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Four Tips for Offline E-Mail Address Collection

  |  May 6, 2009   |  Comments

Your most reliable collection point for e-mail addresses is a dedicated subscription page at your Web site, but it's not the only source. Four tips for successfully collecting addresses offline.

Your most reliable collection point for e-mail addresses is a dedicated subscription page at your Web site, but it's not the only source.

In "Playing the E-mail 'Match Game?' Be Careful!" I focused on using (or not using) append data to grow your mailing list. Today, I'll show you how important it is to have an effective strategy for offline e-mail acquisition and best practices for collecting the most useful data.

Online vs. Offline Acquisition

Your subscription or registration page is the best source of e-mail addresses, for two reasons:

  • Verified information: Your subscribers are providing the information and are responsible for its accuracy. Depending on how you set up your subscription page, you might be able to help them verify it.

  • Consistent message: Your e-mail program's value proposition and benefits are presented exactly as you intend them.

As reliable as online collection is, it lacks the personal touch of a persuasive salesperson at the cash register or on the sales or trade-show floor. With the right point-of-sales (POS) equipment, your salesperson can enter the e-mail address during the sale, while the customer's interest is red-hot. You also have exposure to a wider range of customers, not just the ones who shop online.

Despite its reach advantages, offline collection has its own challenges:

  • Typos: Background noise, fat-finger syndrome, and hurried data entry can create bad addresses, which wastes everyone's time and costs you untold opportunities. Write-in forms overcome some of these problems, but they're slower, you'll get fewer addresses, and people don't always write legibly.

  • Message misfire: Sales clerks can reduce your finely crafted value-prop speech to a hurried "Can I get your e-mail address?" especially if the lines are long, and other customers start to get testy. When lines are long, they may simply stop asking.

  • Timing the welcome e-mail: Ideally, the welcome e-mail should arrive within moments after the subscription. If subscriber data isn't transmitted or uploaded on entry, days or weeks can pass before someone gets around to entering all the names and addresses in the system. This can increase your unsubscribes or spam complaints, especially if the subscriber forgot about making an opt-in request and is surprised by your first contact. The result? Your list churn goes up and your sender reputation takes a hit, which ultimately lowers your delivery to the inbox.

  • Quota or incentive-based collections: Paying employees for each e-mail address they get, or imposing penalties for not meeting a quota, encourages people to make up addresses to get the reward or meet the quota.

Apple's Geniuses Get Offline Acquisition Right

Apple stores don't call their salespeople geniuses for nothing. Their in-store e-mail-address collection is about the best I've ever seen.

When you buy something, your genius uses a handheld device to scan the barcode and read your credit card. If you want your receipt e-mailed to you, the genius shows you the screen to verify your information. The receipt hits your e-mail in seconds.

Then, you're asked if you want to receive e-mail from Apple. Got questions? Your genius has answers. If you say yes, your confirmation will be in your inbox before you get home.

Four Strategies for Offline Acquisition

Your best practice is to drive subscribers to your Web site to sign themselves up rather than take the address during the sale. Train employees to deliver a 10-second pitch that lays out the value proposition; then, post your Web address everywhere to reinforce the message:

  • Print it on register receipts.

  • Post it on wall, door, window, and ceiling signs.

  • Print it, along with a value proposition and code for a new-subscriber discount, on POS postcards, and bag or box stuffers.

  • Post it in all online and offline advertising.

If you rely on offline collection as well, you need to build in strategies that will ensure high-quality data gets into your database:

  1. Repeat the e-mail address or show the customer the input screen to verify the e-mail address.

  2. Require POS data to be uploaded to the database within 24 hours. Handwritten data should be entered and uploaded at the end of every sales day.

  3. Set your e-mail software to send the confirmation e-mail (if you use double opt-in) as soon as the e-mail address is entered and to send a welcome e-mail immediately after confirmation. If you don't use a welcome e-mail now, create one using the guidelines below for online and offline subscriptions.

  4. Beef up your welcome e-mail:
  • Restate your e-mail program's value prop, benefits, and expectations for frequency and content.

  • Include any new-subscriber discount or incentive here rather than at the POS.

  • Invite recipients to your Web site to fill out the all-important preference and profile data you need to create segmented and relevant messages.

These strategies will add more valid addresses to your database, then help make your subscribers glad they took the time to sign up.

Until next time, keep on deliverin'!

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Stefan Pollard

Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.

In Memoriam: Stefan Pollard
E-mail marketing community mourns the loss of a marketing pro dedicated to helping his peers and clients and working to improve an industry. Here are their tributes celebrating his life.

E-mail Marketing Expert Stefan Pollard Dies
An expert in deliverability is remembered as a champion of best practices and someone who selflessly gave of his time to others.

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