Do’s and Don’ts When Building An Opt-In List

Numerous books and articles have appeared lately about the validity of opt-in e-mail lists, which are advantageous for clicks-and-mortar and bricks-and-mortar companies.

Once you have targeted names in your company-managed list, you can cross-sell and upsell those existing and potential customers your offerings — a proven, less-expensive way of increasing revenue and creating customer loyalty.

There are five key points to consider — and five glaring points to avoid — when creating opt-in lists for the first time. Consider the following:

Do know how to reach your target audience. Spend time conducting market research to find the top 10 places to reach your target audience in the next three to six months. Then work backward to obtain the e-mail addresses of those candidates.

An e-mail campaign to a purchased list of target e-mails can have a trackable link to a sign-up page. An affiliate listing should mention that you have an opt-in list, and preferably an opt-in sign-up from the affiliate site.

Remember that part of your marketing budget should cover various outbound ways of reaching your customers. Ensure that once they know about you, they know how to opt in. Though it will cost you to get those names the first time — through various targeted and brand awareness campaigns — the results are a company asset.

Do make it easy for people to join. Have a very visible location on your home page or jump page for sign-ups. Evaluate whether it can be on every page of your Web site. Make it easy for people to opt out or unsubscribe. Simple, easy-to-understand subscribe and unsubscribe methods add credibility to your company brand.

Do know where to go for seconds. Once participants enter their e-mail addresses, confirm entry and request (or force-ask) a limited number of demographic questions, such as company name, industry and location. This will help you understand where people are coming to you from so you can analyze where future marketing efforts should be targeted.

Do create viral opt-in lists. One of the best target audiences for helping expand your opt-in list is your existing opt-in list.

Make it easy for those recipients to forward your communication to their peers who will request to be on the list. I have subscribed to about 70 percent of my lists because a friend forwarded it to me.

Why do friends forward it?

Because content is king and knowledge is power.

However you want to say it, your readers are opting in not to hear a sales pitch, but for simple greed. They want to learn something, save time, save money or be shown something they may want or need. They also love sharing this knowledge with others. Invest time in research to learn what they want to know more about and how your offering will fit the bill.

Do create compelling messaging.Where to find your target audience is just one part of the exercise. How to acquire them is all about compelling, clear and concise messaging.

Test different messaging on your audience on certain dates and you should see a spike in certain sign-ups that are working better than others. Once you know what works, spend more time and money to acquire the names.

Don’t offer great prizes for sign-ups. Though this might seem like a nice gesture, you will get those subscribers whose motivation will be to win a prize, not to learn about useful information, your company and/or products. And who knows what will happen if your promotion gets posted to another Web site of contest opportunists who could not be further from your target audience. If you provide useful information, that will be prize enough.

Don’t flood participants with too many e-mails. Word of mouth is a great way to increase opt-ins, but it is a double-edged sword. Once I signed up for an opt-in list to receive event updates, and without notification was added to the company’s chat-room e-mail list. Suddenly I was getting 10 e-mails a day from various people commenting on one person’s inane comment. I couldn’t unsubscribe fast enough.

How much is too much?

Ask a sample of your opt-in list participants what the right number of e-mails is. Otherwise, they will let you know when it is too late — with an unsubscribe notification.

Don’t be everything to everyone. When you market that you have an opt-in list, your messaging should be focused and hit a nerve. If you are too generic in hopes of getting more readers, you will end up being nothing to everyone. Do not be afraid to hone in on one need of your audience members.

Don’t spend too much money acquiring names. Opt-in lists are an asset, and that means an investment on your part. Budget in advance where your target audience is and what each opt-in list name will cost. Then evaluate potential revenue from that name and compare your results. It will be clear what areas you want to focus on and where you want to avoid.

Don’t live in a vacuum. Continually view, read and explore how other companies — from competitors to those in different industries — acquire opt-in names. You will spot an occasional guerrilla tactic that will inspire you to try something new.

The term opt-in list was virtually nonexistent a few years ago, and yet you would be hard-pressed to find a marketer with a good Web site that does not have one today.

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