My expertise is more along the lines of email systems technology and ISP policy. Blacklists, spam filters and legal compliance are other areas where I feel pretty comfortable that my guidance is solid, if I do say so myself. I can tell you that harvesting addresses is a really bad idea. But marketing strategy? I certainly could give this my best shot (and have before), but it strikes me that it might be better to leave this one to the experts.
So, I asked an expert: Andrew Kordek of Trendline Interactive, an email-centric marketing consultancy. They conduct ongoing research on marketing trends and consumer behavior that provide the basis for our unbiased strategic advice to companies on how to grow their brands through better engagement with subscribers. Andrew tells me that "Trendline challenges companies to rethink what is relevant to their customers and prospects and how to best foster these relationships," and I've had the pleasure of working with him over the past couple of years. Andrew writes:
List growth and email acquisition seem to always be a central topic and source or anxiety amongst marketers. How do you grow a list effectively without compromising the quality of the subscriptions? There have been many articles written on specific tactics such as SEM (Search Engine Marketing), sweepstakes, co-registration, affiliate, display advertising, eAppends and even list buying. Some of these tactics can and have been effective for companies in the past and while we all have our opinion on each of them, the best advice that I can give anyone in the way of email acquisition is to sit down with experienced people who have been on your side of the fence before and perform an audit of your current acquisition model. Partnering with an agency and specifically an agency focused on email marketing can yield many benefits.
However, there are 5 main principles that companies should consider when thinking about email acquisition.
- Do a Grandma and Grandpa test. Take some you know who is not that Internet savvy (I like to use my parents) and ask them to go through your process of signing up for email. If they do it with no help, then you know your process is not complicated. Often people internal to an organization are diluted when it comes to the experience and having someone who is in no way affiliated with your company go through the process, can yield huge insights. Make it intuitive.
- If you have to look for more than 15 seconds to find the spot on your site to subscribe, people will leave. Make it easy.
- The subscription experience that a user goes through is like a party. The first 15-20 seconds is the most important. Do you take their coat and introduce them to all the party has to offer? Or do you let them in the door and push them into the room to fend for themselves after you fingerprint them? Make it count.
- Ask for my address. You better use it. Ask for my preferences. You better honor them. Ask for my birthday. I better get a birthday email. Don't ask for stuff you will never use. Make it simple.
- Offer incentives to subscribers to get friends in their social network to sign up. Make it social.
What are your favorite list building tips? Link to them or tell us about them in comments, and I'll include them in a follow up post. -- Al