Building an E-mail Address Database
E-mail marketing works, there's no denying it. Its key advantage over other
Internet marketing methods is that it enables you to contact the customer
instead of forcing the customer to contact you. This ability is especially
useful when something that your customers need to know as soon as possible
has happened. Whether you've just released a new product or decided to cut
your prices by 10%, the fastest way to spread the word is via E-mail.
However, unless you want to give your company a bad name, you can't simply
start sending E-mails to people that haven't agreed to receive them. The
only ethical and reasonable way to advertise via E-mail is to first obtain
a permission, or an opt-in request, from the receiver. The trouble is that
this can't be done via E-mail, as it would be similar to asking someone
whether you can ask them a question. What's the point in doing that, when
you've already done what you wanted them to allow you to do?
Getting people to opt-in
Due to the above reasons, creating your own opt-in E-mail database is not
an easy task. In addition, because of privacy concerns and the fear of spam,
many people are reluctant to give out their E-mail address without a good
reason to do so. These fears can be soothed by creating a strict privacy
policy and sticking to it, but it's harder to convince your visitors that
it would be in their best interest to reveal their E-mail address to you.
Fortunately, there are some time-tested solutions available for that problem
1. Arrange a sweepstakes with an attractive grand prize, for example one
of the more expensive products sold on your site. Require everyone who wants
to enter the drawing to give out his E-mail address and agree to receive
occasional E-mails from you.
To get the best possible results, it is advisable to declare that the
winner will be contacted via E-mail and needs to claim the prize within
7 days in order to receive it. By doing so, you'll eliminate the problem
of people giving out bogus E-mail addresses in order to avoid receiving
2. Open a discussion forum on your site. By only allowing registered users
to post, you can collect E-mail addresses and deter pranksters from writing
abusive messages at the same time. However, if you decide to use this method
to build your list, be very careful. Sending advertisements too frequently
to the regulars of your forum may cause them to move elsewhere and thus
reduce the traffic to your site.
3. Start publishing a newsletter. Although it requires quite a bit of
work, an interesting newsletter quickly gathers subscribers and increases
the size of your E-mail database. An additional advantage of having a newsletter
versus a simple E-mail announcement service is that you'll be able to submit
to the multiple newsletter directories on the Internet.
4. Continue to allow everyone to access most of the content on your site,
but also add a "Members only" area that contains articles or other
information that is valuable to your visitors. Give out free memberships,
but require members to register, reveal their E-mail addresses and allow
you to send them an E-mail advertisement every now and then.
This idea is especially suitable if you're eventually planning to charge
for some of the content you provide. The step from requiring your visitors
to register to requiring them to pay is smaller than moving from giving
everything for free to fee-based access.
5. Whenever you ask your visitors to give out their E-mail address, remember
to offer them the possibility to join your opt-in mailing list at the same
time. Do you have a form on your site that allows the visitors to contact
the webmaster or the sales department? Perhaps you have a Tell-A-Friend
script that asks for the sender's E-mail address and name? Both are excellent
opportunities to suggest subscribing to your E-mail announcement list or
newsletter to your visitors.
If you want to gather a sizeable list of E-mail addresses from your visitors,
you shouldn't be afraid of trying hard to get them. Just keep in mind that
there is a fine line between being persuasive and being annoying. Don't