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How to Grow an Email Marketing Database

It’s all well and good using email marketing to maintain your relationships with existing customers, but isn’t one of the objectives to grow your database to make it possible to market to even more customers than before?

This problem causes the most frustration for email marketers the world over and is the driving force behind both the most creative and exciting email marketing campaigns and conversely the deluge of spam.

How do you grow your database without breaking both the principles of permission marketing and the recent legislation that makes it not only bad form, but actually illegal to send commercial emails to people who don’t want them?

Let’s just recap on the principles of ‘permission marketing’, coined more than a decade ago by maverick marketer, Seth Godin. Godin noted that for most of the developed world, the old ways of advertising and marketing were becoming less effective. It simply isn’t possible to pay attention and respond to the more than 3000 marketing messages that each of us encounters each and every day. To achieve cut-through, Godin suggested that marketers would get a better response from enlisting audience engagement before marketing to them; a tactic he called permission based marketing.

This principle of permission become the corner stone of email marketing and in recent years has been converted into a legal framework. Around the world legislators have drafted laws making it illegal to send unsolicited commercial email. New Zealand’s Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act of 2007 came into effect in September 09 with the following key principles entrenched:

  • If the message is unsolicited, commercial and electronic then it’s spam
  • If you don’t have explicit permission to send the email then it’s spam
  • If you haven’t got your contact details clearly displayed then it’s spam
  • If you haven’t got a clear and immediate method for recipients to opt-out then it’s spam

So clearly the 'old way' of growing a list (ie: buying a database and sprinkling it with offers hoping that some of the names on that list will turn into customers) doesn't apply to email marketing.

But all is not lost. There are ways to build a bigger customer base. They might take a little longer but as the saying goes “good things take time” and recipients who have given permission are a lot more likely to respond to offers.

Harness the power of your website

Visitors to your website are there because, however fleetingly, they have pre-qualified themselves just by visiting. Rather than let them drift off into cyberspace, you should be doing everything you can to win permission. And it may well take more than the simple offer of a free email newsletter.

Consider two types of value proposition: immediate gratification and long term benefits.

Immediate gratification propositions could be some form of free gift, a detailed report, a discount voucher or even entry into a prize draw. Customers can sense a quick return on their investment e.g. give my email address now and win a $100 gift voucher next week!

Yet this is a long term relationships you’re hoping for, so it’s important to cover off the long term benefits too. What else is in it for the visitor? Member discounts, advance notice of new products, in depth information, belonging to an interactive community and invitations to special events are all longer term benefits to emphasise.

Get to know me slowly

If you’re finding your signup rate is pretty low compared to the number of people visiting your site, it could be that you are asking for too much information. Email marketing builds a long term relationship, so it makes sense not to overdo the first encounter.

Enlist help

Every email you send should include a link that readers can click to send a quick message to their friends inviting them along to the site so that they can join up too. Afterall, if they’re impressed, why wouldn’t they want to tell their friends?

This capitalises on the growing power of testimonials in the online world. People trust their friends. You might even want to run specific campaigns rewarding your database for spreading the word.

Good old fashioned advertising

Advertising in offline or related online publications can be an important way to build awareness of both your website and your email offerings. Look at targeted placements in relevant publications and don’t forget about advertising in related email newsletters or websites.

Telemarketing to convert a list

If you absolutely insist on buying yourself a raw list, then calling these people first gives you an opportunity to ask for permission. Whichever way you look at it, if you email without asking first, you are spamming and breaking the law.  Well-executed telemarketing with a good incentive supporting it, can have response rates of up to 80% permission.

Every event is an opportunity

Expos, events and training seminars are all excellent opportunities to run email list recruitment activities. Just make sure that you state clearly that by entering the promotion, people will be joining the email list and you’re covered. One good expo can enlist 100s of new database members.

So there you have it, just a few ways to grow your database without falling foul of any legislation or accidentally stumbling into spam territory. If you’d like to talk about a specific campaign, drop us a line here, or call your youmail Account Manager directly.

A final note: it's not the size of your database, but the quality of those names that counts. 150 engaged, enthusiastic recipients are worth way more than 500 dubiously gathered names.

Contact Us:

YouMail - Auckland

PO Box 33 463, 17 Esmonde Road,
Takapuna, Auckland
Phone: 09 485 3009