Digital Marketers: What’s the ONE thing to do this year?

I think the most typed words in January are “Happy New Year” and “Trends”. Come January everyone is predicting what to expect in the year ahead.  I have read some interesting advice and trends on what to expect in digital marketing this year. I found an interesting report which makes for a good sensible reading. I recommend it for digital marketers. I have also complied is a list of 5 good articles you may want to read on the trends in 2012 for Digital Marketing.

My recommendation to you? Just do ONE thing. I promise you it will have a massive impact on your marketing efforts.

But first here is the gist of popular trends on what to expect in 2012:

  1. “Expect more facebook apps and mobile media” –The 10 hottest media trends for 2012 (
  2. “If you don’t have a mobile website, get one NOW” –Hot new marketing trends for 2012 (

  3. “Showing ROI will be top of mind for marketers” –Top 10 Digital-Marketing Trends For 2012 From (
  4. “Multichannel Marketing will dominate” –Top 5 Marketing Trends for 2012 -(

  5. “Brands should analyze their own CRM data” –2012: The trends every marketer should be aware of (

While most reports are for US / UK, I read an interesting post from Medianama on why SMS or text messaging will decline in India this year. The rise of SMS Spam may have moved users away to BBM (black berry messenger) while IM chats, and mobile social networking are also getting popular by the day. The impact of the Do Not Disturb Registry on large companies has been to increase their communication via email. Did you know that, Email Marketing still generates the highest ROI (in the USA) for every dollar spent amongst all channels? In India too, Email Marketing is growing by leaps and bounds. I work at and we are reaching a higher volume benchmark every single month.

If you are a sensible marketer you already know that your heart of marketing is your CRM database. Behind the mountains of online and offline purchase data, loyalty points system and CRM servers is the data about your customer or prospect. It can be a name of customer, with her physical address or her loyalty card number. In short anything that identifies your buyer uniquely. This unique identifier in the online world is the email address. I call it the most important address on the Internet. If there is one thing you should concentrate on in the digital marketing space in 2012 it is this:

Build your Email List.

I am not saying that because I am an email marketer. I am saying this because it is the one thing that identifies your user in the digital world; and by build I mean, BUILD not BUY.

Why is this simple data point, invaluable? With email you can

Talk to the consumer directly via email marketing. Even simple personalization in the email, anniversary or birthday wishes builds a dialog with your reader.

This channel is two way. Consumers reply to emails. You will be amazed at what insights they have and communicate happily, if you are listening.

This builds a dialog, loyalty, brand equity like nothing else can.

It’s not rocket science, does not need huge IT investments, and in fact is probably lowest in costs compared to say your banner ads.

You can measure effectiveness immediately. You will know who opened who clicked instantly. You can even check your Open Rates against published Benchmarks in India and abroad.

Did you know visitors who come to your website via email spend 30% more time on your website?

The key with having your own email list is that it helps you start engaging the customer, if you have her permission. Don’t spam. It will only spoil you brand reputation.

Email is ubiquitous. If you are a digital marketer, your consumers are online. It’s highly unlikely that they don’t have an email. Compare this to an FB or a twitter follower.

So yes, while you balance, SEM, SEO, Banners ads, affiliates, social media and all other channels, if you do just one thing your marketing efforts will reap huge rewards.

How should you go about doing that?  That’s a separate discussion. There are tools, techniques, advice on how to gather email data of your customers. That is the task that you should concentrate on.

So, my advice to digital marketers in India in 2012, is to do just this ONE thing: “build your email list”.


How Do I build email lists?

I get asked this question everywhere I go. In fact I think every email marketing service provider in India is asked this question. Its sad but true. I understand that generating email address for your digital marketing program from a scratch can be a daunting process. But never buy email lists. Buying email lists and sending email blasts will not get you the right traffic, not a great reputation. In the digital world and especially in Email Marketing IP reputation is everything. Instead here are a few suggestions that will help you build your email lists:

A. Subscription forms on Website

  • Have prominent “subscribe to email” links on every page of your website.
  • Give reason why they will benefit from the email. Example “receive special deals via email” or “latest news in your inbox” or “view hottest trends”.
  • Show them a sample email. Send them a welcome email without fail.
  • Show your emails as archives on your website, this builds trust and lets people know what kind of content they will be receiving.
B. Other Websites
  • There are various websites that have registered readers. These websites have taken permission from the readers to send them interesting content. If your target audience is similar to the readers of such websites then you should consider keeping aside some budget to send your newsletter to such audience.
  • Make sure you have good content for people to click the email like something free that they can instantly download. It can be a coupon, or a code or a contest or simple a whitepaper.
  • When they visit your website make sure you ask them for their email in a form in return for the free stuff. This way slowly you will build your database of emails.

C. Business Contacts

  • During the course of your interactions in your business you have been sending emails to hundreds of your business partners, associates, vendors, clients etc. Create a one off conscious campaign to invite them to your email newsletters. Please do not include them automatically as that amounts to spamming. Please obtain their approval.
  • Make sure your signature in your emails also has a tagline that invites users to register with your website – for a reason

D. Social Media

  • If you use Facebook you should consider having a subscription form on it. From time to time post links on your various social media sites asking people to sign-up for your newsletter.
  • Other social media such as twitter and LinkedIn can give you a good list of potential readers, provided you seek their permission first.

E. Offline Tactics

  • If you have offline stores / shops consider asking every customer to fill out a form with their short details. Keep the form short and simple so that walk-in customers will not be daunted. Give something in return, like a lucky draw.
  • If you participate in exhibitions this could be a good way to build your database.

F. Customer Interaction

  • Every inbound and outbound call that your support team makes, make sure that they have a script which will help them get the email address of your prospective customers.
  • In every invoice, receipt, and email that you send out, include a link to your newsletter sign up.

G. Refer a friend

  • Incentivize people to refer their friends. You can hold a lucky draw for all the referrers and announce it every week or give some similar incentive.
  • Give special stuff, in the form of gifts, discounts to people on your email list. Reserve some special promotions for this channel.

Increasing your email list – Fashion and You Email

I heard the buzz recently about Fashion and You and decided to join after I got an invite via Vogue India newsletter advertisement. Fashion and You claims to be a shopping club which is by invitation only, a concept similar to Cocosa in the UK. The brands Fashion and You sells online have a high aspiration tag. It’s early days for this concept to take hold in India but it’s interesting and these are interesting times that we live in. Here are my thoughts on their email marketing in India. Read the rest of this entry »

Developing Quality Email Lists

Getting people to sign-up for your emails is a task that needs patience and hard work.  Here are some pointers to how you can start this program:

Email Marketing in India

1] Respect your visitors. Why should they sign-up for your emails at all? Don’t answer this question, ask people in your neighbourhood, on the street, in your gym. You will be amazed at the insights.  At the height of dotcom frenzy we worked on a TV product company’s website where we got carried away with the features and sizes of TVs and created a complex “compare” TV feature on the website. Sense prevailed and it was thrown out. My assignment after the exercise was to stand in a TV showroom and observe buyer behaviour. 🙂

2] Type of emails. Define email categories and see to it that every email that goes out falls in one of the defined bucket.  Avoid email drips – emails that slip out without falling in any of the buckets. For example you may have a contact us form, that posts to a customer care system and sends out a text thank you email. You will be amazed how many companies do this.  A mutual fund house for example, could send out monthly general newsletter, specific company results information, basics of investing sort of e-learning email, a webinar/ seminar invite, discount / offer/ promotion email or just a collection of who in the industry said what (I personally would love this).

3] Set up goals. How big is your current list? How big do you want it to be? It’s no use having a purchased list of 100,000 customers if your unique visitors every month are less than 1000.  Your list has to be a proportion of your visitors that makes common sense.  This also means that your site traffic needs to grow in tandem with your list growth goals.  I did say this needs patient work. List growth is not something you can buy your way into. Set up an achievable target, a set percentage of your new visitors every month.  Once you decide that 5% of new visitors is your goal, you can start meaningful list increase program.

Email Marketing in India

4] List growth tactics. This is a huge topic and I am so full of thoughts for a next post on this one, so I will simply highlight some nice tactics followed by I got a free Rs 50 Voucher the moment I followed them on twitter via a DM. The link in the DM lead to a quick registration page followed by a promo code valid for a set period. I got a nice welcome message the moment I registered.  A few days later I got another voucher for Rs. 100 off on certain set products. The products were good and well thought out; a book, a lamp, a health product and a wireless headset (who does not need one?).  The email promoted twitter channel prominently and announced that followers would get a discount code.

Email Markeing in India

Not everyone needs or has upfront money to run a program like this but this is far better than spending money on purchasing a list.

5] Monitor List Quality. Your CRM / Email list is should be like an ant hill. Treated with care, intricate, built over a period of time and most importantly their labyrinths combed and cleaned.  Measure hard and soft bounces and move emails that have bounced a few times out of the list. Keep a close watch on unsubscribes and spam reports.  Clean the email addresses for syntax.

I would love to hear from you about your ideas and how you are trying to grow your list.

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.