An Ethical Approach to Co-Registration for Email Marketers

EJ McGowan
by EJ McGowan 23 Feb, 2017
Most email marketers are familiar with the terms "co-registration" and "co-registration marketing."

These strategies have been around for years and refer to an agreement between brands in which email contacts who sign up for a particular service or digital subscription are also added to the other brand's contact list. In email's early days, this often came in the form of small boxes at the bottom of a subscription screen that users would need to uncheck in order to not receive promotional emails from the partner brand. Thus, the practice began to receive a bad reputation, often resulting in what seemed like spam to email users.

As the industry matures and more sophisticated marketing technology becomes available, co-registration - when done right - can still benefit both businesses and consumers.

Benefits and Pitfalls

The benefits of using co-registration are numerous. Brands can access and attract new contacts within a target audience that perhaps wasn't familiar with them before. Therefore, the return on a minimal investment can be quite large if these new contacts convert to customers. Additionally, marketers are afforded more data on new contacts who come in through co-registration than they are for many other types of new subscribers.

For instance, they already have general data on the interests of these new contacts based on the partner brand they subscribed through. Some co-registration partnerships even allow for information exchange like purchase history. Co-registration, however, can be risky especially when approached without discretion for the consumer experience.

As previously mentioned, when consumers end up on email lists for a product or service they have no interest in, that content can be perceived as nothing more than irritating, irrelevant spam, which drastically hurts a company's brand reputation and deliverability rates. Furthermore, as in any partnership, a brand's co-registration partner holds the power to impact the other's reputation, either positively or negatively.

Businesses must relinquish some control of their email efforts and messaging in order to engage in co-registration marketing, so selecting a high-quality partner is vital to success in this type of marketing. 

Strategic Partner Selection

Most importantly, co-registration partner brands should have the ability to work synergistically; services or products should be related enough that they complement one another, but not so similar that they compete in any way.

Ideally, contacts who are interested in one will have a natural interest in the other. For example, an Italian food recipe website and a pasta sauce brand may make ideal co-registration partners, while a men's footwear store and women's footwear store may not, given the different target audiences.

After identifying potential co-registration partners, marketers should research their email marketing practices. This can be achieved simply by subscribing to their emails, then analyzing the signup process as well as the content and cadence of emails that follow. This will allow marketers to ensure that the partner's practices align in both strategy and messaging.

Typically, co-registration partnerships operate on a quid-pro-quo basis, with some exchange of value between the two. If the exchange requires monetary payment though, this can be a red flag that the relationship is healthy for neither the brand nor consumer.

Best Practices

Once a partnership is in place, there are certain strategies brands can follow to ensure that the practices are both beneficial to the business and ethical overall. In general, transparency is crucial throughout the entire process like letting contacts elect each subscription they are interested in.

On the subscription page, they should be given the option to explicitly opt in to partners' emails, rather than automatically being enrolled and having to opt out if they don't want them. Once selecting to receive emails from the partner, it should be made clear to subscribers the type of emails they will be receiving and that they can opt out at any time.

Finally, if these subscribers do decide they are receiving too much email from a brand, the opt-out page should provide them with helpful information that reminds them how they started receiving such communications in the first place and allows them to opt down if they prefer that to opting out entirely.

Overall, co-registration can be a profitable email strategy if marketers approach it ethically. By selecting a proper partner and being transparent with contacts every step of the way, businesses can increase conversions while building trust with their key audience.

EJ McGowan, general manager of Campaigner, has more than 25 years of experience in the software industry with expertise in building highly available, scalable SaaS-based solutions.