August 13, 2009
How To

Protect Your List Part 2: Generate High-Quality Names from Co-Reg, Sweeps, and List Rental

SUMMARY: Last week, we outlined three battles that email marketers may have to fight if they’re being asked to generate more sales from their email list. One of the common concerns we’ve heard is the pressure to increase the size of your opt-in list -- at a potential cost to list quality.

Co-registration, sweepstakes, and list rental can generate a lot of names relatively quickly. But unless you’re following best practices, those tactics may backfire in the form of less-qualified names, higher complaints, and a ding on your email reputation. To help, we’ve outlined some best practices for these tactics.
Co-registration, sweepstakes, and list rental can be fast ways to grow your opt-in list. As a result, marketers under pressure from management to increase the size of their email lists may be looking closely at those tactics for a quick lift.

But those techniques don’t always generate high quality names. Subscribers from those channels either had other motivations for sharing an email address, or came from another source and didn’t have the same kind of opt-in experience as someone who’s truly interested in your company’s emails.

To protect your list, we’ve outlined best practices for generating quality opt-in names when using co-registration, sweepstakes, and list rental.

-> Essential strategy: Qualify new opt-ins through a welcome series

If you’re using any of these strategies to grow your list, you must first treat those new names as a separate segment of your database. Don’t simply add them to your house list and start sending them your regular emails.

Instead, gradually introduce those subscribers to your brand and your email content in a way that culls the uninterested.

An automated welcome series is essential for names generated through co-reg, sweeps, or list rental.

The email series should:
o Describe your email program and allow them to confirm an opt-in
o Highlight the benefits of being on your email list
o Offer a preference center where subscribers can customize content and frequency
o Be explicit about the length of the welcome series -- explaining they will receive X number of messages unless they opt-in to join your house list

Next, follow best practices for whichever tactic you use to generate opt-ins:

->Sweepstakes best practices

- Offer prizes that are relevant to your products or services. For example, rather than offering a B2B audience a chance to win a vacation to Hawaii, offer them a prize of a paid trip to a major industry event. That way, you’ll avoid attracting people who just want a trip to Hawaii and aren’t going to be quality names for your list.

- Limited, guaranteed giveaways can produce a small number of names, but a more relevant group of new subscribers. For example, you might offer a free, low-cost product for the first 200 or 500 new subscribers.

These giveaways work particularly well for technology vendors, who have offered giveaways such as:
o A free software demo to the first 200 subscribers
o A branded t-shirt to the next 500 subscribers, etc.

->Co-registration best practices

- Receive names immediately from your co-registration partner, using an automated process. It’s essential that you introduce subscribers gained through another channel to your email content as quickly as possible.

- Finding a relevant content partner also is essential. Niche lists perform better than broader lists, so if you can pinpoint a desired demographic -- say, women aged 35-44 -- seek partner sites that appeal to that audience.

You also may find partnership opportunities with companies that serve similar markets in a slightly different way.

- Control the placement of your content and offer on the partner’s site. Many co-registration deals are buried on the last page of a long registration process, or in a field of dozens of boxes (either pre-checked or un-checked). Look for a maximum of 10 offers on the page.

Don’t let your offer get lost in the shuffle. Also look at your offer through the eyes of your prospects -- what is going to pique their interest? Does the copy convey the value of your brand?

->List rental best practices

- Be prepared to work at it. If you expect to find a list vendor at the last minute, your chances of success are very slim. Instead, you must carefully examine vendors to learn:
o Where they get their names
o How they determine the profiles of their list segments (preference center data, source of the name, etc.)
o Who their subscribers really are

- When vetting list vendors, sign up for one of their mailing lists to see what the subscriber’s experience is like. A high volume of email to those lists might indicate that results will be weak.

- Ask list vendors to run a test for you, but take the results with a grain of salt. Most list rental vendors will let you mail to a small segment of their list to see how it performs, but we’ve heard many anecdotes from marketers that the results from limited tests are often much better than the subsequent mailing to the entire list.

- Remember that you get what you pay for -- up to a point. There are a host of incredibly inexpensive list offers out there, which nevertheless produce a low ROI, according to marketers we’ve talked to.

On the other hand, paying a high CPM rate for a seemingly qualified list doesn’t guarantee quality. You are obligated to test the list regardless of the reputation of the vendor or the price you’re paying.

Useful links related to this article

Protect Your List: How to Fight 3 Internal Battles over Email Strategy

MarketingSherpa’s 'Best Practices in Email Marketing Handbook'

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