Growing Your E-Mail Database

Last week, I tried something new. I moderated the first online chat sessionfor the Email Experience Council (EEC). All the council subscribers were invited on the day of the event, and we had a really great turn out. Over 100 posts came in! Questions ranged from strategic to tactical, but several questions rose to FAQ status.

The most frequently asked questions we received included:

  • How can business-to-business (B2B) email clients grow their databases?

  • What is the average open rate I should benchmark against?
  • My campaign had a technical glitch that caused it to be a disaster. What should I do?

The group’s responses were compelling. One person had this to say at the end of the session:

I just wanted to thank you again for hosting this event. Just these brief conversations have dramatically changed my approach to our upcoming email campaign. I didn’t have a clue about any of this when I first started receiving the EEC newsletter, and I’m glad that it eventually led me here.

Thank you all for the impromptu education!

Since it was such a success, I thought I’d share some specific responses about list growth (as contributed by eROI, Ogilvy, Return Path, Gather, and others):

  • Our best strategy for building lists has been via a perpetual contest. We offer a private group [a pass” into our show once a quarter. In order to sign up, you provide your email address with the direct understanding that doing so will mean you receive an email from us about once a quarter. However, most of our database has been built from people walking into our physical street location, so I’m not sure what success it would have online.

  • Our most successful strategy for our online wing has been a perpetual coupon that requires email with the same understanding.
  • We have seen the best way to get opt-ins is by adding an opt-in link and compelling call to action on service-based emails. The second best thing we have seen work is to make sure that every landing page has a prominent opt-in box.
  • There are a couple of ways to think about optimizing your “organic” capture on the Web site. Consider that your home page might not be the primary front page, so be sure to optimize the newsletter offer on all search landing pages and all product pages. Customize the offer based on the content of the page.
  • Test different benefit statements, too. See if “free stuff” generates more conversions than “monthly tips and ideas from the field.” Be sure to match the actual content with the offer.
  • We have found that acquisition email (paid list rental), affiliates, and online lead-generation forms (or co-reg) are great ways to grow your newsletter file. Your email newsletter makes a great offer for these channels. Be sure to target well, and refine and test your offer strategy.

    Think about the frame of mind of a person reading email offers. They may not know your company or your products very well, so inviting them to “buy now” is too high a bar for consideration. You’ll get poor results. However, an offer to sign up for a relevant email file is a great way to capture them inexpensively and start to market to them via email. It’s an easy commitment to make, and email is great for building relationships over time.

The interaction during the online chat was phenomenal. Based on the positive feedback we received, we will definitely be planning another event. I think everyone learned something.

So get your toughest questions ready for the email experts of the EEC.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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