possible:


• Make it easy to join. Take the pain out of opting in by creating a short and simple form that is customer-friendly and inviting. Initially, all you really need to capture is the customer's e-mail address. More information can be collected over time. This approach tends to go against a seasoned direct marketer's natural instincts, but adhering to it pays off in the long run.


• Create membership opportunities everywhere. The more places people have to sign up within your site, the more likely they are to opt in. Place the entry form throughout your entire site, including the front screen, offer screens and order screens. Since e-mail addresses are a common part of order forms anyway, include a check box with which consumers can opt in to your list. It simply becomes part of the order process.


• Market your e-mail newsletter externally. Consumers love to receive e-mail newsletters they have requested. Make it easy for them to opt in to your list even if they haven't visited your site. Promote membership on other sites that can help you build your membership size.


• Provide real value. Make sure your newsletter meets the needs of your subscribers.


Give consumers relevant, up-to-date information that is well written and personable. Keep your newsletter short and provide direct hyperlinks to each offer. Aim for an average of five to eight offers per newsletter. Any more than that increases the potential of overwhelming your readers. Any less will decrease interest.


Focus on one main offer to help draw attention to your featured item. Tie all offers in the newsletter together with a common thread such as a theme or special collection. These types of newsletters create more value for the offers presented and tend to draw a better response from subscribers.


• Run promotions and contests that encourage membership. Online consumers love contests and are willing to surrender e-mail addresses for the chance to win prizes. Large prizes aren't always necessary, either. Often the best contests feature a variety of prizes that create the feeling among participants that they have a real chance to win. Such contests are easy to administer internally. Also, there are a number of online promotions companies willing to help set up such contests for you. Tie the contest to list membership but provide an alternative method of entry to avoid any issues with consideration.


• Provide incentives for recommending your opt-in list to friends. Viral marketing is one of the buzz phrases for 1999, and for good reason. If you have a loyal membership, put them to work for you in your marketing efforts. If the reward is attractive enough, they will make your job easy and successful.


To get your current members active in your marketing efforts, run a contest that rewards recruitment of new members. Provide extra chances to win for each new member that the current member is able to sign up.


However, pay extra attention to the sign-up and referral mechanisms so members don't unwittingly sign up their friends without permission. Some simple steps such as a double opt-in method (where list owners or managers contact registrants to get confirmation that they've opted in to receive commercial mailings) or using a referral method as the means to gain entries will help alleviate such concerns.


If you follow these simple steps, you will be well on your way to creating a truly successful site. Your customers will respect your practice of opt-in marketing and reward you with continued business.
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