E-mail Databases in the Age of Spam (1,049 words)
By Ann Roskey
Expert advice on how to build and maintain your e-mail housefile.
Considering all the recent controversy over spam and the new legislation being developed at both state and federal levels to restrict it, building and maintaining a viable e-mail database can be daunting.
The company I work for, Accela Communications, produces and promotes hundreds of B-to-B Webcasts and other online lead-generation programs for businesses around the world. We send a lot of e-mail from our database as well as those of our partners. We've successfully built databases ranging from 500 to several hundred thousand contacts, and have not encountered any major spam complaints—primarily because we follow a set of standard practices developed through years of experience and careful testing.
Building an e-mail database does not have to be onerous.
One of the most important steps in building an e-mail database is the data collection process. While some of this may seem elementary, sound data collection is essential for future maintenance and growth.
First and foremost, make sure the questions being asked in your registration form reflect the target audience you're seeking to reach. Use pre-formatted responses instead of "fill in the blank" questions whenever possible, because a carefully chosen set of options will enable you to profile your entire respondent base, whereas ad hoc responses cannot easily be aggregated and analyzed. Respect your prospects' time by making your questions clear and straightforward, without too many dependencies (i.e., if you answered "yes," please go to "X," etc.).
When developing data collection forms, consider the length of the form and the types of questions that will be asked. Evaluate the trade-off between depth of information and quantity of respondents you seek.
We recommend no more than two or three questions beyond the core demographics on a registration form, with only two of these being required. The number of questions you ask will act as a filter, turning away prospects who are not truly interested in your product or service. However, this also will affect the total number of registrants for a particular promotion or offer.