As the first article in a series of in-depth best practice articles, Spencer Kollas discusses the first thing you have to do to be successful in email marketing: capture data. Starting with data capture is fitting, as it sets the stage for future deliverability.
The way in which you capture your customers' data is critical. It marks the beginning of a customer relationship that will evolve over time. At this initial interaction with the customer, you need to collect critical data reliably so you can create rules of engagement for all future communications.
When identifying which data to capture, you should consider the value exchange (i.e. what you'll be offering the customer in return). For optimal results, you should try to keep the two sides equal. If you ask for too much data, you risk having the customer abandon the form. On the flip side, you don't want to overlook data that you'll need in order to provide the service. It's also a good idea to test the optimal amount of data to be collected. And don't ask for information that you won't or can't use, as that can reflect poorly on your organization in the long run.
It helps to remember that data capture shouldn't be viewed as a single event, but rather as a continuum. You should always be on the lookout for events consistent with the value exchange that allows you to ask for additional information. Of course, you should also have backend systems in place that allow users to update their information from an account management page.
2. Customer Preferences
Establishing customer preferences means allowing them to identify the information that they want to receive and how they want to receive it. Give your customers the option to sign up for marketing offers, new product announcements, company newsletters, etc. In doing so, you empower your marketing organization with the information required to deliver relevant messages that address your customers' needs and wants. You will also want to establish how often they want to receive information for your company, as discussed in the next section.
By asking for the right type of information, you can find out if your customers want HTML or text emails, or if they are using a PDA to view their emails. Once you gather this information you will be able to tailor future mailings with this type of personalization.
3. Expectation Setting
In addition to collecting pertinent information, you also need to inform customers of what they they'll be getting. By spelling out exactly what they'll get and how often they'll get it, you can set proper expectations and help avoid future complaints. Disclosure should be made on the sign-up page as well as sent in a confirmation email. The latter will serve as a permanent record that should reconfirm expectations. Additionally, the confirmation email will allow you to validate the email address and delete the record if it bounces. Be upfront about what they'll receive with each opt-in-- if they know they'll be getting a newsletter every week, there should be no surprises.
4. Reliability and Accessibility
Identifying the right information to gather is just the first step. As you are collecting this data you need to put controls in place to ensure that critical information like email addresses and passwords is entered correctly. Double entry verification for these important fields can provide an easy way to verify that the information is at least entered correctly. While making someone enter their email address twice does not ensure that it is their proper email address, it will reduce the number of bad email addresses in your customer list.
Similarly, you'll want to consider where on your website you place the signup for your newsletters and other email programs. While most companies offer a signup link on their home page, some neglect to keep these links persistent across all pages within their website. This is especially important for companies using search engine advertising to drive customers to their site. If a sponsored link bypasses a signup page, you've missed out on a valuable opportunity to collect their information. Another important aspect to remember is to put your signup links above the fold where it is easy for everyone to see it.
By following these rules when you are collecting your customers' data, you will be well on your way to increasing your deliverability.
Next month, Spencer Kollas will discuss how to improve deliverability, including list hygiene best practices.
Source: iMedia Connection