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Building an Opt-In Email List

Posted on 4.30.2008
Once you have managed to create a stream of steady traffic to your website, you may find that you want to or, more likely, need to contact those that have purchased from you in the past or even dropped a line to you to initiate a relationship. There’s no better way to do this than email, but getting started can be tricky with the infinite number of options available. Add in the perceived complexity of how to actually begin and most Web professionals become paralyzed with fear.

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There are only a handful of steps necessary to building an opt-in email list. If you are not using a service that automates the process for you in a soup-to-nuts manner, look no further than your preferred search engine to find noteworthy vendors.
 
But building an opt-in email list is not for the Johnny Come Lately’s of the Web world. Doing it right takes an immense amount of commitment, not only in terms of creating content but being creative with your list’s recipients. The more adventurous you become in building an opt-in email list, the higher chance you have of success. While it’s not possible to list all of the possible content ideas for everyone, what we can do is highlight a few of the simple, yet aggressive ways to generate not just a list, but a large and active list.

 
Identify Touch Points
 

It takes work to create an email customized for you readership, but it should not take any work at all identifying touch points on your website. These are places to promote subscription to your email.
 
Whether you have designated a high profile section of your sign-up form or feature such an area on every page of your website, there are many additional places to effectively promote your emails. For example, if you find yourself participating in quite a few social networks (i.e. LinkedIn), consider creating a custom landing page specifically for the purpose of generating subscriptions for those in your future network. There are truly a whole host of opportunities to recruit new members to your list including transactional emails, shipping forms and even outside or away from your site at trade shows, speaking engagements, even your business card. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come, so get creative in where these signup requests are placed.
 
 
Barriers to Acquisition
 
In today’s Web environment, consumers are inundated with information. When you have a surplus of sources that can offer virtually the same thing, it’s important not to knowingly implement barriers to the acquisition of subscribers.
 
 
Privacy Policy
 

 While you may not spend time checking out the privacy policies of the various newsletters you sign up for, many do and take it quite seriously. Obtaining permission with a double opt-in method to keep track of contacts and user preferences will provide great value when those same consumers complain that they are receiving unwanted email. Consider including a brief sentence or two of your privacy policy located near the submit button on your form, aw well as a link to the full policy.
 
 
Value Proposition
 
Most of us are willing to share our email address, especially if its means that we’ll receive something of value in return. Growing an opt-in email list requires that you carefully determine if you should incentivize subscriptions. For example, if you are an online retailer, why not consider giving subscribers a discount on their next purchase. If you’re a blogger, why not give something away – a free link perhaps if your audience consists of similar bloggers and Web professionals. Selling electronics? Why not give away one item each time an issue of your newsletter is sent?
 
 
Channel Noise
 
Some of the more creative uses of this technique/approach include placing the winner’s name at the end of the email, forcing recipients to scroll down to the end to see who actually won. While incentives do generate a fair share of sign-ups, there are some drawbacks. A number of people will sign up only to get the incentives. You still have a large list to work with, but the response rate tends to be lower.
 
It’s imperative to know that one-to-one marketing is an ongoing process. Marketers need to know that cleaning their lists is equally important. If there are underperforming segments, separate them. The message has to get out there that this is a subscriber medium and that you have to respect what the subscriber
 wants.
 

Analyze Everything
 
Marketers need to measure performance of everything in tandem. It often comes down to integrating solutions which help you understand how people are interacting with the information you are sending out. You need to ask how your email service provider (ESP) is going to help you measure. You can look at metrics like open rate or click rate, but they only tell you about the vacuum of email. It does not tell you email leads to search which leads to conversion. A lot of the impact is the offline purchase. Email is a direct channel but it’s also an influence channel.
 
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