Building a List All Starts With Permission

It’s now more than three years since the first e-mail rental programs were launched on the market, and there is still a tremendous shortage of permission-based e-mail lists. There are almost as many lists today as there were two years ago. The demand is tremendous, but the supply is extremely short.

We’re seeing a great reluctance on the part of publishers, catalogers and private companies to go through the process to put their lists on the market. And all the reluctance has to do with privacy.

Well, there is a way to do this that respects the privacy of the individual and creates a great deal of incremental revenue for the list owner: a program that identifies the source in the transmission, sends only relevant offers and includes a way for recipients to unsubscribe or be taken off the list so that they no longer receive third-party e-mails. But the first step is getting the permission or requalifying it if the permission is older than three months.

The following are suggestions and advice on how to obtain or requalify permission in order to build an e-mail rental file:

First, decide whether you want to have an opt-in or opt-out/permission-based list. As I’m not an advocate of strict opt in from a list management perspective, my suggestion is to be permission-based. Ultimately, you retain a higher percentage of the names for rental, and response rates are still excellent. This means the permission is given through a negative option that is prominent and clearly presented to the recipient – close to where the e-mail address is given.

You then need to write a letter with a corresponding subject line to your readers/customers that will be transmitted across the entire file. It should be short and personalized. Remember that the subject line is just like the teaser copy on the outside of an envelope. It is also a good idea to include an e-mail address so people can respond and address any issues on your privacy policy. These should be responded to in a personal and timely manner.

Your letter should be written in the spirit of wanting to respect the privacy of the individual because of growing privacy issues on the Net. Be honest about your intentions. Tell them that you will review all offers, only send relevant information, identify the source and provide an opportunity to unsubscribe on every transmission.

You also should consider asking individual e-mail preference questions that may pertain to your business. If you are a publisher, you may ask about receiving information on editorial products, renewals and third-party offers.

Pose the question for the permission in the negative option. The following letter is an example for publishers:

Dear Valued Subscriber:

You are receiving this message as a valued subscriber to (name of the publication).

As we are concerned with privacy issues around e-mail marketing, it is important that we receive your permission to receive third-party e-mail transmission from our advertising partners, as well as those pertaining to our editorial and circulation products. We will ensure that this information will be reviewed so that it is relevant to you as a reader of (name of publication), that you will know the information is coming from us and that at any time you will have an option to unsubscribe.

If you would like to receive information from us or our business partners, you do not have to respond to this e-mail. However, if you would not like to receive these messages, please unsubscribe by going to http://(URL).

Much appreciation for your time.

Thank you,

(Name of Circulation Person)

On the service bureau side: Send them your total file complete with e-mail address, source code information and a unique identifier. These are essential in order to match the responses to the appropriate person per list. These can by FTP’d – electronically transferred – to the service bureau. They should unduplicate them for transmission – this is critical, as the initial hygiene of your list will make the entire process easier. Also ask your service bureau to keep a record of hard undeliverables – meaning those that come back because of an incorrect e-mail address and not because someone is out of the office or their server is down. Those are soft undeliverables and those should be retransmitted.

Your service bureau should use a unique URL for those who state they’d like to be taken off the list. Work with the bureau to see if it can imbed the unique subscriber code in the URL so that when they click through to the site it can be personalized, such as “Welcome, Deb Goldstein,” and allow for easy tracking for the match-back. In addition, make sure the URL is short – keep it simple.

Once the responses are complete, usually within a week, your service bureau should retain the unsubscribe information. Then do one more transmission, less the unsubscribes, to requalify again so that it is clear they are giving permission. Change the subject line and the text slightly to fit the second effort.

At the end of the second effort, you should have an unsubscribe list. This list should be sent back with the e-mail address, source information and unique subscriber code to match back to the circulation or customer files. The service bureau then tags the record by adding a field to accommodate the permission information.

Once the match-back is done, the lists are then sent, complete with e-mail address, source codes, postal address and all associated demographic information, to your service bureau to be put up for list rental. Now you’re in business.

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