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Tips for Building a Marketing Mailing List
Written by Dan Cypra
8/4/2009

Building your email distribution list from the ground up can be a challenge. In actuality, it’s one of the most difficult aspects of an effective marketing campaign. One wrong move, and you’ll be stuck with a useless email list and very little business coming your way.

But there are some simple steps that, with a bit of patient persistence, can pay off. Here are a few tips for building your list from the ground up:

Collect, collect, collect. First, record the email addresses of every single person you come in contact with. This seems obvious, but many “savvy” cyber marketers don’t do it. Capture the emails of any customers you interact with; and if a visitor sends in a complaint, suggestion, or compliment, add them to your email distribution list. Any time you make a sale, push product, or talk to someone in any way, record their email address.

Online newsletter services will allow you to add names to your database individually or in batches, so keep a running Excel spreadsheet or other document on your computer with new customer data. Doing this alone will build a sizeable list in a short amount of time.

Give them a reason. There has to be a reason for someone to give you their email address in order to sign up for your newsletter or register for an account. What that reason is ultimately depends on your site. Ideas include member-only content, exclusive newsletter discounts, and providing breaking news or sales information as it happens. Some sites will include promotions that only registered users can take advantage of. Remember that very few people will voluntarily give you their email address. So give them a reason to sign up -- and then publicize it loudly.

Forward to a friend. In any mailing you send, unless it contains sensitive information, include an option to forward it to a friend. Whether it’s an image or text, this option should be front and center in the campaign. Overall, make it as easy as possible for one of your readers to forward their copy to someone else. The person they forward it to just might take the time to read it, given they received it from someone they know, so the practice can pay dividends. You can also create an option for a recipient to give you their friends’ email addresses, which you can then add to your database. We’ve found that “Forward to a Friend” graphics at the top and bottom of a mailer work best; don’t be afraid to overdo it.

Create a sign-up box. You’d be surprised at how effective it is to put a sign-up box on the homepage of your site and in other high-traffic areas. All it takes is one notice, article, poll, forum post, or other content piece to cause someone to sign up for your mailing. It’s preferable to have this option on as many pages of your site as possible. Programmers can easily create it, and newsletter services have html or other code in order to make a sign-up screen come to life. Plus, these elements can automatically add email addresses to your database as users sign up, so all you have to do is hit “Send” when the mailing is ready.

Buy a list. If all else fails, you can buy a list. This is similar to a salesman buying a list of clients from a third-party service. However, be forewarned: Buying a list and sending your newsletter to its members is called, in layman’s terms, “spamming.” Most online newsletter services strictly forbid it, so investigate whether this is a cost-effective way to reach new customers. If you purchase a list, ensure that its contents are up to date.

Make it easy. The most important facet of growing your email list is to make it as easy as possible for new recipients to sign up. Forcing someone to maneuver through hoops by validating email addresses and entering in anti-spam codes discourages new members. The entire process should take no more than a few seconds. Remember the old adage, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

— Dan Cypra is an Internet gambling industry expert and writes for several of the leading poker news sites on the Web.

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