To Append or Not to Append

If you’ve ever considered using e-mail appending to grow your customer list, then you’re probably familiar with the horror stories that surround this practice: “I got a bunch of junk addresses.” “The results didn’t perform well.” “My customers are mad at me.” It’s enough to leave a sour taste in your mouth and instill the perpetual fear of blacklisting.

But when e-mail appending is approached carefully and used properly, it can quickly and effectively help you increase market penetration, grow revenue, and improve customer communications. So how do you take advantage of that?

First, you need to know whom you’re giving your list to. And you need to know them well. Vendor selection is key when exploring e-mail appending. Your e-mail marketing reputation is directly linked to the reputation of the vendor you work with. A top-quality, careful vendor should be able to promise you 100% opt-in e-mail addresses that are 100% guaranteed deliverable. Your vendor should be performing proper hygiene on your list, to ensure a clean, deliverable result, and should be in compliance with Can-Spam. And truthfully, your vendor should be vetting you: He should be equally careful that your company is good for his company’s reputation.

If you select a reputable vendor and provide a list of viable customers, then your next challenge is using the results correctly. Just because you now have the e-mail address of a loyal customer doesn’t necessarily mean that customer is ready to digest your sales promotions through his online inbox. He may be a customer, but he did not ask you to e-mail him your latest coupon. So what’s the best way to handle your new list of deliverable addresses?

Start by introducing yourself. Seriously. Don’t alienate your customer by simply slapping his e-mail address into your next sales campaign. Treat him as the customer you truly value.

Send those appended e-mail addresses a gentle welcome message that introduces them to your e-mail marketing strategy. Tell them you want to talk to them via e-mail. Show them that you’re interested in cultivating the relationship on their terms. Give them reasons to keep talking to you via e-mail by sharing what kind of information, offers, and ideas you will be sending to them. Clarify how frequently they can expect to hear from you. Most important, offer them the opportunity to opt out of your list once and for all… and then heed that choice.

The introduction approach allows you to build your relationships through a new channel, which will allow you deeper market penetration into the market you value the most: customers.

When customers end up angry at you, it’s usually because you slammed them with an unexpected solicitation. Or you jammed their e-mail box with so much stuff that their boxes become full. Customers get angry when their expectations aren’t met or when they’re surprised. Your customers, your most valuable business asset, should be treated as delicately and generously as your in-laws to guarantee a long-lasting relationship. With a thoughtful and deliberate plan, you can cultivate new, meaningful, and profitable relationships with your customer base.

Natalie Hahn O’Flaherty is manager of marketing and communications at Newton, MA-based FreshAddress, an e-mail services provider.

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