Barry Clifford

The Holy Grail of Online Marketing: The Email List.

Ask anyone who’s been marketing a product or service via email for a while and they’ll tell you that their email database is their most valuable asset. The people on your list are your fans, friends, brand ambassadors, former and future customers. For a business starting out and eager to get their message to as many possible customers as possible, it’s tempting to buy or rent a list that you found online or through a service. There are however a number of compelling reasons why this may not be the best strategy.

  1. Purchased email lists may contain old or outdated addresses, a situation that could identify you to ISPs as a possible spammer.
  2. Purchased lists may contain spam traps, which are email addresses that can only have been gotten through screen scraping.
  3. The recipients on the purchased list have not given permission for you to contact them and are likely to report you as a spammer.
  4. Email clients and inboxes have made it VERY simple for mail recipients to report spam. In many cases readers will report unwanted email as spam (even if they requested it) rather than simply unsubscribing or deleting.

There are reputable outbound telemarketing companies who have qualified lists for rent, but in general money spent acquiring your own contacts organically will pay off in the future. Permission is king. The basis of a successful long-term email marketing campaign s building a permission-based, or “opt in” emailing list. What this means is that the people receiving your e-mail have, at some point, requested to hear from you – and that after time, they STILL want to hear from you.  Here are some suggestions for beginning to grow your permission-based email list:

  1. Position “opt-in” links and buttons on every page of your website – including category pages and landing pages. People who arrive at your site from links or search engine pages should be able to sign up no matter how they got in the door.
  2. Add “Forward this to a friend” buttons on your e-mails. If you have a compelling offer, you might create a bunch of interest in your newsletter through viral means.
  3. See if you can get links back to your site placed in other e-mail newsletters relevant to your target customers. Maybe you have an offer or white paper you want to promote? This is a great way to find targeted customers.
  4. When someone arrives at your list sign-up page, let them know what they should expect in terms of content and frequency, and put your privacy policy right up front.
  5. Collect enough information to target your emails accurately, but not so much as to be intrusive. Think of every additional form field as another reason for the user NOT to sign up.
  6. Once you’ve gotten their e-mail address, send a welcome e-mail.  Many email automation packages include a tool that can schedule several e-mails.  Don’t kill them with e-mails, but don’t let them sit for a month without hearing from youo either.
  7. Make it easy to change information/interests or unsubscribe. The easier it is for someone to get off your list, the less likely they are to press the “spam” button when they see your email in their inbox.

As you can imagine, this is a process and requires some attention.  But with time and diligence, you can grow a respectable and responsive database. It’s all about communication. If you treat your readers with respect and give them the information they need, they’ll be happy not only to buy your product or service, they’ll be happy to tell their friends or post your link on their social media feed – the truest sign of success.