Keeping your co-reg clean

Jul 01, 2008 9:30 PM  By

Is co-registration a good way to build a database? Well, it can certainly be an efficient way to start and grow a file, according to the experts.

But co-registration programs — in which marketers pay on a per-name basis to have some offer such as an e-mail newsletter subscription or free sample opportunity presented to another organization’s Website visitors — are not marketing on autopilot. They must be managed. What’s more, they carry a certain amount of danger for the inexperienced.

For example, in business-to-consumer co-registration, single Web sites generally do not generate the volume of response needed to make a co-reg program worthwhile. As a result, the consumer co-reg market is dominated by networks. And to put it mildly, some are, say, a little less legitimate than others.

And many marketers who have tested co-reg have had the misfortune of choosing a bad vendor. “The bad news about co-registration is that over 50% of the inventory available to advertisers is junk,” says Josh Perlstein, president of Response Media, an interactive and direct agency that uses co-registration extensively to build databases for clients in consumer packaged goods. “The problem is, a lot of folks who have tested co-registration in the past have tested with one of those junky guys.”

Consumer marketers who aren’t careful about the co-registration network they choose may find that the names they get from their vendor have also been sold to multiple other marketers. This results in e-mail addresses that are getting slaughtered with spam.

At best, names from such a vendor will be a non-responsive waste of the marketer’s ever tightening budget. At worst, sending to these names will result in a slew of spam complaints from angry recipients to their Internet service providers, possibly resulting e-mail deliverability troubles.

As a result, marketers implementing co-registration must monitor the experiences of the recipients of their offers, says Perlstein. “Co-reg can be one of the most efficient ways to built a list because you pay only on a cost-per-lead basis, but mistakes can cause enormous headaches in terms of deliverability.”

He adds: “The number-one determinant of successful co-registration is positive customer experience. And you’ve got to be careful where you’re running. There are a ton of sites that provide a negative consumer experience and resell their e-mail lists. This is the dirty little secret of e-mail lead generation.”

Perlstein’s advice: “Avoid sites that resell e-mail data.”

He also advises marketers to be adamant about finding out where their vendors collect e-mail addresses, and to visit the sites.

“You’ve got to be really, really careful and understand where the offer is running,” he says. “Those networks aren’t just going to tell you the sites, so you’ve got to ask — then you’ve got to check those sites.” And that takes time and labor.

He says networks often have confidentiality agreements with their partner sites, but the co-reg buyer should be able to learn the sites without violating the agreement.

“I believe every advertiser has a right to know where their offers are running,” he says. “As an agency we sign confidentiality agreements. We’re not going to tell anybody. We just want to go check to make sure our ads are running in the right places. We want to have the opportunity to omit certain sites from those networks.”

And if the network balks? “Pull your ad dollars,” says Perlstein. “You have the right to not spend in those places that won’t share the information with you.”

Moreover, it’s imperative that marketers sign up on sites where their offers are running so they can experience what their prospects experience, says Perlstein. The reason: Often a site will look innocuous enough, and the consumer experience will seem to be fine. “And then the e-mail address we signed up with — without even signing up for any offers, just going through the first screen — will get like 20 or 30 e-mails a day we didn’t ask for,” says Perlstein.

If you want to get unresponsive e-mail addresses into your database, “that’s exactly the way to do it.” Perlstein says. “These e-mail addresses instantly go bad because as soon as people start receiving 20 to 30 unwanted messages a day, they stop paying attention or they get really angry.”

Also, there is no excuse for not signing up for the offers. Getting a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail address is easy and free.

PLAY HARDER TO GET

Another common mistake marketers make in their co-reg programs is to make it too easy for unqualified prospects to get on their databases.

“A lot of people make the mistake of co-registration buying by checkbox, where if someone wants their newsletter, the marketer lets them check a box and then, boom, they’re on,” he says. “Play hard to get. By that I mean ask for other information.”

For one thing, asking new registrants to answer some questions can help the marketer segment the people being added to the database. For example, one of Response Media’s pet food clients asks registrants to supply the types and ages of their pets and communicates with them accordingly.

“Immediate segmentation creates immediate relevance, and the consumer sees more value in that relationship,” Perlstein says. “People are checkbox happy. We want them to really think about our offer as they go through the registration path.”

Don’t make it too easy: If the folks registering on the site have to answer custom questions, he adds, “they really have to consider if they want the newsletter or not.”

Another mistake marketers make in co-reg programs, says Perlstein, is forcing consumers who have, say, signed up for a free sample or requested a catalog, to sign up for an e-mail list. When implementing a co-reg program, marketers must think of name acquisition holistically, he says.

“They may be interested in the offer, but not in your list,” he says. “And then you end up with another unresponsive name on your file.”

It’s fine to request an e-mail signup, but not always wise to force it, he says. “That’s precisely what we do,” he says. “In offers where growing the list isn’t the primary goal, we also have an optional checkbox asking if they’d like to receive an e-mail. We find oftentimes that if we make the right value-proposition within that opt-in statement, and the product has some trust behind it, at least half the people will say ‘yes.’”

Because spam is so prevalent, many consumers are understandably leery about handing over their e-mail addresses to a company for the first time.

As a result, Perlstein advises publishing a privacy pledge next to any co-registration offer vowing not to share, sell or rent their information — that is, as long as the marketer is willing to commit to that pledge.

In the case of e-mail newsletters, Perlstein recommends offering a link to a sample of the newsletter so would-be subscribers can get a look at what they’re being asked to sign up for.

FOLLOW UP — FAST

Once the marketer gets the new names, immediate follow up is critical. In recent studies by e-mail service provider Silverpop and deliverability firm Return Path, one-third of marketers sent no e-mail to new registrants within 30 days of signup.

Merchants who fail to follow up on a new e-mail registration risk subscribers quickly forgetting they ever signed up. And this will result in non-responsive names and spam complaints.

“There are incremental losses in value every hour you wait after the first few hours,” says Perlstein. He adds that he’s seen marketers waste multimillion-dollar budgets by waiting 90 days to mail new subscribers, and then complain about the non-responsiveness of the list.

“Well, of course they’re non-responsive. They forgot they even signed up,” he says. Perlstein recommends contacting new registrants within the first few hours after signup. “Consumers expect it,” he says. “When they sign up for something, they want immediate gratification.”

And it’s not enough just to acknowledge the signup. Perlstein recommends taking full advantage of the opportunity to thank them, set their expectations and get them onto the merchant’s site.

“Make them an offer,” he says. “It’s a chance to get somebody from prospect to customer while their hot.”

REGISTERING FOR B-TO-B LEADS

Co-registration is also an effective business-to-business lead-generation tool, according to Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president of list firm Worldata, a company that also brokers co-reg deals.

“There’s always a distinction between business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing, but never was the case more so than with co-registration,” says Schwedelson. In b-to-b, it can be an effective source to generate leads; consumer merchants use it more often to build databases.

As a result, b-to-b marketers will pay five to 20 times more for a name generated in a co-reg program than their consumer-marketer counterparts, says Schewedelson. “Generally, you’re going to get someone to fill out a form, and give their phone number, and that phone number goes right to your call center.”

Because of the better quality of the leads, he says, b-to-b co-reg programs can be profitable up front, whereas consumer marketers should take a longer view of their co-reg programs.

“Generally, you’re not going to get the phone number with a consumer co-registration program. And even if you do, because of volume, most people aren’t following up by phone, so the conversion rate on that first touch is going to be lower,” he says. As a result, consumer marketers should measure the lifetime value of names brought in via co-reg in order to gauge the program’s effectiveness.

B-to-b marketers can also implement co-registration programs offline, says Schwedelson. For example, some trade publishers are having their phone representatives make offers on behalf of marketing partners during the subscription requalification process.

“It’s good for the publisher because it helps offset the cost of the call,” he says. “And it’s good for the marketer because it’s a lot of good volume, it’s pretty targeted volume, and the information about that individual has already been collected.”

In fact, most b-to-b marketers are trying to convert leads offline that have been gathered online, says Schwedelson.

Like Perlstein, Schwedelson recommends asking custom questions, such as ask if prospects are in the market for the seller’s product or service.

“People are always wary of adding custom questions because it increases the cost, but it’s really shortsighted to look at the initial cost,” he says. “You’re much better off spending the money on the up front and getting qualified leads than getting a bunch of garbage on the back end.”

Another difference with b-to-b co-registration is that striking individual deals with sites can be worthwhile. Whereas in b-to-c, single Websites can’t generate the volume needed: “You can generate 500 leads on an individual site, and that can be really worthwhile to the marketer on the back end. That marketer may be paying $15 a lead for those 500 leads, but those are golden leads,” explains Schwedelson.”

He adds: “All those networks don’t exist on the b-to-b side.”