Email Marketing – Tips for Building a Quality Email List
Take Advantage of All Touch Points
First on the checklist for growing your email marketing list is to consider all touch points with your prospects. At each touch point, you should be asking prospects to join your subscription list, subscribe to your service and / or register for a useful resource, like a whitepaper or webinar. Here is a checklist of places where you should be asking contacts to subscribe to your email marketing list:
- Email Signatures. Create an email signature such as – "3 Reasons to Subscribe to Our Email Marketing Tips Newsletter", with a link to the subscription landing page. Ask all employees to include it in their corporate signature.
- All transactional emails. If you're confirming an order, paper download or anything else, always ask people to join your subscription list or register.
- Product warranty / registration forms.
- Invoices. Add your contact information on each invoice. Are you sending electronic copies of invoices / sales receipts? If so – this is a perfect place to include a link to your sign up page.
- Website. Every page should have an invitation to subscribe and a link to your email marketing registration page.
- Surveys, customer satisfaction surveys.
- Call Center. Ask support and sales staff to ask customers and prospects if they'd like to subscribe to your newsletters and correspondence.
Registration Landing Page Contents
We've seen many customers whose registration landing page is a lonely form with a dozen contact fields. Make sure the registration landing page has the following contents:
- Make your case – clearly summarize the benefits. It sounds easy but 3 out of 5 sites do not explain the benefits of signing up.
- Provide a link to a previous newsletter or two, or links to a few teaser pieces of content. This lets your potential subscribers review your newsletter before they sign up and determine if it is something they'd be interested in.
- Include 1-2 customer testimonies
- Do not include a long list of links to other pages. This is distracting and your goal should be to drive prospects to signup – do not provide other distractions.
- Can you offer a relevant incentive? A free massage or T-shirt are nice options but you'll just get people who like free T-shirts and massages. If you offer reports or pay-for content, consider offering free access for subscribing.
- Use Double opt-in. Also indicate clearly on your registration page that a link will be sent to the person's email. This increases the likelihood that people enter a valid contact email address and reduces the likelihood of someone entering a spam honey-pot address.
Keep it Simple
Ask for what's needed – email, first / last name, occasional company and phone. Ideally include check-boxes or a memo field so people can state their specific interests (or provide a note). Most Email Service Providers make it easy for to ask prospects to augment their profile later.
Be a Tease – Use Teaser Content
A more viral approach is to make a limited amount of your content readily available without requiring registration to your email list. Then include information on the benefits of joining your email marketing list, along with subscription links. Chances are that your paper will be downloaded and passed around to many more people who you would have otherwise not reached – allowing greater 'visibility and influence'. You may have fewer direct registrations overall but you gain broder visibility. Try combining the viral pass-around approach with standard registration for other content.
If you are producing podcasts and webinars, be sure to include a plug with contact information, registration page access and benefits.
If you are creating contributed content, press releases or blogs, here are a few opportunities to work in a bit of shameless self-promotion. Just do not "over-message" or over-sell:
- Include Information and a Link to Your Newsletter in Press Releases – A good option for smaller companies. Include your company newsletter and other resources in press release copy.
- Promote Your Email / Newsletter in Articles and Article Attribution – Include a reference and link to your newsletter after the by-line on articles in trade publications.
- Mention in your Blog (s). A link to your registration page is fair game.
Use "Forward to a Friend" Forms
Virtually every email service provider ("ESP") includes a 'forward to a friend' option, where you can include a link for recipients to forward their email to a friend (or enemy). Forward to Friend forms can help you add 2-4% more contacts to your list.
Add Social Share Links to your Email Marketing Campaigns
Include social share links on every email (and on high value web pages on your site) so that recipients can easily share your great content (whitepapers, webinars etc). Although this will not directly add contacts to your list – if you include contact information within the body of the document, interested recipients / readers are more likely to come to your site and register for future resources.
Leverage your Twitter Account
Assuming you already have a Twitter account (you do, do not you?), Use it. You can send emails to your twitter followers. Be cautious though; promotional emails are really highly frowned upon so be informational and informative vs. promotional when reaching out to Twitter contacts.
Another twitter tip – set up an auto-reply for people who follow you and include a link to your site or newsletter registration page.
Host Whitepapers and Webinars on SlideShare
Slideshare is quickly becoming the leading site for sharing documents like whitepapers, presentations and webinar events. Slideshare now has an option to add a registration page to any of your uploaded documents. Create a minimal registration form and collect contacts. SlideShare is now one of the top 500 sites on the Internet and gets north of 20 Million pageviews / month as of this article. They have plenty of well-targeted traffic – go get in front of it!
Partner Site Co-Registration
Partners and vendors that share a similar target market might consider co-registration relationship. Ask your partners if they would consider putting a co-registration offer on the "thank you" page of their own online offers, in exchange for you adding the same on your relevant registration pages.
For example, when new prospects sign up for a webinar, white paper or email newsletter or attend a user conference, the page after they sign up may say, "Thank you, we have sent an email with a link to the requested paper. Would you also like to sign up for our partner's monthly newsletter? " Alternately, consider offering a partner's paper, webinar etc on your sign-up page (s).
Email List Acquisition – Avoid Temptation
In a recent survey of marketing professionals, 63% of respondents said that they have bought one or more lists to grow their prospect database. 'Buying lists' is a hotly debated topic. Most email marketers will strongly recommend against using anything other than a double opt-in name and most ESP's (Email Service providers) require that you only send correspondence to names that have been acquired via opt-in procedures. Therefore, we recommend avoiding a straight-out list acquisition.
However, where data providers can be very helpful is by augmenting and correcting your existing (opt-in) contacts to help you improve segmentation. For example if your sign up forms collect email, first + last name (and perhaps company), consider using a list vendor to augment additional information that can be used to improve segmentation and audience targeting. This may include basic demographic information like title, gender, company, Industry or number of employees in the company.
Database / list vendors can also help clean up and 'normalize' your data. For example, your registration forms may collect recipient's first + last name, and company. The name "Bill" may be entered as Bil, Bill, William, etc. Good list vendors can help clean up your list for consistency.
Other database vendors such as Hart-Hanks, can provide you with information about specific product interests, hardware and software infrastructure installed at a given company and much more – all of which can be used to better target your audience.
More recently, some database vendors can append social contact information. If you provide an email address, they will provide the LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook profile / page.
A Few Notes about List Quality
As you grow your email marketing list, know that the list will go through natural attrition, and contacts will change or become obsolete.
How do you measure the quality of the new contacts you've added to your list? Tracking and measuring the open and click-through rates are of course two key metrics to track the 'engagement' level with your contact. However, you should also compare the following metrics to your existing contact lists:
- Hard Bounce Rate – Up to 3% of B2B contacts change every month, so even database that has been completely updated every quarter will see over 8% of your contact list become 'obsolete' or dead as a result of hard bounces.
- SPAM Reports – When a recipient believes your email is SPAM and clicks the 'Report SPAM' button, a flag is raised and delivering your ISP will start to monitor your future mailing s to see if they are SPAM. Even with 100% double-opt-in emails you can expect complaints in the range of 1 per 1,000 emails sent to 1 in 5,000 email messages sent to be reported as SPAM. This can also happen automatically if for some reason you repeatedly send emails to a non-working email address. If your Email Service Provider (ESP) is reporting a higher complain rate than one per 1,000 – it's time to seriously re-evaluate your email marketing message, targeting and send frequency.
In summary, building and maintaining a solid prospect list, especially for B2B marketers, is challenging and expensive. That said, following the above techniques overall can help you grow your active prospect lists by 50% to 300% in a relatively short time period.