Direct Mail for Nonprofit Fundraising

One of the most common industries to use direct mail is the nonprofit sector. With the economic hard times many nonprofits have more people to serve and are getting less in donated funds. This creates a drastic gap between needs and financial ability to provide them. In many cases, this gap is driving nonprofits to create more fundraising campaigns as well as finding more potential donors to send to.

One of the most common industries to use direct mail is the nonprofit sector. With the economic hard times, many nonprofits have more people to serve and are getting less in donated funds. This creates a drastic gap between needs and financial ability to provide them. In many cases, this gap is driving nonprofits to create more fundraising campaigns as well as finding more potential donors to send to. So let’s see how direct mail can drive your response to increase your donations. Direct mail is more costly than sending out an email due to printing, mailing and postage costs, but when you can increase your ROI to more than cover that cost, it can be well worth it.

In direct mail your list is one of the most important parts. Obviously, the best list is your list of current donors. The USPS requires you to comply with their Move Update regulations by updating your lists every 95 days. There are several important list hygiene tools available to help keep your data clean and accurate.

  • Don’t forget to occasionally solicit lapsed donors. Consider telemarketing to those audiences in addition to mail.
  • Keep your donor mailing lists up to date. Obsolete data not only costs you money spent on undeliverable or misdirected mail, but can cause lost donations and can impact donor goodwill.
  • Studies have found that on average, up to 20 percent of records within a typical house file are undeliverable. By keeping your data current, you will save on printing, mailing and postage costs.
  • National Change of Address (NCOA) for new addresses of people who have moved.
  • Dedupe, so that you are not sending multiple pieces to the same address.
  • Deceased recipient purging, removing anyone who has been reported as recently deceased, can be a great asset as your list of donors are aging.

Finding good lists of prospective donors can be hard. Here are a few ideas you can try.

  1. Trade lists other nonprofits in your area. Make sure to code the lists when you send them out so that you know who responded from what list.
  2. You can find targeted prospect lists by looking for individuals who are sympathetic to your mission and have the capacity to give. By utilizing available list targeting tools it is possible to find prospects that most closely resemble your best donors.
  3. You can customize a list to your specific cause and overlay demographic and psychographic intelligence onto your donor data.
  4. Another option is to profile you donor list. Sophisticated list profiling is now a reality. Through a powerful array of new market segmentation tools you can profile the unique characteristics of your best donors and identify and target new prospects most like them. The results can boost your direct response rate, increase your market penetration, and dramatically improve your fundraising ROI.

Something else that Nonprofits should take note of, if you are mailing raffle tickets: The United States Postal Service (USPS) is strictly enforcing regulations on mailing raffle tickets. If you plan to mail raffle tickets for a fundraiser, you must meet requirements or the USPS could legally refuse to accept your mail. While it is legal to include advertising for a raffle, including a raffle or lottery ticket in a mailing is strictly prohibited unless you follow USPS guidelines. To avoid potential problems, the USPS requires the ticket makes clear that no payment is required to enter a raffle. The following elements should appear on each ticket in a mailing:

  1. Use the wording “suggested donation” before the price of the ticket.
  2. Use the wording “no donation required to enter” or add a check box “Please enter my name in the drawing. I do not wish to make a donation at this time.”

An alternative is to not include a ticket in the mailing. It is legal to advertise a raffle by mail, but you should still use the phrase “suggested donation” if you list the price of a ticket on the advertisement.

Using direct mail for nonprofit fundraising is a great way to help increase your donations. If you are in need of other tips or tricks feel free to reach out and ask providers. They have a wealth of knowledge to help you.

Direct Mail Can Fill Your Marketing Bathtub

Direct mail is very effective for prospecting thru follow-up. Many times marketers get caught up in the rush to use digital channels to the exclusion of direct mail. They forget how strong, good direct mail can be.

Most people are familiar with the bathtub theory of marketing, but let me just give a short overview before we start. Your business is the bathtub, it has cracks and leaks (customers leave, or go out of business). Your acquisition programs are the faucets that help to fill the tub with water (new customers). Some customers stay and make more purchases, some don’t need you very often, and then some leak out and move on. When people liked other tubs (your competitors) better, they leaked out and moved on. The trick to keep the bathtub filled is to keep the faucets going and plug as many leaks as possible.

This process focuses not only on acquiring new customers, but on keeping the ones you already have too. That is the real key to maintaining and growing. Direct mail is perfect for this. Direct mail is very effective for prospecting thru follow-up. Many times marketers get caught up in the rush to use digital channels to the exclusion of direct mail. They forget how strong, good direct mail can be. You need a constant flow of marketing to keep filling your tub. Whether you are a B-to-B company or a B-to-C one you need to continue to market effectively.

Now you can’t fill your tub with just anyone. You need to find the right people who need your business. The right people are the ones who need what you offer, can afford what you offer and have a history of using businesses such as yours. Direct mail can be a very powerful marketing tool for finding these people. When executed correctly you can see a great return on your investment. Creating targeted mailing lists is easy compared with other channels. A highly targeted list fills up your tub quickly. Once you have them in your tub, direct mail will help you with client retention too. This keeps the leaks in check.

These days in marketing, it’s all about the list. We gather more and more information on our customers and prospects so that we can better target our message. That is one of the great advantages of direct mail. There are many choices in mailing lists and with so much information out there about people, filtering the lists into segments for messaging is easy. You can even do this when you don’t know much about your customers. You can run a profiling tool on your data which can append psychographics as well as demographics. This will help you to find more people like your customers.

So, now that you have your tub, you have your faucets on full flow and your leaks are stopped up as much as possible, your direct mail marketing will keep this pattern for you. You cannot stop the process of acquiring new customers and keeping the existing ones. Your direct mail will be the valve that your faucet needs to keep the water flowing.

How Can You Get More Out of Your Direct Mail List?

Everyone knows nowadays that the more information you have on your customers/prospects, the better you can tailor your message. Well, in many cases companies do not have that much information about people. So, what can you do to gather more information?

Everyone knows nowadays that the more information you have on your customers/prospects, the better you can tailor your message. Well, in many cases companies do not have that much information about people. So, what can you do to gather more information? Well, you could ask them to fill out a survey and offer a reward if they do, but what if you could gather information without having to take up someone’s time? There is a way.

Data List Enhancement:
List Profiling helps you model your ideal customers so you optimize campaigns and find prospects with similar characteristics. Data analysis and list segmentation will provide you with valuable insights into consumer behaviors, allowing you to tailor your message to match their needs and interests. This will increase the chances they act on your offer. Here is what you can expect:

  1. Profile the unique characteristics of your best and most profitable customers to find more just like them. Learn their likes, dislikes, education level and so much more.
  2. Target your selling messages to the right audience at the right time. This will allow you to spend less.
  3. Increase your marketing penetration by opening new channels to reach your customers and prospects using the methods they prefer. This is especially important today with so many channel choices. Is direct mail in conjunction with mobile the right choice? Find out.
  4. Boost response rates through more specific, personalized offers (as opposed to generic, one-size-fits-all promotions). When you send an offer that is specific to the person, your response rate can’t help but go up.
  5. Build loyalty programs that increase lifetime value. When you can provide relevant offers to people in a timely manner, you gain respect and loyalty.
  6. Improve your database marketing with more profitable prospecting, through modeling and forecasting. Finding the correct prospects quickly will allow you to move forward with your marketing campaigns and get the responses coming in.
  7. Dramatically improve your ROI, the more responses you get directly effects your return on investment. Since these are better qualified leads, you should also make more money per lead.
  8. Improve multimedia marketing by applying profiles to hit the targets across all media. This allows you to create multiple channel campaigns while still targeting them where they want to see the messages.

Finding well qualified prospects is very difficult. With list profiling, you can pick people who are just like your best customers. It makes the prospecting effort so much easier. For the most part, such profiling is limited to the United States; so if the majority of your customers are foreign, this is not going to work for you. Knowing who your customers are and what prospects you should target gives you a big advantage. You can spend less money on your marketing because you can target it better, and at the same time make more money because you are sending to the right people.

Think of how you can harness the additional information you will gain with list profiling. This will allow you to create more detailed offers to the correct people and send out multiple versions as one campaign. Remember that your list is the first big opportunity in direct mail. A bad list will yield a bad result, no matter how great your design and offer are. A great list has the potential to yield a great result when combined with good design and a good offer. Consult with your direct mail marketing provider to help you enhance your list today!

Beware of Dubious Data Providers: A 9-Point Checklist

Are you hounded by email pitches offering access to all kinds of prospective business targets? I am, and I hate it. As a B-to-B marketer, I am always interested in new customer data sources, so I feel compelled to at least give them a listen. So, over time, I have come up with a nine-point assessment strategy to help marketers determine the likely legitimacy of a potential vendor, using approaches that can be replicated by anyone, at arm’s length.

Are you hounded by email pitches offering access to all kinds of prospective business targets? I am, and I hate it. As a B-to-B marketer, I am always interested in new customer data sources, so I feel compelled to at least give them a listen. But when I ask a few questions—like where their data comes from—answers come back like “A variety of sources” or “Sorry, that’s our intellectual property.” So, over time, I have come up with a nine-point assessment strategy to help marketers determine the likely legitimacy of a potential vendor, using approaches that can be replicated by anyone, at arm’s length.

Of course a lot of these emails are simply fraudulent. Early on, I stumbled upon an anonymous blog that reports on the most egregious of these emailers and connects them to unscrupulous spammers tracked by Spamhaus. It’s pretty hilarious to learn that many of these data sellers are complete fakes, sending identical emails from fake companies and fake addresses.

If you want to just delete them all as a matter of course, that’s a reasonable strategy. Myself, I’ve been throwing them in a folder called “suspicious data providers,” and every so often, I dig in to see if there’s any wheat among the chaff. And that is where this checklist was born.

I got some ideas from two colleagues who have written helpfully on this problem. Tim Slevin provides a nice 3-point assessment approach in the SLMA blog, where he recommends checking out the vendors’ physical address, researching them on LinkedIn, and asking them for a data sample so specific that you can tell whether their product is any good. All terrific ideas, which I have gladly incorporated in my approach.

Ken Magill, who writes an amusing and informative publication on email marketing, tackled this subject on behalf of one of his readers, who had unhappily prepaid for an email list that didn’t arrive. “You’re never going to see that $3000 again,” says Ken to the sucker. Ken offers a dozen or so red flags to look for when considering buying email addresses—and I have picked up some of his ideas, too. Magill wraps up his discussion with: “If you suspect you’d have trouble serving them with court papers, do not do business with them.”

So, to get to the point, here is my list of yes/no questions, which can be examined fairly easily, without any direct contact with the vendor.

  1. Do they have a website you can visit?
  2. Do they provide a physical business address?
  3. Do they have a company page on LinkedIn?
  4. Are the names of the management team provided on the website?
  5. Is there a client list on the website?
  6. Is there a testimonial on the website with a real name attached?
  7. Do they claim some kind of guaranteed level of accuracy for their data?
  8. Do they require 100 percent pre-payment?
  9. Is the sales rep using a Gmail or other email address unrelated to the company name?

For question Nos. 7, 8 and 9, a “no” is the right answer. For the first six, “yes” is what you’re looking for. I’d say that any vendor who gets more than one or two wrong answers should be avoided. Any other ideas out there?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Ladies? Who You Calling a Lady?

The email subject line had so many things wrong with it that I just had to investigate further. “Advertising to ladies is easier then (sic) you thought.” The offer was for an email list (I think—the email itself was so poorly designed it was hard to tell) but the term “ladies” felt offensive somehow. Perhaps the problem was in my head

The email subject line had so many things wrong with it that I just had to investigate further.

“Advertising to ladies is easier then (sic) you thought.”

The offer was for an email list (I think—the email itself was so poorly designed it was hard to tell) but the term “ladies” felt offensive somehow. Perhaps the problem was in my head. A previous employer had always approached any group of women gathered in one place and would slowly say, “Well… hello.. ladies…” in such a derogatory tone, that we would all cringe.

Or perhaps the problem is that my fairly strict British/Canadian upbringing always led me to think of the term “ladies” as a throwback to the 18th Century.

The email continued its pitch for the availability of lists of individuals “… awaiting offers related to ladies, men, zoomers, students, sports …”—and there was that term “ladies” again. Is it just me who finds that term offensive?

I checked out the definition at freeonlinedictionary.com, and it seems my negative reaction may be well justified. While there were 15 different descriptions, the first was that a lady is, “a well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior.”

While not offensive, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t describe the available target audience because that would be a pretty small list circ. But wait … there’s more …

Perhaps this particular marketer felt they had a list of women who met one of the other definitions of lady:

  1. A woman regarded as proper and virtuous.
  2. A well-behaved young girl.
  3. A woman who is the head of a household.
  4. A woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way.
  5. A woman to whom a man is romantically attached.
  6. A wife.
  7. A general feminine title of nobility and other rank
  8. The Virgin Mary. Usually used with Our.

No, I’m fairly confident that none of these applied (unless it was lucky No. 3)—but the most interesting insight was in the Usage note: The attributive use of lady, as in lady doctor, is offensive and outdated. When the sex of the person is relevant, the preferred modifier is woman or female.

Whew … so it wasn’t just in my head!

As marketers, we need to choose our words carefully. Make sure they adequately and accurately express our intended meaning and, most importantly, don’t offend anyone.

Especially us ladies …

B-to-B Prospecting Data Just Keeps Getting Better

The most reliable and scalable approach to finding new B-to-B customers is outbound communications, whether by mail, phone or email, to potential prospects, using rented or purchased lists. B-to-B marketers typically select targets from prospecting lists based on such traditional variables as industry, company size and job role, or title. But new research indicates that B-to-B prospecting data is much more detailed these days, and includes a plethora of variables to choose from

The most reliable and scalable approach to finding new B-to-B customers is outbound communications, whether by mail, phone or email, to potential prospects, using rented or purchased lists. B-to-B marketers typically select targets from prospecting lists based on such traditional variables as industry, company size, and job role or title. But new research (opens as a pdf) indicates that B-to-B prospecting data is much more detailed these days, and includes a plethora of variables to choose from—for refining your targeting, or for building predictive models—to pick your targets even more effectively.

My colleague Bernice Grossman and I recently conducted a new study (opens as a pdf) indicating that B-to-B marketers now have the opportunity to target prospects more efficiently than ever before. In fact, you might say that business marketers now have access to prospecting data as rich and varied as that available in consumer markets.

To get an understanding of the depth of data available to B-to-B marketers for prospecting, we invited a set of reputable vendors to open their vaults and share details about the nature and quantity of the fields they offer. Seven vendors participated, giving us a nice range of data sources, including both compiled lists and response lists.

We provided each vendor with a set of 30 variables that B-to-B marketers often use, including not only company size and industry, but also elements like the year the company was established, fiscal year end, Fortune Magazine ranking, SOHO (small office/home office) business indicator, growing/shrinking indicator, and other useful variables that can give marketers insight into the relative likelihood of a prospect’s conversion to a customer. We learned that some vendors provide all these data elements on most of the accounts on their files, while others offer only a few.

We also asked the participating vendors to tell us what other fields they make available, and this is where things got interesting. In response to our request for sample records on five well-known firms, the reported results included as many as 100 lines per firm. Furthermore, two of the vendors, Harte-Hanks and HG Data, supply details about installed technology, and their fields thus run into the thousands. The quantity was so vast that we published it in a supplementary spreadsheet, so that our research report itself would be kept to a readable size.

Some of the more intriguing fields now available to marketers include:

  • Spending levels on legal services, insurance, advertising, accounting services, utilities and office equipment (Infogroup)
  • Self-identifying keywords used on the company website (ALC)
  • Technology usage “intensity” score, by product (HG Data)
  • Out-of-business indicator, plus credit rating and parent/subsidiary linkages (Salesforce.com)
  • Company SWOT analysis (OneSource)
  • Whether the company conducts e-commerce (ALC)
  • List of company competitors (OneSource)
  • Biographies of company contacts (OneSource)
  • Employees who travel internationally (Harte-Hanks)
  • Employees who use mobile technology (Harte-Hanks)
  • Links to LinkedIn profiles of company managers (Stirista)
  • Executive race, religion, country of origin and second language (Stirista)

Imagine what marketers could do with a treasure trove of data elements like these to help identify high-potential prospects.

Matter of fact, we asked the vendors to tell us the fields that their clients find most valuable for predictive purposes. Several fresh and interesting ideas surfaced:

  • A venture capital trigger, from OneSource, indicating that a firm has received fresh funding and thus has budget to spend.
  • Tech purchase likelihood scores from Harte-Hanks, built from internal models and appended to enhance the profile of each account.
  • A “prospectability” score custom-modeled by OneSource to match target accounts with specific sales efforts.
  • PRISM-like business clusters offered by Salesforce.com (appended from D&B), which provide a simple profile for gaining customer insights and finding look-alikes.
  • “Call status code,” Infogroup’s assessment of the authenticity of the company record, based on Infogroup’s ongoing phone-based data verification program.

We conclude from this study that B-to-B prospecting data is richer and more varied than most marketers would have thought. We recommend that marketers test several vendors, to see which best suit their needs, and conduct a comparative test before you buy.

Readers who would like to see our past studies on the quality and quantity of prospecting data available in business markets can access them here. Bernice and I are always open to ideas for future studies. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Email Segementation: Make Your List More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Segmentation is also one of the most powerful and often under-utilized features of email automation applications. Though automation makes the process simpler, many marketers are put off by overhead in the form of upfront work required to develop and deploy rules and testing scenarios that result in more effective targeting and conversion. Should they bother?

Segmentation is the process of grouping names within your list into like interests, position in the buying cycle, demographics or other criteria relevant to your business.

Segmentation is also one of the most powerful and often under-utilized features of email automation applications. Though automation makes the process simpler, many marketers are put off by overhead in the form of upfront work required to develop and deploy rules and testing scenarios that result in more effective targeting and conversion. Should they bother?

Simply put: The answer is a resounding yes.

Using forms and engagement tracking, marketers can collect more information than ever before, and advanced data collection—progressive profiling—lowers form abandonment while acquiring new data through the querying of only data that has not yet been collected. When forms alone are not enough, email messages can be designed to A/B or multivariate test whole groups in order to garner specificity that leads to segmentation.

Segmenting lists using all of this type of data means you can selectively choose your most active (or profitable) groups, deselect the inactive, and develop campaigns designed to specifically reengage those who still hold promise. Data combined with automation means we benefit from better conversions and our prospects and leads benefit from messages in which they are truly interested. Targeted emails translate to better ROI in virtually every study.

Not only does segmentation make money through higher conversions, it saves money, too. When audiences are not separated into segments and are sent generic messages, open rates are lower. According to a study from MarketingSherpa, segmented emails get 50 percent more clicks than their untargeted counterparts.

Despite all the benefits of segmentation, not all marketers are onboard. For instance, Experian found that even though targeted email campaigns have a 40 percent higher open rate, 80 percent of marketers email the same content to an entire group.

Are businesses and marketers overcomplicating the process? Segmentation can be as simple or as complex as fits your needs, but customizing the process and making it unique to your business can give you the edge over competitors.

6 Steps to Segmentation

  1. Set a quantifiable and measurable goal for your campaign.
  2. Ensure your list contains enough names that it will still result in meaningful data, even after segmentation.
  3. Create segments using any data important to your business, such as: behavior, demographics, position in the sales funnel, and so on.
  4. Identify the most valuable segments—those that present the greatest opportunities.
  5. Create targeted messaging specifically designed to engage each segment.
  6. Track and measure results.
  7. When you treat new and current subscribers in the same manner and send them the same messages, you are missing one of the most important ways to nurture your lead to purchase. Segmentation can be as simple as dividing your list into new and current leads, but other ideas include:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Presence of children
  • Owner vs. renter
  • Length of residence
  • Lifestyle segmentation
  • Past purchase
  • Last visit to website
  • Pages visited at website
  • Resources downloaded

Explicit data are demographics such as company size, industry segment, job title and geographic location.

Implicit data are the recipient’s actions or interactions, such as those who open, click, download a resource, watch a video, visit your website, share your content, and so on.

For some businesses, even though they have a large list, the list does not contain enough data to enable meaningful segments—but all is not lost. Many companies provide list-append services that allow you to add data to your current list by matching on a unique bit of data you do have, such as the email address.

Another segmentation idea is to identify those within your list who are returning customers and those with the highest value order. These two groups are generally the most valuable to your company and therefore warrant especially targeted messaging and hand-holding.

Segments can even be divided further into sub-segments, and those sub-segments divided again, and so on. However, creating relevant content for each segment is not without effort, so it’s best to not subdivide your list to the point where there are not enough names in the sub-segment to justify the work required.

With segmentation; you can greatly improve message relevance; set up better A/B and multivariate testing; target your audience with subject lines, designs, and images that resonate with the individual; and acquire higher click-thru and sales rates.

Crack the Email Prospecting Code

Email marketing has become a vital tool for direct marketers. But if you want to expand your email reach by renting and emailing a permission-based email list, you need to understand the complete measurement process to maximize profitability. If you don’t thoughtfully run the numbers, especially when renting a list of unproven email addresses, your dream of profits can be quickly dashed.

Email marketing has become a vital tool for direct marketers. But if you want to expand your email reach by renting and emailing a permission-based email list, you need to understand the complete measurement process to maximize profitability. If you don’t thoughtfully run the numbers, especially when renting a list of unproven email addresses, your dream of profits can be quickly dashed.

A traditional direct marketer recognizes why running the numbers is essential, but new entrants into DM often don’t have the foundational knowledge of how to run the numbers. Their expectations are that when they send out tens of thousands—even millions—of emails, it’s going to automatically be profitable. Even with relatively inexpensive email lists, making a profit sending email to a rented list is far from assured.

But you can get to the profit side when you understand that long-term value from repeat future purchases turns the loss from the first purchase into future profit. By understanding the long-term value of a customer, you know how much you can spend (or invest) to acquire a new customer.

It’s vital to understand how to calculate allowable marketing costs and how to create a long-term value model (learn more in my Four-Part Series on Marketing Costs here at Target Marketing by following the links). An allowable marketing cost is simply the remaining portion of a sales dollar after cost of goods, fulfillment, overhead and profit objectives are allocated to their respective budget line items.

Increasing (or reducing) your allowable marketing cost will depend on how you view long-term value. That is, how many times, and at what average order, would you expect a newly acquired customer to purchase from you over a given period of time into the future (perhaps it is six months, maybe even a year).

The table accompanying this blog gives a couple of scenarios for B-to-C and B-to-B examples. In the B-to-C scenarios, we assume the allowable marketing cost to acquire a new customer to be $50. Based on the assumption that the email costs $70 per thousand for a permission-based email, and a clickthrough (based on emails delivered) of 0.8 percent, or 8 clicks, then 1.4 of those clicks (or 18 percent) must convert to sales. Or, if the click-through rate is 0.5 percent of emails delivered, then the conversion must be 28 percent. B-to-B examples are shown because the cost of lists and allowable marketing costs are usually higher than B-to-C.

When you identify the conversion percentage required to break-even, you have a benchmark. Then apply a test of reasonableness to determine if you should move forward with your test. A B-to-C conversion of 18 percent or 28 percent may be achievable, but it could be quite optimistic.

Also, remember there are several variables that will go into the email prospecting effort that impact your results. The quality of the list, from line, subject line, messaging, landing page creative, offer and more all factor into the overall performance of the email marketing effort.

When you get someone to your landing page, it’s smart to invite the individual to opt-in to your email list. Give them something free and of value so they will feel comfortable giving you their email address. Then you can email future offers to them without the cost of email prospecting.

If you decide to use email prospecting, remember these points:

  1. You probably won’t make money in email prospecting (if you do, you’re the exception).
  2. The email list you rent needs to be pre-qualified and, of course, CAN SPAM compliant.
  3. Email tends to work better the more times you email someone. Open rates tend to improve with appropriate frequency.
  4. Don’t forget: your most important objective might not be to sell something in the first effort, but rather, to build an opt-in email list that you can call your own.

B-to-C Scenario 1

B-to-C Scenario 2

B-to-B Scenario 1

B-to-B Scenario 2

Permission-Based Email Quantity

1,000

1,000

1,000

1,000

Cost Per Thousand

$70.00

$70.00

$120.00

$120.00

Allowable Marketing Cost/Buyer

$50.00

$50.00

$250.00

$250.00

Open Rate

8%

5%

8%

5%

Click-Through Rate/Delivered Emails

0.80%

0.50%

0.80%

0.50%

Number of Opens

80

50

80

50

Number of Click-Thrus to Landing Page

8

5

8

5

No. Conversions Required

1.4

1.4

0.5

0.5

% Conversion Required

18%

28%

6%

10%

My 9 Insider Tips to Build Your Email List For Low or No Cost!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel.

A popular business model by many online publishers is to bring in leads at the “free” level (i.e. report, e-newsletter, webinar, white paper, etc.), add those names to their house list and typically over the course of 30 to 90 days (the bonding time) that lead will convert into a paying customer. This practice is known as lead generation, name collection or list-building efforts.

Today, I’m going to share with you some proven online marketing methods I’ve used and had great success with at some of the top publishers in America. And bonus … many of these tactics are low- or no-cost. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Power eAcquisition Polls. In my last blog post, I wrote about using polls for lead generation. Incorporating a poll on your website or having a poll on another site is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field, which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and a free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

Teleseminars or Webinars. This is a great way to collect qualified names. Promote a free, relevant and value-oriented teleseminar or webinar to targeted prospects. You can promote it through several organic (free) tactics, such as LinkedIn Groups/Events, Facebook Events, Twitter, online press releases, affiliate marketing/joint ventures. Remember, this is for lead generation, not bonding. So your goal is to cast a wide net outside of your existing list, create visibility and get new names. Your value proposition should be actionable, relevant information that your target audience would find useful and worth giving their email address for. The trick is to promote the event in as many places as possible without incurring advertising costs; then your only costs may be the set up of the conference call (multiple lines, 800#) or webinar platform. And, in case you were wondering, I have been involved with teleseminars with non-toll-free numbers and response rates were not greatly impacted.

Co-registration. Co-Reg is another way to collect names, but involves a nominal fee. Co-Reg is when you place a small ad on another publisher’s site after some sort of transaction (albeit a sales or lead-gen offer). So, for instance, after someone signs up to the AOL Travel eNewsletter, a Thank You page comes up with a list of sponsors the reader may find interesting, as well—other free e-newsletter offers. The text ad is usually accompanied by a small graphic image representing the sponsor. The key here is to pick publishers and Co-Reg placements that are synergistic to your own publication and offer. Another important note is to make sure you follow up quickly to these names so they don’t forget who you are and go cold quite fast. I suggest a dedicated auto responder series for bonding and monetization. Co-Reg efforts can cost you around $1 to $3 per valid email address.

Frienemy Marketing. This includes JVs (joint ventures), affiliate marketing, guest editorials, editorial contributions and reciprocal ad swaps (for leads generation or revenue sharing). This tactic is extremely effective and cost-efficient. The key here is having some kind of leverage, then approaching publishers who may want your content or a cross-marketing opportunity to your current list (note: This only works if you have a list of decent size that another publisher will find attractive). In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists, thereby sending a message to a targeted, relevant list for free. Well, if you agree on a rev share, it’s free as far as ad costs, but you are giving that publisher a split of your net revenues.

SONAR Marketing. I’ve written about this many times, but can’t stress it enough. Content is king and you can leverage it via what I call “SONAR.” It’s an organic (free) online strategy that works with the search engines. It’s a comprehensive method of repurposing, reusing, distributing and synchronizing the release of relevant, original content (albeit text, audio, video) to targeted online channels based on your audience. SONAR represents the following online distribution platforms:

S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks and user-generated content sites
O Online press releases
N Network (social) communities
A Article directories
R Relevant posts to blogs, forums and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Search Engine Marketing. It’s a shame more marketers don’t see the value of SEO or SEM. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and relevant, keyword-dense content, you need to make sure you have revised your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to your home page (and it’s static on all your subpages), relevant banners and obvious links to e-comm webpages. You don’t want to miss a single opportunity to turn traffic into leads or sales.

Smart Media Buying. To complement your free online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog ads or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. High-traffic blogs are a high-performing, low-cost way to test new creatives. I like BlogAds.com network and you can buy placements a la carte and search by genre.

Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. You must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management, which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have a content syndication blurb in your newsletter; this also encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish and share your content, as long as they give you author attribution and a back-link to your site (which helps in SEM).

The following, in my personal experience, doesn’t work for quality list building …

Sweepstakes and Giveaways. You’ve seen the offers: Win a free TV, iPhone or similar in exchange for your email address. This gets the volume, but the leads are usually poor quality or unqualified (irrelevant). The numbers may look good on the front end, but when you dig deeper, your list is likely compromised with deliverability issues (high bounce rates), inactives and bad emails. This is because the leads are not targeted. The offer wasn’t targeted or synergistic with the company. With lead generation efforts, it should be quality over quantity.

Email appends. According to Wikipedia, email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name and postal address) and matching it against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses. The purpose is to grow one’s email subscriber list with the intent of sending customers information via email instead of through traditional direct “snail” mail. The problem with this, in my direct experience, is that on the front end your list initially grows, but these names are not typically qualified or interested. At one company where I worked, we tracked a group of email append cohorts over the course of a year to see what percent would “convert” to a paying customer. Nearly 75 percent of the names dropped off the file during that year and never even converted. Email appending is a controversial tactic, with critics claiming that sending email to people who never explicitly opted-in is against best practices. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.