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Grow Your B2B Email List Effectively - Revisited

  |  January 25, 2012   |  Comments

Generating high-quality leads must be at the core of any good B2B email marketing strategy.

Growing the email list continues to be a top goal for a B2B marketer in 2012. However, many marketers have low opt-in email address coverage for their customer and prospect lists. They're often at a loss for help to ramp up their opt-in email collection efforts.

Recent discussions with clients prompted me to revisit an earlier ClickZ column, "3 Steps to Grow Your Email List More Effectively." I haven't changed my recommendations, but the advice is worth reviewing if growing your email list is one of your biggest challenges.

Step 1: Work With Your Sales Team

Corporate marketing and the sales organization often disagree about who's the most effective in marketing to customers and prospects. Many salespeople send out their own email marketing messages to private lists of customers and prospects. They believe marketing will fill their customer's inbox with irrelevant email messages and the sales team will have to field customer complaints.

The most effective way to combat this is to build comfort and trust of your email-marketing programs within the sales organization. Demonstrate to sales that your email messages will not damage their customer relationships. Show how your lead nurture programs will help them become more efficient and allow them to concentrate on converting the hottest leads.

Your first step is to publish your plans and results and review them regularly with sales. Answer the sales reps' "What's in it for me?" question. Show them which data points you use to classify a hot lead and the process you use to nurture them until they are ready for sales follow-up.

When sales trusts your email program, you can start to improve the coverage in your customer and prospect database.

One client engaged sales and made needed changes to his email program to produce higher-converting leads. The result: a dramatic increase almost overnight in the client's ability to email his customers and prospects.

Step 2: Don't Rent Lists

Many marketers with postal direct mail backgrounds buy or rent lists to sell their products and bring that experience when they move into email marketing.

However, third-party list use in email has many pitfalls that postal direct marketing doesn't face:

  • Email addresses churn faster than postal addresses and become undeliverable.
  • The permission threshold for email is much higher than postal mail. The burden is on the recipient (wasted time sorting through irrelevant email) rather than the sender (higher cost for producing and sending postal mail).
  • Permission is tied to the mailer who originally gained permission and is not transferable in most subscribers' eyes.
  • Email addresses that churn can be converted to spam traps that could cause all your email to a specific ESP to be blocked.

My advice is to avoid buying or renting lists. Third-party lists are expensive and typically do not deliver results like your organically grown in-house list.

Step 3: Build Your List Organically

Organic list growth continues to be the most effective method to grow your list. From the basics to some more innovative approaches, there are many creative tactics to build your list. Consider these ideas:

  • Quick email sign-up. Make it easy to quickly sign up to receive your email communications on all heavily trafficked pages on your site. Include a bulleted list that stresses your email benefits, a form for email address collection, a link to a sample email, and a link to your privacy policy.
  • Offline marketing collateral. Link to a landing page on your website where a potential subscriber can sign up easily.
  • Sweepstakes. Develop a low-value sweepstakes with a prize highly relevant to your present and future customers to encourage email sign-up at trade shows or at purchase.
  • Tablet-based kiosk email collection. Develop an application that can run on a popular tablet (i.e., iPad or Android) in kiosk mode to collect email addresses at point-of-sale, in-store, events, etc.
  • Leverage search and social media marketing. Provide a simple email opt-in in the header and footer of each paid search landing page and social media shared content. Ask prospects and customers to share email and web content with their social networks. Make it easy for network members to become subscribers.
  • Mobile sign-up. Establish a short code that potential subscribers can use to text their email address to sign up for thought-leadership messages, such as webinars, white papers, e-books, best practices lists, or your regular company marketing via email.

The Last Word

Generating high-quality leads must be at the core of any good B2B email marketing strategy. However, permission-based email address capture and list growth remains one of the biggest challenges for B2B marketers in 2012.

In today's market, failing to provide high-quality, hot leads through the email channel can be disastrous for the company as everyone has to do more with the marketing budget.

However, when you succeed, the results can be magnificent. I recently spoke with a marketer who grew his opt-in email database coverage from less than 30 percent to more than 80 percent coverage in a year and a half, using the techniques I described here.

It's well worth the time and effort when that high-performing internal email list delivers highly qualified leads that sales can quickly convert to revenue.


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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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