Having a big email distribution list is a key way to share your message, generate sales, etc. However it’s easier said than done to achieve the holy grail of a massive database of email addresses, and ideally names.
Email Addresses 101
Before you start it’s important to be clear on a few things:
- you have a responsibility to keep this customer data secure and only accessible to relevant people (eg. in the UK check out the Data Protection Act 1998/ Information Commissioners Office)
- treating data with respect (eg. not selling it, not sending tons of emails) will result in respect
- having an ‘opt out’ option that is simple and quick is essential (opt in should also be simple and quick!)
- in no way do we condone or suggest being ‘spammy’ is a good idea, it’s not, go away if that’s your plan!
Slightly less ‘serious’ but equally key to know is:
- many people can’t spell their email addresses (does hotmail end in .com or .co.uk?)
- a lot of email addresses given are fake or dummy addresses
- if 30%+ of people regularly open your emails and 5%+ click on anything you’re doing well (varies a bit by industry, but don’t expect 100% open rates, you are not as important as their boss/ spouse)
- it is almost always best to get personal emails, eg. firstname.lastname@example.org than email@example.com
- if you’re not already using a system to send emails, get one, eg. MailChimp (Outlook does not count!)
What will you send them/ Why should they sign up?
If you just answer ‘my latest products/services/campaign’ then you need to spend some time dwelling here. People sign up to get newsletters partly to know what you’re up to but nowadays with all the ‘information overload’ there needs to be extra reason to do so, an encouragement that what they will receive is what they need/want.
For example, say you sell cooking implements or food products then sending recipes and cooking tips would ‘add value’ to what you send. In addition you might occasionally have review of a cooking book (that you don’t sell), or the initial paragraph of an opinion piece about the latest cooking style. A good example here would be the free magazines the supermarkets give away which are all lifestyle-orientated and loosely connected to the food and homewares they sell.
Basically make it interesting and worthwhile. Customers are bored of just ‘marketing’ information, rather give them something useful, of value. That could range from a discount to advice, behind the scene’s info (people behind the brand), asking for their opinion, competitions (not necessarily monetary), and just a bit of plain old fun.
How will you sign them up?
As a general rule we would suggest ‘anywhere you can’ but with the proviso of ‘you won’t be annoying them or abusing their data’. Most people don’t react badly to getting a newsletter after an interaction with a company, but might if they can’t control it (opt-out).
Getting Details Basics
Bearing in mind the start-up points listed above and the ‘why’:
- a newsletter signup form on your website, ideally on every page
- sign-up forms when you run events/ go to a trade-show (tip: to ensure it gets filled out hand a list around on a clipboard while delegates are seated or engaged in a conversation with you)
- add those who fill out forms on your site, eg. making a contact enquiry or booking something (add them to the most appropriate email list)
- ask for their details when in contact:
- when making a sale in a shop, ask for their email address, explaining the benefits
- on the phone, ask for email and other contact details
- if you receive an email keep their contact details in a list (be careful here though)
- get a business card when doing networking, even if they’re not someone you would follow up
Share access (but not data)
Adding thousands of emails might make a big difference to your bottom line but it can take time, quite a lot of time especially if you’re doing it the ‘right way’ of one-by-one.
This is probably the quickest way to grow your email list, eg. to add thousands in one go. However to do so it is important to be as targetted as possible. For example saying ‘Win Free Chocolate if you follow us on Twitter’ everywhere will get you any and everyone, many of which aren’t interested in your product, service or campaign – that’s just a waste of time.
Rather try to think about ‘ok so where should I put this competition, that is where are my target market and how can I reach them more specifically than just a general “on Facebook”‘? Ideally the competition could be at least somewhat related to your industry, although there are limits, eg. not everyone wants to ‘win a lawyer’!
The most successful competitions are advertised through things like ‘share access’, ‘advertising’ and so on to a targetted sub-group. The usual qualification is just to enter your contact details, and don’t ask for too much (name, email and a tick for terms and conditions – a phone number if it’s useful). You can always add on ‘extra’ info later, eg. when filling out a form online – it’s about getting the initial contact point.
This route doesn’t directly get you contact details, but putting an advert in someone else’s list who have the right kind of demographics is a great way of reaching customers who otherwise wouldn’t see your website and is generally much cheaper than online advertising, especially in terms of Return On Investment.
What about buying email lists?
There are no end of ‘suppliers’ of email contact information who will give you thousands of email addresses, supposedly from a particular industry, eg. ‘10,000 doctor’s emails’.
This all sounds ideal until you put your thinking cap on:
- How did they get all these email addresses? It’s unlikely it was ‘opt-in’ or if it was they probably didn’t know their contact data was being sold. How would you feel if you got an email from an unknown source you didn’t give permission to?
- Unfortunately it’s probably just not true that:
- They are all valid email addresses relating to individual people (some will be just fake accounts)
- They are actually the type of user (eg. Doctor) that they talk about (they may just be generic emails, so not the customers you are looking for).
- That they are even from users located in the countries/regions in which you sell (eg. it could be a doctor in Africa who can’t access the supply-chain you have).
Additionally, depending on the system you are using to send the emails you may well get flagged up as a spammer if you use such a list and hence be unable to continue to use the mailing system you do at the moment.
Possibly don’t bother?
This might sound odd, but growing your email list isn’t the holy grail, rather you want to grow the number of people to whom you communicate and you don’t necessarily need an email address to do that.
- are you showing pictures of your product/services (along with other things) on your Facebook Page?
- do you talk about actions you want people to take on Twitter, eg. ‘See our beautiful new bags at www.’
- is your website optimised for Search Engines?
- are you working on off-site optimisation?
- have you checked the price-comparison options
- do you feed your products to Google directly (a picture, price and link to the page?)
It would be unwise to ignore email contacts and email newsletters, but it’s only part of the process of engaging with people. Indeed it might be their least-preferred method of engagement. Hence a tool like a simple Customer Relationship Management system can really help to combine their different methods of being contactable and suggest a more ‘social media’ approach.
Need Help with an Email Newsletter?
Of course we do help clients create email newsletter campaigns with a focus on making a solution they can understand and update. This includes how to learn and adapt your strategy based on the reporting.
The bulk of the work is at the start, getting the sending system setup; collating all the initial contacts; figuring out how you’ll get new ones; what will go in the newsletters. Thereafter it’s usually a case of adding interesting content on a regular basis, though we can help with that too.