Report from the UK: Acquisition and List Growth Advice

Margaret Farmakis
By Margaret Farmakis
Senior Director, Response Consulting

Last week, I attended the first in a series of email marketing customer lifecycle seminars to be held in London over the next 10 months by the DMA UK. This first session focused on the first stage of the lifecycle: acquisition and list growth.

The panel of speakers included Jeanniey Mullen, co-author of “Email Marketing: An Hour a Day” and founder of the Email Experience Council; a joint presentation from Marc Munier, Commercial Director at Pure360 and James Hamlin, Online Marketing Director at Seatwave; and Stephen Groom, Head of Marketing and Privacy Law at Osborne Clark.

Inspired by Charles Dickens and “A Christmas Carol,” Jeanniey spoke about the past, present and future of email marketing. With the channel in constant flux, Jeanniey recommended that email marketers avoid relying on old best practices and assumptions that what’s worked in the past will necessarily work going forward. Email marketers need to continually assess and test their programs, and when it comes to list growth, it’s important to try a variety of acquisition methods, including sweepstakes (“prize draws” for those in the UK), social media, SMS, internet advertising search and list rental. The more strategic the effort, the more engaged that new subscriber will be with your messaging and your brand.

Jeanniey shared some interesting stats about the present state of email marketing, including the fact that 87% of people share product recommendations to friends and family through email and 62% use social networks regularly. Rather than signalling the death blow for email, social media can greatly enhance the performance of a marketer’s email program and a brand’s relationship with their email subscribers. Jeanniey quoted a study that found that 5% of subscribers will click on a “share this email with your network” link featured in the body of an email message, and that the average user has at least 100 friends or followers. By tapping in to this network, marketers can leverage their viral power and increase reach and conversions.

When it comes to the future, Jeanniey advised marketers to remember that their emails will be viewed on more than just a desktop PC. Alternate devices include handhelds, net-books and e-readers, gaming devices and internet-enabled TVs. As a result, video and rich-media may become more relevant to the email experience.

Marc and James reminded the audience to monitor their unsubscribe rate, as one of the first crucial steps with acquisition is ensure you don’t “have a leaky bucket.” They discouraged users to not make the unsubscribe process difficult or hide the opt-out link, but rather add value to subscribers’ lives in order to keep them engaged and prevent opt-outs. In addition, it’s important to set the proper expectations at the point of sign-up so that subscribers know what they’re signing up for. Then, it’s the marketers’ responsibility to deliver on that and continually provide subscribers with useful and relevant information.

Lastly, Stephen ended the session on a humorous note with his witty presentation about the differences between opt-in and opt-out collection methods and showcased some case studies of marketers who bent the rules (or broke them all together) and whether the law sided on the side of the marketer or the subscriber.

When it comes to compliance, UK marketers need to pay attention to the EC Directive of 2003, the Data Protection Act of 1998 and the CAP Code published by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Stephen recommended that marketers make opt-in (including an empty box that the subscriber must check if they want to receive email) the default acquisition method, especially as laws across the European Union differ and apply to the country the email is being received in (not the country the email is being sent from).

Other best practices that marketers can follow for optimizing the acquisition stage are sending welcome messages, collecting preference data at the point of sign-up to better inform future messaging and including a link to the privacy policy directly on the sign-up form.

Are you following best practices during the acquisition stage and across the email customer lifecycle? Take our Quiz and find out. Would you like to attend the next DMA lifecycle event in March 2010? Click here to find out more.

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