Proactive, permission-based email marketing programs are the foundation of successful digital marketing. One of the best ways to ensure success is to build a relationship with existing customers and prospects. The best e-marketers know their in-house lists are their most valuable marketing databases. They comprise marketers’ best customers and prospects, those who prequalified themselves and demonstrate interest in the company’s services and products.
I bet you all have at least one in-house list available to you. You probably can’t remember the last time you did anything with this list to re-qualify it, deleted old names and profiled existing members with some additional information, such as title, purchasing authority, and installed base.
Give your in-house email and direct marketing lists a spring-cleaning. Re-qualifying everyone is one of the most important projects you can undertake. You should do it every six months, at least.
Tips for building a better in-house mailing list:
Get permission! This is the first step in a long-term relationship. To obtain permission, offer something of value, such as a white paper, survey, financial analysis, or weekly tip to help readers become better acquainted with your product or service.
Convert existing in-house lists to double opt-in email lists. Using a double opt-in process allows recipients to confirm the address and information they provided was correct. Though double opt-in adds an extra step to the qualification process, the effort is well worth it. It helps qualify your list and lowers the risk of unsolicited email accusations.
Survey customers to find out how happy they are with your products and services. A recent survey I conducted for a client found customers thought the client did an extremely poor job of communicating with them. This came as a complete shock to that client. Such knowledge is extremely valuable to help you retain and better service existing customers. This is qualitative customer research at its best. Take advantage of it!
Leverage your Web site to gather new names. Make it easy for customers to join your community. Offer subscriptions to newsletters, alerts, and other communications on the home page and other prominent locations within the site. Set up specific methods to collect information and customize the types of information collected about these individuals. Determine as much as you can: demographics, personal interests and preferences, name, email address, company, purchasing authority, title, and so on.
Use this information to better segment audiences, deliver personalized and customized information, and develop a meaningful relationship with prospects and customers. Explain the types of communications you’ll send and make them valuable. If someone signs up for your product, offer a white paper (this works extremely well for technology sales) or a sales incentive, such as a discount on the next purchase or a free evaluation or Webinar.
Use all your internal resources to build your list. Reference the information on brochures and catalogues; use email signature cards and press releases. Consider all customer touch points. Every instance your company comes in contact with customers is an opportunity for sign-up.
Use testimonials and referrals. Existing customers are your best advertisement. Look for ways to leverage customers as company advocates. Ask them to refer colleagues and provide them with an easy, personalized way to pass along information they deem valuable. Encourage them to participate and share their experiences on bulletin boards and in Webinars. Create a customer advisory blog where you can continually tap into their knowledge and experience. Consider offering customers an incentive to participate; however, limit the number and frequency of such requests.
Take care of business. Respond immediately. If you use an email service provider, look for one that offers autoresponders. This simple tool enables you to time and customize responses based on specific actions taken by subscribers. Personalize all messages -- the greeting as well as specific content, based on information and audience segment. Confirming the information you’ve collected is a great way to kick off your relationship with the prospect and to up- or cross-sell existing customers.
Never, ever sell your list.
If you’ve got more ideas about how to build a qualified in-house mailing list, send them to me.
Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.
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Kathleen Goodwin is the former CEO of IMN (formerly iMakeNews), specializing in customer acquisition and retention through permission-based e-newsletters. For nine years, she was vice president of marketing for Ziff-Davis' publishing division, where she oversaw the marketing of all print publications and their early online siblings. She also serves as an advisor to early-stage companies and has been responsible for several successful new-business launches.