Approaches to Building an E-mail List, Part 2

  |  September 3, 2009   |  Comments

How do you reach prospects not on your list?

Last time, we examined proven techniques for list building among existing customers. Now let's cover the more difficult area of prospecting and how to reach people with whom you don't already have a relationship.


A JupiterResearch/ClickZ executive survey last year asked 286 e-mail marketers what had been their most effective forms of e-mail address acquisition in terms of quality and quantity. A total of 81 percent said their own Web site, while 24 percent said in-person/in-store events. E-mail append was last and list purchase didn't even show up.

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Given these figures, it's clear that the challenge is to bring people to your Web site, store, or other location and ensure that a dialogue is started once they are there.

Don't view e-mail marketing in isolation. Direct marketing, in general, and e-mail, specifically, doesn't negate the role of advertising in raising brand profile, creating product awareness, and gaining prospects.

Whether it's traditional mass media, search placement, banner ads, or social media, advertising is still an important weapon in the arsenal of an effective acquisition strategy. It will bring the best quantity and quality of leads.

Though I'm not a fan of e-mail append or list purchase, I don't completely rule out using e-mail to generate awareness. List sponsorships, and to a lesser extent list rental, can be effective if the target audience is appropriate and the list is used judiciously. Jeanne Jennings provided excellent guidance on how to do list rental right.

As long as you're careful and do it appropriately, co-registration can also grow your list effectively. Make sure to follow best practices and monitor your program closely. Don't be caught asleep at the wheel. Co-registration programs can go very wrong if not executed properly.


The difference between success and failure lies in the execution. The key to list growth is in ensuring that people who see these advertisements are provided with motive and opportunity to receive further communications.

While providing motive and opportunity, you must make it fast and easy to get further information and deliver that information in a timely manner. If you've already optimized all your existing touch points for customers, adding opportunities for prospects should be fairly straightforward.

However, too many companies fail to differentiate between customers and prospects. While we hope customers are engaged with you for the long haul, prospects are fickle. This means the communication strategy must be significantly different for prospects.

E-mail marketing has moved on in the last decade. Requiring consumers to provide large amounts of information and then waiting days or weeks to communicate with them is no longer necessary or acceptable. E-mail service providers (ESPs) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems provide much more sophisticated capabilities and well-designed programs take advantage of these, including:

  • Real-time confirmation messages. Start the conversation immediately. Waiting days to respond to a prospect isn't necessary or useful.

  • Sequenced/cadenced messaging. These are sequences of communications, preferably adaptive, that enable a prospect to move rapidly to becoming a customer.

  • Triggered messaging Many prospects will continue interacting with your Web site and other channels. Use these activities to trigger messaging and alter the cadenced messaging.

  • Reactivation messaging.A prospect won't stay hot for long. How long depends on your typical sales cycle. Know what that is and use reactivation for those who seem to have gone cold.

Remember, these aren't shortcuts. These measures won't create a massive list of valuable contacts overnight. There's no silver bullet when it comes to building your house list.

There are purported shortcuts. In reality, though, they won't create that massive list of valuable contacts and they will come with a raft of other issues. The keys to growing your list are providing subscriber value, making opportunities widely available and accessible, and then executing -- delivering on that promised value.

None of this is easy or quick, but it's achievable and effective.

Until next time.

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Derek Harding

Derek is the managing director of J-Labs, Javelin Marketing Group's technology skunkworks, a role that draws on his 20 years of experience and leadership in the fields of marketing and technology. A British expatriate based in Seattle, Washington, Derek is perhaps better known as the founder and technologist behind Innovyx, one of the first email service providers later acquired by the Omnicom Group. An industry veteran and thought-leader, Derek is a regular expert author, contributor, conference speaker, and takes an active role in a number of industry and trade groups.

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