E-mail marketing secrets & lies: Building opt-in lists

Publication: BtoB
August 16, 2007
By Karen J. Bannan

If growing your opt-in email list was your goal a year ago, you may be re-evaluating that goal today. After all, as time and experience have proven, it’s not the size of a list that matters but its quality. Jordan Ayan, founder and CEO of e-mail service provider SubscriberMail, and Robert DeMeulemeester, exec VP-CFO at e-mail service BigString, discuss the issue below, identifying one e-mail marketing secret and one commonly circulated “lie.”

Secret: Your existing customer may yield new sign-ups—and significantly more revenue—so external list building isn’t always your best bet.

“The value of an existing customer is 20 times as much as a new customer,” DeMeulemeester said. “The best way to manage your opt-in list is to retain your existing base.”

In fact, he said, a 5% increase in retention can yield profit increases between 25% and 100%. To that end, you should be focusing on creating the best customer experience possible. Once you know who your best customers are, offer them timely promotions and personalized content. Also, use incentives to tap them for referrals. People are more likely to read and sign up for a marketing message if a friend or colleague passes it along.

“People need to feel like it’s a one-to-one marketing message,” DeMeulemeester said. “You want to create that conversation between you, the marketer, and your customer and friend.”

And don’t forget the entertainment value, he said. “If you look at the e-mails that people forward, they are most likely going to be the ones that are entertaining,” he said.

Lie: Prechecked opt-in boxes build e-mail lists quickly.

While it might seem smart to precheck opt-in boxes and automatically get people to sign up for e-mail newsletters, doing so will only build an unresponsive—and possibly angry—list, Ayan said.

“The concept behind e-mail is that you want to build relationships,” he said. “A prechecked box is trying to trick someone into being in a relationship with you. You’re just setting yourself up for failure.”

If you use an ESP that belongs to the Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC), you probably already know this because one of the tenets of membership is not permitting prechecked boxes.

A better suggestion is to put a prominent sign-up box on every single page of your Web site, making sure it’s above the fold, Ayan said. “If you can, make the location a constant. You can also—if you have the technology in place—make the box disappear once someone signs up for your list,” he said. “And offer a link so people can see what they are signing up for before they enter their e-mail address.”

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