Dos and Don’ts of building a successful e-mail database

A solid e-mail database is the cornerstone for any successful e-mail campaign. David Eldridge, CEO of Alterian, and Blake Groves, online marketing consultant for Convio, share their top Dos and Don’ts for building the most valuable e-mail database.

David Eldridge, CEO, Alterian


Do: Listen to what customers say and make sure you really understand their preferences.


If you are building an e-mail database and program, first make sure you understand how it fits with the overall strategy for that customer. Make sure you take into account that some customers will be very strongly supportive of e-mail for certain things like customer service, but may be opposed to it for other things. You need to use offline data as well as online and bring to bear all the data you can in building, refining and optimizing customer records in the database. Use those data within reason. Make sure you are using all the information you can to create a dynamic, relevant communication rather than one that is the same for everyone. Right up front, demonstrate that you’ve listened and understand what the customer is asking for and respond to that communication. That will help you get that e-mail opened and get interaction.


Don’t: Think your job is done once you get that first e-mail opened.


You need to monitor very carefully what is being done with that e-mail. How long is it open? What is clicked on? You need to dig into data much deeper than the high level to optimize ongoing communications. You have to be very dynamic and make sure you use the information that comes back as wisely as you used your initial data. If you are driving people to your e-commerce site with the e-mail, that site needs to be optimized as well. Capitalize on the Web’s ability to be a very dynamic media and put messages and content and relevant information there. You can spend a fortune getting people to the Web site, and if they arrive at a flat, boring site that isn’t engaging and is not integrated, it is not optimizing the spend.

Blake Groves, online marketing consultant, Convio


Do: Think about the most valuable offers you can make.


You really have to think about the value you’re offering to a consumer, so if you’re using downloads to collect e-mail addresses, an annual report will probably not be as successful as an offer to give your e-mail in exchange for a dollar-stretching food recipe. The same concept applies when you are using contests to gather e-mail addresses: a prize that is worth a lot of money but not related to your cause is not going to get you the most valuable e-mails. If you’re trying to build the database for the Audubon Society, don’t offer an iPhone. Instead, offer a guided nature walk with an expert. Once you do start sending your e-mails, make sure you are offering the most valuable content by providing more granularity in your opt-in, opt-out options. When people opt out of your e-mails, they may only want to opt out of certain things, so give them the option of not getting e-mails about company news, but still getting e-mails about local events.


Don’t: Forget about context.

Ask people for their e-mail addresses at a time and for a reason that makes sense to them. If you ask for an e-mail address out of context, people are saying, “What’s in it for me? Why do you need my e-mail?” If you cannot overcome those two barriers, you are not going to be successful. You have to drive people to the Web site for something relevant and give them a reason for entering their information. The same goes for social media. You need to make sure there is some sort of context and a reason for the consumer to opt in to another community. Offer additional content, weekly tips, updates and notifications. It’s about creating useful content and utilizing e-mail as a delivery mechanism for that. The usefulness is key.

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