I’m not a big fan of buying email address lists.It has nothing to with the effectiveness of purchased email lists. In fact, I’m sure businesses do see some success with the addresses they buy.
But my objection runs deeper. It is based on one of the key factors of successful email marketing: trust.
Trust is the cornerstone of email marketing.When you market offline with direct mail, you’re most likely conducting a local campaign. And it’s likely that the folks receiving your materials have either heard of you before or can at least be sure that your business is located nearby.
Either way, they have a reason to trust you and take action based on your marketing messages.
But when you market through email, you might be from anywhere. If you have no prior relationship with the folks on your list, they have no basis to trust you or to take positive action. They are far more likely to take negative action.In the best-case scenario, recipients will delete your email. Inthe worst-case scenario, they can mark your emails as spam, which can lead to your account being shut down by your provider or legal action.
This is why most email marketers, myself included, use the double opt-in method. It works like this:
- A customer signs up for your list via an online form, providing their email address when checking out.
- Once added to your list, they are sent an email asking them to click on a link to confirm that they do want to be contacted.
- Then, after clicking on the confirmation link, they receive a follow-up, thank you message. (This is not required, but it reassures them that the sign-up is complete and helps build relationships!)
That may seem like a lot of steps to add someone to your list, but this approach has become commonplace and is widely accepted by senders and recipients.
But what happens if you’re just starting out with email marketing and don't have a list ready to go? Don't worry. You can still build a list quickly while maintaining, and even increasing, the level of your customer’s trust.
Kickstarting Your Email Marketing List
Here is a two-step approach you can use to create your list and grow it quickly, by leveraging the information you already have.
Before you move on, make sure you sign-up with an online email service provider that supports using double opt-in and then make sure the double opt-in functionality is active. Why online? Check out this series to learn why you should market and manage your business online. You also need to have a special confirmation email ready.
Step 1: Invite the Customers You Already Know
- Collect all the email addresses that you already have. These can be from business cards, your own business and personal email address books, your sales records and basically anywhere you’ve captured an email address in the past.
- Add those to your list online. You can do this one at a time or by importing a spreadsheet.
- When an address is added to the list, the special confirmation email will be automatically sent to that person, thanks to the double opt-in functionality. This email should explain why they are receiving it (to confirm that they would like to join your list) and offer some incentive for signing up (e.g. news of special offers or discounts. Essentially, it needs to make the following point: “You received this message because we’ve know each other. If you do not want to join the list, you can just ignore this email.”
Step 2: Use Your Direct Mail Address List to Invite Customers
- Once you complete Step 1, change your confirmation email to something more standard like, “Thanks for signing up! Please click the link below to confirm your sign-up.”
- Then, set up a spot online to sign up. This can be a form in your site’s sidebar or a landing page that explains the benefits of joining the list.
- Lastly, create a direct mail piece that invites folks to come online and join your list. Again, offer them an incentive to sign up.
The whole point of the approach above is to retain and build on the trust the customer already has in your business.
In Step 1, you are focused on retaining trust.Even though you are sending an unsolicited email, you are letting them know that this is a one-off and that it is ultimately for their benefit.You are also reminding them that they already know you, so they won’t mark your message as spam or take any other negative action.
In step 2, you are focused on building trust.You are telling recipients that you offer something special to join your list and extending the ways in which you can communicate with them about your products and services.
Remember: it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.Don’t let eagerness to build your email marketing list lead you to betraying your customer’s trust.
When you create an email campaign with pbSmart Connections, you'll be able to put Matt Mansfield’s email-list-building tips to work.
Learn about all the different ways Pitney Bowes can help you get more customers.
Matt Mansfield is not a Pitney Bowes employee and is a paid contributor to the pbSmartâ¢ Essentials blog.