How To Build A Quality Email Subscriber List


Building an email list can be an arduous task and so determining whether each subscriber you have is a loyal follower or just a migrant is important. It is difficult but it makes sense to agree that having a smaller following full of avid fans and repeat customers is most beneficial than having a large group of low quality subscribers and no buyers.

To develop a proper list, you will first need to keep track of your subscribers and to do this properly, you will want to develop a database. You can use this database to do the following:

  • Organize and view list data easily.
  • Sort list into categories: you will want to do this to send out targeted emails in a variety of groupings.
  • Process and track unsubscribers: this will show you a trend; dating will assist in showing you how long they stay with you or unsubscribe.
  • Look into your list and extract: take the most useful information and reports.

A few things to remember when creating an email database:

  • More bang for your buck: you don’t need to have the most fancy database out there. If a simple database with a few features will suffice then great, but don’t go spending more money on features that are going to cost you more time and money (remember the old saying, mo money, mo problems).
  • Applications galore: if you aren’t sure where to start, first place would be a simple database application (Microsoft Access has a great set of tools available) or through your Email Service Provider (ESP).
  • Synchronization: if you decide to stick with your own program or use an external providers program, make sure you can transfer or sync your data with your ESP.
  • Backups: always keep a copy of your database in a few private places. Nothing like getting your hard earned work disappearing in seconds.
  • Exportation: finally, remember to make sure that whatever program you are using will export the database to other programs. You definitely do not want to work on a project and realize it will be useless.


Collecting Subscriber Information Through Email

There are a few types of information you can ask from prospective email list subscribers. Below is just some of the information you can gather as well as what it can be used for and some examples of each.

Category Description Use Examples
Information your customers expect you to know. Used to personalize your emails. First name, preferred email address, zip code
Behavioral Information This will show you how audience will act towards your emails Used to categorize subscribers into categories for targeted messages Prospects, coupon users, repeat customers, VIP’s, advocates
Reveals important info about person you are sending info to. Used to send more relevant info. Gender, marital status, family info, preferences

You can try to gather all this information at the start but more than likely this will not be the case, to do so you can do the following:

  • Send short relevant email surveys.
  • Ask for info in regular emails.
  • Use forms or links to site where they can browse or make purchases.
  • Use other medias for marketing as trust develops.

In an effort to get to know your subscribers a little better, you will need to provide them with a variety of questions, each with its own specific benefit so you can better understand your customers needs.

You can ask them open ended questions which may take them longer to answer, which would quickly decrease their rate of answering or you can ask them questions and provide them with answers that would give you a more targeted response.

To better explain this we have provided an example below:

  • Open-ended question: “Why do you use our service?”
  • Closed-ended/Categoric-specific question: Which answer best describes your willingness to do business with us? Good Savings, Excellent Customer Service, Knowledgeable Staff, Ease of Understanding?

Some subscribers may only provide information if there is preferential treatment or a prize for providing you with information that others wouldn’t provide. In these situations you can, if able to, provide them with:

  • Priority
  • Reserved tickets
  • Early bird access
  • First-to-know product information
  • Member-only discounts

You need to provide them with an added benefit as they are providing more insight into themselves. This way everybody wins even though you may get additional winnings in the near future.


Collecting Subscriber Information Through Website

If you have a list already built up from users that have used your service but are looking for more, another approach is to essentially swap your readers with opportunities on your website. Now we aren’t saying that every other button or link has to be an opportunity, but close to that. A few options you can look at increasing email subscription is listed below:

  • Text boxes: those little boxes that have the words “Enter your email” and have submit underneath the area where you enter your email address. Those can either lead to a thank you page, or a page requiring more information. Simple, easy and highly effective.
  • Buttons: a button placed alongside your other buttons, may be under “Contact Us” or “About Us” or even your last button. You will want to fiddle around with its location to determine, which gets you the most subscriptions. You will also want to make this visible and easy to follow through, but don’t make it stand out like a clown at a funeral.
  • Text links: this type can be added to the bottom of each page or it can be added as part of your email signature. This is also a very simple way to get subscriptions, the only issue with this is that it doesn’t stand out as much as the others, but it can be incorporated in less dramatic places.
  • Check boxes: this type of subscription method is usually added as a buffer. A person who is in the process of purchasing a product can select this check box and begin to receive emails. Remember as discussed in the previous information, that when a customer is going to receive emails, let them know the frequency and the information contained within.

These types of subscriptions can be employed pretty much anywhere, here is a list of a few places:

  • Every page of your website
  • Email signature
  • Blog/personal website
  • Banner ads or online advertising
  • Other websites
  • Non-competing friends emails
  • Online directories


Collecting Subscriber Information Person

There are rules out there when it comes down to collecting information from potential subscribers in person, but our recommendation is do it with finesse. You don’t want to walk into a room and just start advertising yourself (although is has worked before and should only be done if appropriate). Here are a few ideas in helping you shine bright and not look out of place.

  • Swap business cards: ask if their email address is on the business card they give you.
  • Place a guestbook: this can be done at your store or office; keep one in the car just in case.
  • Business card basket: if you’re at a trade show or convention set up a basket, and add a note letting potential subscribers, know what information they will receive.
  • Train employees: if you have employees working for you then have them take down clientele information. You’re paying their wages, and it only takes a few moments to do.


Collecting Subscriber Information With Print

Using print may seem contradictory when it comes to an internet business, but you would be surprised to find out how easy and effective it is when a person has something in their hand to remember you from. Here are some useful pieces of information when it comes to print sources.

  • Postcards: send this out with an incentive to return it with their email address. Get their permission and let them know your intention. (who isn’t interested in free stuff for an email address?)
  • Added value: this used together with the postcard example. Provide an additional benefit outside of your line of business such as a free haircut, or gift card.
  • Business card incentive: on the back of your business card you can add an incentive for registering for emails such as “save 10% or more”.
  • Buy a domain name: create an intuitive name for a website that would then link to your signup page. it will cost extra per year, but doesn’t have to be too fancy and can be a few pages long, but its whole purpose is to get those every important emails.


Incentives For Signups

Providing an incentive for readers to subscribe is a great way to show your appreciation to those that subscribe, to those that refer others and to those remaining loyal to you. Using an incentive provides you with two basic benefits:

  • Increased signups: if individuals feel they are going to get a benefit they will more likely give you information than if you weren’t giving them anything in return.
  • Increased loyalty: incentive rewards provides a benefit to subscribers and can cause loyalty, repeat buyers and referral increase.

These incentives can also be provided to subscribers in two formats:

  • Immediate: free trials, discounts, reward points, VIP access, member-only info.
  • Future: event access that only a member would have to already be subscribed to. The subscriber would only get this information that you would provide advertising for after they have been with you for a time. (ex. Customer would get access to a 24-hour sale that would be upcoming in 6 months).


List Building With List Brokers

List brokers are marketing companies that collect and sell contact information. This route is a great way to get a large list, but at the same time, it isn’t a guarantee that it will pay off at the end. You may have a full list and send the information to the right demographic but end up with negative results.

If you are using an ESP, they may not allow you to use a purchased list . They don’t want to become known for allowing users to essentially spam people on the internet.

Our recommendation is to collect-where-you-connect. This basically means that wherever you are already in contact with people, be it the internet, in person, or by mail, develop your list through them. You already know who your customer base is and purchasing a list where you hope it will target your market, may just be a financial mistake.

If you decide to continue with this route, then make sure to proceed with caution. Also be prepared to pay anywhere from 10-30 cents per email address (this is for only one email sent). Make sure that the list you do purchase has emails of individuals that are prepared to receive your emails and have given confirmed-permission. If this point of quality isn’t met, then be ready to have your emails overlooked.

A few things to keep in mind when purchasing a list from a list broker:

  • Emails obtained: how and when was the email obtained and was explicit permission provided.
  • Permission confirmed: determine when permission was provided and how much time had passed from the date of confirmation and any other emails send to relate further info.
  • Subscriber interests: finding out how the interests of the subscribers was determined is also very important. If an email was gathered through the individual selecting a interest to car tuning is more useful than using an email from a person that bought a car part online (the purchase may have been bought as a gift).

These questions are essential in determining whether the list you are buying is going to be useful for you or whether its going to be just a waste of money.

Finally you will want to know whether the emails that you are looking at purchasing are emails you will get to see or not. Quality confirmed permission emails are hard to attain and thus, email lists may be on sale only as a rental. This means that you will be buying the use of the emails but you will never actually see the emails. You will create an email and then send it to the broker, who then formats the email and then sends it to the list.

If this is the case, make sure that your email provides a few options for signing up to receive more of your emails.  Also be sure to have a link that will relate back to your website. This will generate traffic and can further help you with signups and website development.

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