Top 10 Tactics for Growing Your E-mail List

Jan 12, 2006 3:56 AM  By

E-mail drives nearly 25% of all e-commerce business, according to industry estimates. Put another way, one out of every four dollars spent in the e-commerce model is a direct result of e-mail marketing efforts. With returns like that, how can any marketer not make e-mail list strategy a top priority for 2006?

E-mail acquisition is a challenge, however. That’s why the average company has e-mail addresses for less than one-third of its customers.

Companies that constantly refine e-mail strategies and invest in both promotion and collection activities across all channels will succeed at growing their opt-in lists. It is simple in theory, yet difficult in practice. Here are some tips for making the practice simpler:

1) Position the database as a critical asset. Once top management recognizes that its e-mail database is a powerful resource, they will see the value in capturing addresses at every touch point. Identify ROI metrics, and clearly communicate those numbers to the appropriate executives. With a senior-level champion, the e-mail database is much more likely to succeed.

2) Capture data everywhere. Offer e-mail enrollment through multiple channels, on- and offline, and at every customer interaction point. For online communication, make certain a sign-up link is prominent on all your Web pages. The consumer’s first Website experience may not be on the home page, so the marketer who has not replicated the subscription link beyond the home page loses out. Ask for e-mail addresses at point-of-sale, via invitations to online surveys, and the like. Encourage sign-ups in exchange for value-added services or incentives across every channel: direct mail, print, broadcast, ad placements, search optimization, call centers, stores, kiosks.

3) Track and analyze data by source. Set up the database to track open and conversion rates by source for measuring collection efforts and determining which sources bring in the best customers. Then shift your marketing dollars to concentrate on those lead sources. Monitor lead sources for their responsiveness, and create an action plan with a clear timetable to revisit and reallocate resources to optimize the program.

4) Promote the benefits. Engage potential customers by clearly stating the benefits of entering into an e-mail relationship with your company, and provide options for information that is the most relevant to them: “Sign up now to get new product information…receive advanced notice about sales and new merchandise…keep up to date on account status…be reminded of important dates…get the weather forecast for your vacation destination…”

5) Let the customers tell you what they want. “The customer is always right.” So why not let the customers choose how, when, and what they want from a relationship with you? Make sure that the recipient has the ability to choose frequency (daily, weekly, monthly), format (text or HTML), and topics (all, sales notifications only, newsletters, transactional messages).

6) Provide examples. Show, don’t tell. Present samples to customers so that they will be more receptive to what they will receive—for instance, sample newsletters, coupons, customized product catalogs.

7) Have a conspicuous privacy policy. Enhance consumer confidence by assuring them that their data are protected. Specify that your policy is to not share customer information with any other sources. Don’t keep secrets–tell customers what you do with their information. Make it easy for them to update their data by placing an update link near all requests for personal information. And above all else, abide by your own privacy policy.

8) Send thank-you e-mails. Send a confirmation e-mail to new subscribers, showing appreciation, setting expectations, and allowing preference setting.

9) Leverage highly opened transactional messages. Provide additional opportunities to customers via the e-mail messages that are most likely to be read, such as order confirmations and shipping notifications. Take the chance to provide excellent service, gather profile data, and cross-sell or up-sell based on the product purchased. Make sure that any information you offer is both relevant and appropriate, however, or the trust that you have built will quickly dissolve.

10) Gather and enhance profile data. Capture additional customer data with targeted questionnaires and surveys so that marketers can optimize e-mail programs. Ensure that customers get asked only questions that apply to them. For instance, make sure that you are continually updating your database information so that you are not repeatedly asking a consumer for their phone number. Give the customer a level of comfort that you know who he is after he has been kind enough to share his personal preferences with you.

Growing your electronic customer database may not be your number-one priority this year; however, e-mail is one of the few tools marketers have that deliver measurable ROI. Why not make the commitment to develop a sound list growth strategy while others are putting it off? If you spend the time and resources to do it properly, the rewards will speak for themselves.

Arthur Sweetser is vice president of marketing and professional services at e-Dialog (, a Lexington, MA-based provider of e-mail marketing technologies, products, and services.