Back in January, many email marketers said increasing their lists was their top goal for 2013. Well, spring is here. Is your mailing list growing as fast as your flowers and lawn? If not, it's time to execute a new plan.
Many marketers have email addresses only for 30 percent or less of their customer and prospect lists. They're tempted to revert to their direct-mail experience and reach for a quick fix like email append ("e-append") and list rental/purchase.
But in today's engagement-based inbox placement world, this "quick fix" approach can give you more headaches than new sales.
If you seek quantity over quality in list growth, you're practically inviting the ISPs either to block your entire opt-in mailing list or route everything to your recipients' bulk folders, where they'll languish in obscurity until the ISPs dump them automatically.
So, what should be in your email list growth plan? Below are five tried-and-true methods to ignite your email list growth, in a safe, permission-based way.
Make it easy to opt in on your website. Your customers and prospects must be able to find your opt-in form easily on your home page.
I have been giving this advice for years, but today's web designers apparently didn't get the memo. They position Facebook and Twitter icons prominently but send you on a search-and-rescue mission to find the opt-in field.
Many websites undersell the email value proposition, using just a link saying "Sign Up for Email" relegated to the home page footer. Worse, the email opt-in call-to-action isn't even on the page. Make your forms stand out.
If you want to get more opt-ins, make the email invite more visible. Use a benefit-based call-to-action, and test an offer that you subsequently deliver in your welcome series.
Don't stop at just one. Add more opt-in forms throughout your site and in various placements, like these:
Above the fold (the horizontal halfway point on your website, like the fold in a newspaper)
Below the fold
In the right rail
In left-hand navigation
On a dynamic layer that displays according to visitors' site activity
Test these locations to see how many more opt-ins you can drive. Test each one alone and in combination with each other.
One opt-in form on a page might drive X, while having two opt-in form placements on a page might drive 1.5X to 2X. At the EEC Summit in 2012, Tommy Hilfiger reported that his company drives 2 percent of all site visitors to opt in by using a dynamic opt-in layer served to new site visitors on site entry.
Collect email opt-in in your stores. Ask your customers to opt in for email at your checkout counter or when requesting an email receipt. However, be sure you are collecting high-quality names.
You'll have to develop a request procedure that helps you overcome two big pitfalls of point-of-sale requests:
Phony addresses, either provided by reluctant customers who can't say no to the request or keyed in by sales associates who have to meet email quotas.
Mistakes, which happen when sales people misspell a written address, misunderstand a customer's spoken address, or omit a crucial detail like the "@" symbol. I know about this one first-hand; more than half of the cashiers who try to type in my name get it wrong. "Is it Hotz or Holtz?"
Here are a few suggestions for collecting more and better addresses:
Let customers type in their email addresses on a POS touchpad or credit card terminal.
Give them an offer or benefit for signing up in-store.
Explain what they'll be receiving.
Get explicit permission before adding the address.
Make it mobile. Consumer adoption of mobile sites and apps makes mobile another important collection point for opt-in for both email and SMS text.
The best mobile site home pages have two opt-in forms: one for email, one for SMS. Remember the constraints that mobile puts on viewing and data input.
Don't ask users to fill out lots of form fields. Keep the form short and simple. You can collect more information later in your welcome series using progressive profiling.
Remember your social networks. Give your Facebook followers a simple opt-in form page. Call out the benefits and differences between your social experience and your email communications.
Consider using social login, also known as social sign-in. This uses existing login information from social networks such as Facebook or Twitter to sign in to a website without having to create a separate login account specifically for your website.
You can also use this process to allow your site registrants to quickly and easily sign up to receive your marketing emails.
My Last Word
Too many marketers still think email list growth is a quantity game. Quality matters more. Identify where you acquire your most valuable, most engaged opt-ins, and brainstorm how you can get more of them.
Test your theories. Implement what works, and eliminate what doesn't.
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.