Birth of a Mailing List

Growing a mailing list can be a tricky business. Reputable marketers want to avoid any appearance of spam, of course. But there are plenty of other issues to consider, such as how to capture potential customers’ addresses once they’ve visited your site.

AAA Life Insurance Company is part of the American Automobile Association (AAA). In addition to well-known home and automotive insurance, AAA offers, through AAA Life, life insurance (not surprisingly), including term life insurance and permanent life insurance.

The company began serious online marketing efforts in 2002. The challenge was twofold. The first, which we’ll concentrate on here, was to grow a virtually nonexistent database (about 200 email addresses) into a healthy mailing list. The second aim was to create a dialogue with subscribers via a monthly online newsletter.

AAA Life teamed with Motor City Interactive, a full-service online marketing agency. They worked to develop a strategy to drive traffic to the AAA Life Web site. Here’s how.

First, the companies needed to determine what the most cost-effective way would be to entice individuals to learn more about the products and services. They focused on text links, placed strategically throughout the Web. Text links are relatively inexpensive and well suited for a company such as AAA Life. (My hypothesis is consumers who seek life insurance information don’t need to be wowed with flashy graphics; they want to get to the bottom line as quickly as possible. The words “life insurance” in a text link tell them exactly what they’ll get.)

The companies created a variety of short, informative text links. For instance, a link on a loyalty program Web site might simply consist of the words, “Term Life Insurance — AAA Life” with either a link or a checkbox.

Next, it was time to figure out where to place these links. AAA Life looked closely at its demographics and choose sites that matched its target audience: male or female over 40, with a family, and whose household income was $60,000 or higher. It realized the demographic spans the Internet, so it chose 6,000 sites that vary in content, including insurance sites, search engines, directories, and community sites.

Once a user clicked on the AAA Life text link, she was transported to a specially designed landing page.

“The landing page gave some basic information about life insurance; it was fairly sparse,” says Lezlee Brown of AAA Life. “We weighed providing content and a lot of information against capturing email addresses.”

This strategy acquired nearly 10,000 subscribers in only three months. A fine first effort. There are a couple of aspects worth focusing on.

One reason this campaign worked is that though AAA Life blanketed the Web with text links, it carefully chose the sites and made certain it addressed its target audience.

Another reason is AAA is a well-respected company here in the U.S.

“The AAA brand lent tremendous credibility to this campaign,” says Jeff Stanislow, president of Motor City Interactive. “One in four Americans are AAA members.”

Bear in mind not everyone who visited the Web site supplied an email address (figures are unavailable). Still, the high number reflects those who were interested enough to start an online relationship with AAA Life.

The next step, of course, is to convert interest into life insurance policies. How successful that process will be is yet unknown. What is clear is conversion cannot happen without a strong base. AAA Life has begun establishing a solid online foundation.

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