E-commerce Link: Sign Me Up!
An e-mail house list is the centerpiece of any e-mail communications plan. At first blush, the process of building this list may seem fairly straightforward; but, when it comes to constructing a responsive list, quality counts more than quantity. By incorporating permission-based practices into your e-mail collection process, you can build a list that generates sales.
Establish strong permission practices and use opt-in.
In today’s e-mail climate, good permission practices are an imperative. And, good permission equates to opt-in marketing.
Like telemarketing, e-mail is a personal medium. With the advent of the Do-Not-Call Registry, a significant portion of the public clearly indicated it doesn’t want phone solicitations. In the same way, they also don’t want e-mail they haven’t actively agreed to receive.
An opt-in approach to permission e-mail will pay huge benefits. You’ll get better deliverability, build consumer trust and reap the rewards of higher open and clickthrough rates.
Mailers are faced with numerous roadblocks that make it difficult to get e-mail delivered and read. E-mail authentication, reputation systems, whitelists, blacklists and content filters are some of the factors at play. Once your message actually makes it through the ISP or business gateway, mailers need to be concerned about image blocking, spam complaints and delivery to bulk folders.
Good permission practices go a long way to overcoming many of these hurdles. Lists built on an opt-in strategy are composed of individuals who actively agree to be on a list. As a direct result, you’re much less likely to find yourself on a blacklist; in fact, you’re much more likely to earn whitelist status with strong permission practices.
Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes as you consider the following two situations.
In the first, you enter an online contest. As part of the entry form there is a pre-checked box that says “Send me your biweekly newsletter.” This certainly is legal, but it’s not a best practice. The marketer will collect many e-mail addresses, but how qualified are these names? You scan the form, likely not realizing what it’s for. When you receive subsequent e-mails, you might not recognize the sender and report it as a spammer. You, and others who enter the contest, will be much less likely to open and read the marketer’s messages.
In the second situation, you visit a Web site, see an invitation to join an e-mail program and sign up. There’s a clear value proposition and a link to a sample e-mail, so you understand the benefits and know what types of communication you will receive. Wouldn’t you be much more likely to open and read these e-mails?
Extend permission to the welcome and confirmation process.
It’s a best practice to send a confirmation e-mail that welcomes new sign-ups. This is a great way to start the relationship. It also gives you the opportunity to make sure you have deliverable e-mail addresses. Be sure to include an opt-out link in your welcome e-mail so if, for any reason, recipients prefer not to receive additional messages, they have an opportunity to exercise that choice.
Studies show that welcome or confirmation messages have the highest open rates of any e-mails a marketer will send. This is the perfect time to restate benefits, encourage recipients to add you to their address books and even include an introductory offer to immediately engage them.
As you analyze the performance of your campaigns, examine results by date of sign up. A recent study shows a significant decline in open and clickthrough rates over the first three months of a recipient’s tenure; after the first 90 days, results are stable. This statistic might set up the argument for a welcome series rather than a single welcome e-mail. The series could contain your best offers, most-read articles or interactive elements that encourage participation. Anything you can do to counteract performance declines during this critical early period will result in a more productive list member.
Allow subscribers to update their information and change their preferences.
An e-mail preference center is a must-have adjunct to any successful e-mail program. Recipients should be able to link to their own preference page from an e-mail to update contact information, sign up for additional e-mail programs (if available), change format preferences or even change the frequency of how often they receive e-mails.
Between 20 percent and 25 percent of e-mail addresses change on an annual basis. An e-mail preference center gives recipients an easy way to share this information, and will help preserve your list size. Permitting customers to change their frequency preferences (for example, from biweekly to once a month) may make your program more complex, but you’ll save customers who might otherwise have opted out of your program entirely.
Create subsets of your list by source.
Marketers employ a variety of channels to collect e-mail addresses. These sources may include:
n sign-ups for your e-mail program on your Web site;
n online contest entrants;
n information captured during the online order process;
n addresses collected by your inbound call center;
n customer e-mail addresses identified through e-mail appending;
n names derived from co-registration and other online marketing programs; and
n information provided on printed order forms.
Some of these channels may cultivate more productive list members than others. One way to measure the effectiveness of these channels is to flag the source in your e-mail database.
You immediately can deduce that those who actively joined your e-mail program are going to perform better than names collected on a contest entry form. E-mail appending is of great interest to many marketers as a way to further communicate with customers, but these customers didn’t seek out the e-mail program, and they are likely to respond differently when compared to other sources.
If you set up your database properly by list subset, you will be able to conduct the analysis to measure the effectiveness of each group over time.
Growing a list of e-mail addresses is a major imperative for marketers today. But don’t think of this as a numbers game. Think quality, not quantity. Strong permission practices will result in a list that is responsive, and responsive lists make the cash registers ring.
Regina Brady is president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, a direct and e-mail marketing consultancy. She can be reached at (203) 838-8138 or by e-mail at email@example.com.