Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

A game plan to grow your e-mail list

Elie D. Ashery
President and CEO, Gold Lasso Inc.

A few weeks ago I had an Aflac agent in my office. After we closed a deal he pleasantly asked me if I knew of other business owners in need of Aflac’s products. As a result of the good sales experience, I gave him five referrals. Every sales person knows the value of a referral; however, this concept doesn’t often resonate well with e-mail market­ing practitioners.

Now is a great opportunity to change that. Instead of relying on an inadequate forward-to-friend process, a more for­malized referral program is needed to ensure success. A good referral program is automated, timely and usually starts where the original opt-in process ends. Once a Web site user has opted in, it is a perfect opportunity to ask for a referral. Ask the referrer not only for an e-mail address but also a full name. When soliciting the referee to opt in, always personalize the message and, most importantly, reference the referrer. A reference to the referrer gives you instant credibility and will produce a much higher conversion rate.

This tactic works well with new sign­ups; however, tapping your existing sub­scribers for referrals takes a little more creativity since referrals are often an afterthought. Most existing subscribers have little incentive to give you a refer­ral since opting in is a distant memory for them. The simple solution here is to provide an incentive. Trade associations are notorious for doing this by turning their referral campaigns into contests, rewarding individuals who recruit a large number of new members.

Referral campaigns and tactics are an effective and proven way to grow a list organically.

The good thing is that a number of e-mail service providers offer some sort of automated referral mechanism to help you implement such programs. However, growing lists by referrals takes planning, effort and tweaking to make the process perfect.

Referrals leverage your existing e-mail list so it expands organically


Barry Abel
VP of field operations, Message Systems

Most marketers would agree that one of their best marketing tools is their internally grown, permission-based e-mail list. It deserves to be protected, carefully cultivated and never abused. The following best practices can help you grow your list and maintain a good relationship with your customers.

First, embrace demographics. Learn everything you can about your custom­er’s interests. Asking a few questions at sign-up and tracking Web page visits and purchases will help you understand what each customer wants.

Next, be relevant. Use this demo­graphic information to send customers only those offers they’re interested in — and don’t over-send. Consider ask­ing customers how often they’d like to hear from you, then segment your list to match customer interests and contact frequency. Learn how to use social net­working to promote your business start­ing with people you know.

Communicate your privacy policy up front and often. Periodically, survey your customers to keep your offers rel­evant and uncover new opportunities. A few questions is all it takes to keep your list fresh. A small incentive encour­ages participation.

To prevent messages from being blocked by ISPs, use DomainKeys Iden­tified Mail and/or SenderID authentica­tion technology. Authenticated e-mail also creates a level of trust with consum­ers that your company is legitimate.

Lastly, be sure to implement list hygiene. Implement bounce processing to remove bad addresses immediately to keep your campaigns flowing.

Good list hygiene ensures that your mes­sage is reaching the best prospects


Mike Brzozowski
EVP, director of CRM, Draftfcb

What can marketers do to effec­tively build their e-mail database? First, stop using e-mail like it’s a mass chan­nel. Second, follow the basics of great direct response marketing, like targeting and segmentation, relevance, clear calls to action, engaging and entertaining content, fair value exchange, test and optimization. Third, utilize its unique capabilities to build relationships with your brand.

Get customers when they’re most receptive to your message — like imme­diately after purchasing your product, when surfing your Web site or during customer service calls.

Try to drive word of mouth. Wouldn’t you rather have a new customer who comes as a recommendation from one of your current best customers vs. some­one you scooped up in a giveaway?

E-mail is inherently a medium of experimentation. Have fun with it. Ask yourself: What did we learn? What worked? What didn’t? What will we do next? And never stop: The value created is in the speed of the learning process.

Go beyond delivery rate to the qual­ity of delivery. Was your HTML e-mail delivered to a work e-mail address that blocked imagery? How do you avoid spam filters? Is the targeted e-mail address dormant? This takes constant attention, but your improved ROI is bound to increase your visibility with the C-Suite.

Building your e-mail database may require a mindset shift from one of man­aging campaigns to constant testing and optimizing.

Continually optimize and test your e-mail campaigns to ensure relevancy


Pinny Gniswisch
VP of marketing, Ice.com

There are several keys to building in-house e-mail lists. First, get into the name game for the right reason. When looking to acquire names, the first thing you have to know is that spamming is illegal. If you’re going to look for providers to give you opt-ins, you have to provide permission-based messages. You don’t want to mess it up for other companies. Avoid being unsubscribed or placed in the spam filter by providing timely messages and do not buy names unless you are aware of the source.

Lastly, and most importantly, double opt-in is a must. Double opt-in occurs when someone subscribes to a newslet­ter or other e-mail marketing messages by explicitly requesting it and then confirming the e-mail address to be his or her own. This is usually done by responding to a confirmation e-mail. This eliminates the chance of abuse where somebody submits somebody else’s e-mail address without his or her knowledge and against his or her will.

Building a database of double opt-in names and marketing to them is a very difficult task. Of course, the different tactics needed to receive a name and maintain it long term is what makes the company profitable or not.

When a company looks to build its database, it needs to first look at the incoming traffic that is lost every single day. We are well aware that most sites are converting between 1%-10% of the traffic — that means more than 99% of people come and go without even sneezing at your site. The first thing a site needs to do is attack its own traffic by creating a reason for someone not leave your site without leaving his or her e-mail. Create compelling offers to receive permission and create an envi­ronment where customers want to give you their e-mail because they know they will receive timely messages that they want to interact with, or receive savings he needs towards future pur­chases. So, create sweepstakes or offers that consumers want; they will in turn give you permission.

Double opt-in ensures that customers are engaged with your brand

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