Six Ways to Build an Opt-In List (From Zero)

By Barry Stamos

What’s stopping you from sending personalized, direct email communications to your entire universe of constituents today: prospects, customers, resellers, distributors, suppliers, investors, and employees?

Worried about hitting bumps in the road? That road may not be as bumpy as you think.

Debunking Email Marketing Misperceptions

Misperception No. 1: The people we talk to don’t use email.

Reality: Virtually everyone is online using email.

Misperception No. 2: We don’t want to offend our constituents.

Reality: Then permission-based marketing is the solution.

Misperception No. 3: We can’t afford to send email to everyone.

Reality: Select a high return on investment (ROI) audience.

Misperception No. 4: Email has no place in our marketing mix.

Reality: Faster, better, and cheaper should be in your marketing mix.

Misperception No. 5: We don’t have opt-in email addresses.

Reality: Start correcting that problem now. Don’t delay!

All the above are addressable. Credible research, statistics, and bottom-line-oriented case studies help us overcome the first four objections every day.

The real problem is number five. Despite a buyers’ market for technology and professional services, inadequate opt-in email lists stand in the way of many organizations interested in, but not yet executing, direct email programs.

These organizations never made it a priority to capture basic information (full name, email address, and explicit opt-in from individuals) required to send email. In turn, they communicate either with none or only a small percentage of their addressable market.

Does your organization have open access to your universe of constituents? It boils down to a simple cost-benefit analysis. Is the investment worth the potential return? For those interested in accelerating the growth and completeness of their lists, answers are below for your timely consideration.

The strategy is simple: Begin with the end. What data will help reduce costs and/or drive sales with your segmented audiences? For example, what data can you collect to qualify leads for faster sales cycles, higher conversion, and, therefore, more profitable sales? Reverse-engineer a plan of action that uncovers exactly what data items are necessary to fulfill your objectives. Once you have a clear picture, compose a win-win value proposition for each of your respective markets. The right offer is key to make people volunteer the information you desire.

Tip: Don’t ask for too much, too fast. Start by asking only for opt-in, full name, and email address. Then, through email and other marketing efforts, provide opportunities allowing recipients to volunteer additional information. Enhanced profiles improve the timeliness, relevance, and reward of every interaction.

Execution is never easy. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to easily and affordably accelerate the growth of your opt-in database. We often encourage our clients to capitalize on all touch points with constituents for data collection. Start by identifying all areas of exposure to your brand (on- and offline). Next, consider which of these can directly or indirectly help you obtain the requisite data to engage in a rewarding dialogue. Be aware the greatest output results from high traffic channels. These differ, depending on your business. Here are common ways to leverage channels at minimal cost:

Web sites. A Web site is a powerful tool for data capture and supplying information about your email offerings. Ask for your visitor’s email address and permission on every form on your site.

TV, print ads, direct mail, brochures, and radio. Take advantage of existing marketing to drive traffic to your site. Benefit from signups for email services. Add a call to action to all copy in planned media buys and deliverables. Suggest people visit to subscribe today for your email REWARDS program or informative E-Newsletter. Small step, big return.

Sales force/customer service representatives. Educate your staff on reasons why recipients will benefit from your email communications. With buy-in, they can best position the offer by asking people if they would like to receive account updates and specials via email.

Point of sale. Place a signup form at cash registers and other visible, high-traffic locations to gather email addresses. Let people know they can receive notices of upcoming sales by supplying their full names and email addresses.

Trade shows/conferences. Offer a giveaway (such as a digital camera) or sweepstakes entry in exchange for explicit opt-in. Display a signup sheet or laptop so people can register. Mention value-add email services in pre- and post-conference mailings.

Statements. Do you offer statement information via email? If so, add a sticker or insert in your snail-mailing to promote the convenience of email services to your customer. Reduce postal costs for your organization.

Barry Stamos is vice president of business development for Inbox Marketing, which specializes in permission-based, interactive direct marketing. He has handled multi-million dollar CRM technology solutions for Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies and was the co-director of strategy with a Big Five global professional services firm. Barry also performed services in London for the American Chamber of Commerce (UK) and the U.S. Embassy in London and against all odds, taught business to fifth graders in Chicago.

Reprinted from

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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