Developing quality email lists

One of the most important success factors in your email marketing program is the quality and maintenance of your email list.  Remember that it is better to have smaller but relevant list of target audience than a large database that treats your email as junk.

Whether your business is conducted entirely online or you have a mix of online and offline offering, the best time to build your email list is when the prospect is engaged with you in some dialog.

1] Website Registration:
When customers are searching for information and visit your website that’s the best time to request for their email address.

  • Make sure that the option to register for email is clearly visible on all your important pages and forms
  • Having a one click email subscription will make it that much easier. No one wants to fill out detailed forms with complex fields. To begin with I recommend asking for just the first name and email address.
  • Why should the visitor sign up for your email?  Talk about your benefits, about how the newsletter it will be interesting for your consumer. Focus. Keep it short.  If you can show a sample email, that’s excellent.  This removes barriers,  shows you care, and the visitors get to know what they will be receiving.
  • Measure.  If you have undertaken project of overhauling your email list, measure and understand why your customers are registering; from which page; did they come from a search engine and land on your site? If so what were the terms they were looking for? This should give a clue to the content the visitors want to read.

2] Online Affiliates:
Many organizations especially online publishers send out emails on behalf of their partners for a cost.  Tie up with publishers that have target audience that maps your customer base.  Send out a “feeler” email to this audience.  Run such feeler campaigns for a defined time and again don’t forget to measure and understand what worked and what did not.

3] Mobile:
Try a few text /SMS campaigns with the help of reputed vendors of such services. Request the customer’s email address in return for some benefit.  Perhaps you could enter them into a lucky draw or give them a discount for the next purchase.

4] Offline stores:
If you have offices / stores that see walk-in customers, do you have feedback forms where you can request for their emails?

5] Customer Service requests:
It is far more profitable to retain a repeat customer than acquire a new one.  Gather data from your customer service requests.

These are just some of the ways that you can start to generate your email lists. If you use a CRM system or are tracking the data in any other simpler format, try and include an “email-source” field. This will help understand your email list growth better.


How not to do Email Marketing

In this post I look at email from the financial services firm Religare and evaluate it against some very basic email best practices.
How not to do Email Marketing

The from email address, reply-to address and  the from name have the company name.  This builds trust.   Yay!
The subject line is short and very interesting. It makes me want to open the email.  Yay!

How not to do Email Marketing

The entire email body of the message is one large image. Images are usually blocked by most email clients. The customer in such case sees nothing.  This is an opportunity lost. Why should the customer rake the pains of clicking the display images  links and download a massive image?  This  email could have been easily made in HTML to preserve the look and feel of the offer. The only positive point is there is a link to view the email online. #fail

The content of the email is good. It ties in with the subject line. The offer is clear, its short, single message with a single call to action which is great for high recall high response promotional campaign.  Yay!

It is always a good practice to include the main terms and conditions in the footer of the email. This builds confidence and also required legally.  Every email should have an a link for the reader to opt out or a inform the reader about how they can unsubscribe (via link or a reply to with a subject line)#fail

Email Marketing ROI and Social Media

Unless you have been living under a rock, you as a marketer know that a new wave of Social Media has been invading the cyberspace.  In the last few years the popularity of  social media applications such as FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube  Orkut etc  has soared.  Twitter , which began as a small project as the “SMS for internet”, reached a tipping point in 2007 at the SXSW conference and has gained so much following  in the last three years that it was the single biggest reason for the Indian Premier League drama to unfold. If something this new could threaten an Indian politician into resignation and shake up the cricket conglomerates, it has to be powerful.  As business owners, we look at this tiny little application and wonder in awe like cavemen looking at a piece of burning wood picked from a forest fire.
Let’s go back 10 years, to the time before the dotcom, to the early 90’s. If you owned a chain of say, shoe stores across the metros and someone said that you could sell shoes online, what would have been your reaction? I was (and still am) very excited. The idea that you don’t need the showroom real estate to sell via a website and just need a warehouse located centrally was and still is appealing.  How much of that idea has matured in India in the last 15 years?  Consumers still need to try on your shoes, they still are hesitant to pay online,  payment gateways are still not as smooth to work with as we want,  logistics costs are still not insignificant and operations of customer  support, returns, exchanges etc is still an evolving process.  Meanwhile you  are swamped with persuasive pitches from digital agencies and blogs that you need to “get-on-board” with social media;  You must make facebook applications,  upload your ads/talks on YouTube,  tweet  about your  products or your “with-it-ness”,  make banner ads,  count the CTR on PPC,  and keep the search engine gods appeased.  There is a social media flood out there, isn’t it?
In this deluge one small little boat refuses to drown.  Email Marketing.  According to the  the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Power of Direct economic-impact study (published every year ) “e-mail returned a whopping $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009”. (Read more here)
Sales per dollar of direct marketing ad spends:

  • Telephone Marketing: $ 8.55
  • Internet Marketing:  $ 19.94
  • Email Marketing: $ 45.06

You don’t need rocket science to tell you that almost everyone (in the Internet space that is) uses email today and everyone will continue to use email tomorrow.  So why has email marketing in India not given results that social media so seductively promises, are just round the corner?
The reasons are many but they don’t have as much to do with the growth of the eCommerce industry as they have to do with the lack of discipline and rigour in the Email Marketing process itself. Retailers know their busiest stores but not which email campaign generated most visits and why.  Organizations track new products / trends and plan production for the next season but don’t really measure which online sections of the site get the most visitors. The demographic market for the product and services is well defined but the email lists used don’t map to them.  (The usability and content of the website is another issue altogether.)
Without a targeted list, without customized messages, without setting targets and intention of improving the metrics   quarter on quarter, Email Marketing soon degrades into spammy, low involvement, wasteful junk email.
Email Marketing has the potential to generate a loyal list of consumers. It’s a faithful channel to send across your brand message, generate interest, drive traffic to your site and get instant feedback that comes right in your inbox.  You can pin point which customer responded to which message and did precisely what on your site.  You can send different offers to your consumers and pin point which offer did well and why.  You can even see which link / content/ offer got most clicks.  Other Direct marketing channels don’t have this big a penetration nor have the measurement metrics in place.
Email in the consumers’ inbox is like a salesman sitting in that consumer’s living room.  To continue with the analogy of a shoe store, it’s like a catalogue of shoes coming to the consumer’s home.  Social Media, at least for now (and without any measurement metrics), is like a loud procession passing on the streets below, that the consumer watches from his window.