1 Year Later: Gen Z College Students Weigh in Again on Personal Data Collection

Last February, I reported on some of the things my Gen Z students wrote in response to an assignment about who gains the most from the value exchange of convenience-for-personal-data. A year later, I gave the same assignment with the same supplemental readings to students, and the results were notably different.

Last February, I reported on some of the things my Gen Z students wrote in response to an assignment about who gains the most from the value exchange of convenience-for-personal-data between consumers and marketers.

A year later, I gave the same assignment with the same supplemental readings to a similar group of 40 students from Rutgers School of Business Camden, and the results were notably different.

Last year, I wrote, in “Gen Z College Students Weigh-in on Personal Data Collection — Privacy Advocates Should Worry”:

“Some Gen Zers don’t mind giving up their personal data in exchange for the convenience of targeted ads and discounts; others are uneasy, but all are resigned to the inevitability of it. However, the language they use to describe their acquiescence to data collection should be troubling to privacy advocates.”

This year’s students are far more concerned about the collection and sale of their personal data, but they are just as resigned to the inevitability of it. At the same time, some bask in the advantages it brings them and they’re sympathetic to the needs of marketers to provide a personalized data-driven experience to consumers.

The privacy concerns of the current group are more pronounced than the previous group.

“I used to believe that the consumer benefitted from the perks of technology. But more and more, I believe that marketers benefit more. Social media, search engines, TVs, refrigerators, Alexa or Google Home, Kinsa Thermostat are all ways that marketers can reach the consumer with things we use in our everyday lives. Some people don’t even realize they’re feeding right into it just by providing some information about yourself.”

Another wrote:

“Privacy has almost become a thing of the past. Places like our kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms have transformed from places behind closed doors to areas that are willingly shared with thousands of others on the receiving end of the data being collected for business purposes.”

Yet, like last year’s group, they are resigned to giving up personal data for access to information and services.

“Consumers are beginning to realize how often what they do, speak, and read are all being recorded. Personally, I’ve been more aware than ever of what is being tracked. I’m more aware of every ad I look at and every website I clicked on. This lifestyle is something that can’t be avoided.”

A common complaint involves the lengthy user agreements that consumers must accept to use web-based services and Internet-connected devices:

“This type of ultimatum often means that consumers regularly grant permission on their personal devices, rather than lose their access to a particular product.”

The proliferation of the Internet of Things may be behind much of the change in attitude since last year. (Caveat: I confess that I’ve warned about small sample sizes in the past [“Beware the Small Sample”]. I’m not drawing quantitative conclusions here, but rather reporting on a trend from qualitative research done with 40 students each year).

“Some people who purchase these tech-savvy devices often don’t understand the policies of the product. Understanding the policy and happily opting-in for your information to be used is one thing, but complying because you’re unsure is another. Did you know that brands can start tracking your information at the age of 13? How can a child understand the policy and process of how this works if a grown adult cannot?”

Another stated:

“The terms of agreement can exceed 10,000 words and not be accessible unless the consumer searches the web for it. Consumers don’t get the full story of how much the companies invade their personal lives. Even aspects like your political preference are being monitored and can aid in influencing your votes.”

One student is mounting a fierce resistance:

“I am one of those people that have a Post-it over the camera on my laptop. I shut off the location on my phone, even though I feel like it is being monitored without my consent a lot of the time. My smart TV is not connected to the Internet, and I rarely use streaming devices, such as Netflix or Hulu — if I do, it is usually on my computer. Devices like Google Home and Alexa completely freak me out and I do not believe I would ever purchase one for my home. Even some of the newer home security systems — like Xfinity Home or the video doorbell, Ring — introduce new ways for people to hack in and monitor your personal activity.”

Data leaks and potential misuse are another concern. One student worried about home assistant devices mishearing innocuous phrases as legitimate commands to record and send private conversations:

“Families could be going through a family matter and these devices are listening and recording what is being said. Next thing you know, it is being sent to your boss or colleagues who did not need to hear or know what is going in in the comfort of your home. Also, the refrigerators that know exactly what is inside can share this information with marketers who then share it with insurers who can possibly charge consumers more for unhealthy diets.”

But it’s not all gloom and worry. One student who recently booked a trip to Disney World was delighted by the collection and use of her personal data:

“Being able to get discounted magic bands and Disney exclusive accessories catered for my needs has been a huge bonus. This also benefits Disney, as they are getting my credentials and can alter their research based on my specific data. A part of the reason they are so successful is because of how personal they make the process feel. Even from the first search, they are there to help guide you and aid in your conversion to purchase. (They) get you to come back, because they have that initial information and the personal details of your preference.”

(BTW, how great is Disney? Offering discounts on those magic bands that they use to track your movement and purchases throughout the park. They not only get you to agree to it, they get you to pay for it and be grateful for the discount).

So the time may be right for privacy advocates to gain a foothold among the generation whose members have gone so willingly into the world of sharing personal data.

Xennials: How They’re Different for Marketers

Generational differences in attitudes can be helpful to marketers, but the line between generations can’t be defined by a single point in time. It’s fuzzy. Does the recent buzz about the micro-generation born between 1977 and 1983, the Xennials, create opportunities for marketers to target this demographic?

Xennials
“Xennials,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Ron Mader

Generational differences in attitudes can be helpful to marketers, but the line between generations can’t be defined by a single point in time. It’s fuzzy. Does the recent buzz about the micro-generation born between 1977 and 1983, the Xennials, create opportunities for marketers to target this demographic? First coined by Sarah Stankorb in an article for Good magazine in 2014, the term Xennials refers to those who straddle the later years of Gen X (1977 to 1980) and the early years of the Millennials (1981 to 1983).

Let’s start with the size of this group. There are roughly 25 million Xennials, some 8 percent of the U.S. population, less than half the size of all of the named generational segments — except the oldest. Embracing this named generation would also reduce the populations in the segments it cannibalizes. Removing the number of births from 1977 to 1980 reduces the Gen X cohort from 55 million down to about 42 million, and removing the births from 1981 to 1983 reduces the Millennial number to about 55 million. Note that these numbers are based on births only and don’t account for deaths and immigration.

There are actually more Millennials than Boomers now — 75.4 million vs 74.9 million. And interestingly, embracing this new micro-generation would negate the Millennials claim on the largest generation — at least for the time being.

Xennials chart
Credit: PewResearch.org by Pew Research Center/U.S. Department of Health

The vanguard of a new generation and the rear guard of the old will always create some heterogeneous space between the arbitrarily drawn generational lines. The rise of technology as the defining moment between Gen X and Millennials is a fuzzier line of demarcation than the end of World War II, the moment that defines the line between the Silent Generation and the Boomers. Yet based on my personal experience, there were certainly members of the early Boomer generation who clung to the values of the Silent Generation as others embraced the counter-culture of the late ’60s. Some opposed the Vietnam War, while others found antiwar protests unpatriotic. Some went to Woodstock; others eschewed the rock music played by long-haired hippies in favor of more mainstream artists like Frank Sinatra and Brenda Lee.

The key distinction attributed to Xennials by Professor Dan Woodman is that they had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood. But does this distinction change how we, as marketers, reach them? Does it affect their media consumption habits? Consider that the median number of Facebook friends for a Gen Xer and a Millennial is not all that different — 200 vs. 250. So while Gen Xers came to Social Media later in life, they’ve embraced it nonetheless.

While the idea of the Xennial micro-generation is an interesting one, the implications for marketers are limited — in my opinion. Crafting creative appeals to them would be problematic. Surely, there are Xennials who demonstrate the characteristics of one generation or the other just as in the early transition between the Silents and the Boomers included the vanguard and the rear guard. And no one has put forth the idea that Xennials demonstrate any marked differences in their media consumption habits.

For marketers, the differences among the members on either side of the generation dividing line become less important as the line moves farther into the past.

Consider what Xennial coiner Sarah Stankorb, born in 1980, wrote three years ago for Good magazine:

“When I was a young teen, I desperately wanted to be a Gen Xer like my brother, with all their ultra-chill, above-it-all, despondent counterculture. (Of course, wanting to be counterculture makes you anything but.) With the rise of Millennials and the sheer tonnage of articles on their character, their trophies, their optimism, their creativity — a little part of me hoped I could consider myself a Millennial, to be so shiny, so new. But the label fit about as comfortably as a pair of skinny jeans.”

Gen Xers were counterculture? I thought the Boomers owned that.

I think as a named generation, the Xennials are a short-lived phenomenon. What are your thoughts, marketers?

Direct Mail for All Generations

Many times, marketers feel that direct mail works best for older generations. While it is true that older generations respond to direct mail, all the other generations do too. By limiting expectations, we are leaving a large chuck of the population out of direct mail marketing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 12.52.28 PMMany times, marketers feel that direct mail works best for only older generations. While it is true that older generations respond to direct mail, all the other generations do too. By limiting expectations, we are leaving a large chuck of the population out of direct mail marketing. This means you are leaving money on the table. Instead, let’s look at how we can leverage direct mail across all generations while increasing response.

There are four main generations to target currently with direct mail:

Traditionalists: Born 1945 and Before

This group is retired and enjoys getting direct mail. It’s a channel they trust and use when giving donations to nonprofit organizations.

Key Points: community minded, strong on personal morality, civic duty minded, loyal, team players, save money, pay with cash, avid readers, disciplined and self-sacrificing

Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964

Some people in this group are retired, while others are still out in the work force. They, like the traditionalists, enjoy and trust direct mail.

Key Points: self-righteous, self-centered, buy now on credit, women were the first to work consistently outside the home, divorce generation, optimistic, driven, one of the largest generations in history, like hierarchy and tradition

Generation X: Born 1965 to 1976

This group is all out in the work force. They trust direct mail, but have less time to view it.

Key Points: first latch-key kids, individualistic, government and big business mean little, feel misunderstood, cynical, want to learn, want to make a contribution, late to marry and quick to divorce, into labels/brand names, deeply in credit card debt and cautious

Millennials: Born 1977 to 2000

This group is spread between working force and students. Many still live at home with their parents. They enjoy getting mail since they do not get a lot of it. They trust direct mail more than any other marketing channel.

Key Points: very large group, optimistic, focused, omnipresent parents, respect authority, they live with the reality that they could be shot at school, like to work in teams, want everything fast and immediately, they feel special and expect to be treated that way, assertive and prefer a relaxed work environment

After looking at each of these groups, how can we best target our direct mail? Keep in mind that identifying and solving pain points with direct mail gets the best response. By creating personas for groups of people based on buying history, interest, demographics, firmographics, psychographics, as well as generational information, you create a very strong persona to target. By understanding who your recipients are, you are better able to send them the right offers. This translates into greater responses.

Let the power of direct mail be driven by your database — not by guessing. In 2016 you need to personalize your direct mail which will require you to use multiple offers within a campaign. Your recipients expect to get direct mail that is useful to them, otherwise it’s considered junk mail and thrown away. Don’t end up in the trash bin — give them an exciting offer they cannot refuse!

The Power of Interstitials … Are You Using Them?

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get your website visitors’ attention and take action. According to adspeed.com, an interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before (on top of) the actual webpage. This illustration is a sample. Your webmaster or Web programmer can easily put this in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it’s an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get your website visitors’ attention and take action.

According to adspeed.com, an interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before (on top of) the actual webpage.

This illustration is a sample.

Your webmaster or Web programmer can easily put this in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it’s an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

Typically, interstitials don’t get blocked, like pop-up ads, by many websites or search engines. (For example, Google AdWords won’t approve a PPC campaign if the redirect URL goes to a website that has pop-up ads).

An interstitial can feature various offers for lead generation (email collection) or sales (selling a product). It could be alerting the audience of a special offer, new product, poll or more.

Most interstitials are visually attractive, with strong promotional copy, calls to action and eye-catching graphics. Then the background of the ad is greyed-out, where you can still see the website behind the ad, but it’s faded—so your focus is on the main offer. There’s also a clear and obvious way to close the interstitial. No tricks or hard-to-find “close x” buttons.

Interstitials are ideal if you don’t have room for banner or text ads on your website or you don’t want to affect the current layout of you home page or website theme.

Not all interstitials, however, are created equal. I’ve seen some implemented that are not only unattractive, but are also ineffective in copy and execution. So think about the traffic and audience that may be coming to your website and the offer that may be most attractive to them.

If you drive a lot of traffic to your site but haven’t been able to monetize the traffic or harness the emails, an interstitial is an effective way to capture email addresses and put those names into your sales funnel for future auto-responder series and upsell efforts.

The beauty of an interstitial is that you can make your actual ad space as big or small as you need.

Whatever your offer or need … an interstitial can deliver. And best of all, you don’t have to wonder if your website visitors saw the ad or not. It’s no doubt they did. You are just giving them the option to act on it OR not.

Connecting Marketing Generations: Our Opportunity

Lucky is the marketing organization that has the best, brightest and newest marketing professionals—the “Rising Stars”—working alongside its experienced, proven marketing powerhouses. Sound like your company? Well, it could be

Lucky is the marketing organization that has the best, brightest and newest marketing professionals—the “Rising Stars”—working alongside its experienced, proven marketing powerhouses. Sound like your company? Well, it could be.

The speed of marketing is as fast as the speed of data—but are we incorporating all that’s gone before: The marketing maxims and truisms which are as constant as human behavior? We could be.

Are we dedicating all we need to training—both the newest career entrants to the discipline of testing, measurement, analysis and strategy, and—in the other direction—retooling for today’s marketing science and channel proliferation?

While marketing is at a crossroads of the true and the new, whichever generation we identify with, I hope that we are open and eager to learn from others. Call it “bidirectional learning.”

When Denny Hatch shared a perspective recently on the “Newest Generation of Direct Marketers,” I was taken aback by some of the posted comments. I believe folks mean well, but it appears that there might be something of a marketing generation gap opening among us. Is that happening in your company?

A dynamic career requires continuous learning. Today and tomorrow is a sharing, learning economy—for those who want to participate. That’s why I’m intrigued to see the Direct Marketing Association announce a new award—The President’s Award for Professional Development—recognizing a company or marketing department that has demonstrated a commitment to marketing education among professionals during the past 18 months, and can show results and impact for its efforts to train. Nominations are due June 27. Perhaps the winning company will have demonstrated bidirectional learning and the fruits it has borne.

In addition, as Marketing EDGE (a client) comes off its “stellar” Rising Stars event in New York (a top USA trend that night on Twitter!) earlier this month, let’s remember this is our marketing education organization, bringing the best and brightest of students into our field and our companies.


Marketing EDGE Overview from Marketing EDGE on Vimeo.

I’m not resigned to a marketing generation gap. No matter how old or how young, there’s a lot we need to learn from each other—and class is always in session. The opportunity is ours.

Why Most LinkedIn Lead Generation Tactics Fail

Sharing relevant content on LinkedIn likely will not get customers talking with you about what you’re selling. Nor will commenting on the updates of others. Connecting with potential buyers and sending them “relevant content?” Commenting on discussions in LinkedIn groups? No and no. The truth is most of what experts say works does not. These ideas may engage buyers, but they rarely help us net sales leads.

Sharing relevant content on LinkedIn likely will not get customers talking with you about what you’re selling. Nor will commenting on the updates of others. Connecting with potential buyers and sending them “relevant content?” Commenting on discussions in LinkedIn groups? No and no.

The truth is most of what experts say works does not. These ideas may engage buyers, but they rarely help us net sales leads.

I’m not going to waste your time preaching what I think will work for you. Instead, let’s quickly examine how many of my students are building their businesses using LinkedIn.

Why I Failed on LinkedIn
I’m not afraid to tell you I failed on LinkedIn. I was doing what most sellers are doing, on my profile, in groups and with email messaging. I believed that sharing relevant content on LinkedIn would create sales leads. But it didn’t.

Because being seen as a trusted expert by buyers is the reward … it’s the outcome of a successful LinkedIn lead generation strategy. It’s NOT the strategy!

So what is the strategy? At the highest level, it has two components:

  1. Problem-solving and
  2. Direct response copywriting.

Before we get into the details let’s agree on the goal. On LinkedIn, you need to:

Attract customers (get them to engage with you) and (the part most reps and distributors are struggling with) get potential customers to respond to you. Not engage, respond.

The Surprising Key to Getting Response
Successful LinkedIn lead generation takes more than relevant content. It takes a combination of sharing knowledge that solves a problem and causing buyers to react … to want more from you.

We need to provoke thoughts like, “I never thought about it that way. How can I get more advice like that?” or “I wonder what else this person can help me do?”

Because once you’ve tapped into a buyer’s fear or ambitions you’re able to help them navigate toward (or away from) what you’re selling. By getting them to act on the reaction you just created.

That’s the copywriting part.

Make Your Target Intensely Curious
Getting customers to respond on any social platform is all about getting them intensely curious about you. By piquing customers’ interest in what you have to say you’re able to lead a discussion toward what you’re selling.

Here’s where to start. Entice buyers to reach out and ask the questions you want them to ask you. This earns leads.

For example, if I’ve done my job in writing this post, you’re craving more details on what I’m describing. You’re primed to watch a video tutorial and take action on the idea. So please do!

In this LinkedIn Lead Generation Training video, I’ll get into all the details on how you can begin improving your LinkedIn lead generation success rate.

Questions? Let me know here in comments or shoot me an email. Good luck!

Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.

Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Blogging to Generate Leads

Blogging to generate leads can feel overwhelming. We’re being bombarded with “must dos” from content marketing experts who make it seem effortless. What’s their trick? It’s a practical, refreshing approach to blogging. Here are three pitfalls to avoid and a proven system to create leads. Let’s start with busting a popular myth: Blogging to generate leads demands LOTS of blog content.

Blogging to generate leads can feel overwhelming. We’re being bombarded with “must dos” from content marketing experts who make it seem effortless. What’s their trick? It’s a practical, refreshing approach to blogging. Here are three pitfalls to avoid and a proven system to create leads.

Let’s start with busting a popular myth: Blogging to generate leads demands LOTS of blog content.

No. 1: Writing Frequently at the Cost of Proper Form
Yes, we need to blog frequently and “have a rhythm.” However, the pressure to crank out a tons of blog posts causes problems. In the rush to “just do it” we often forget effective blogging fundamentals. We forget to:

  • start with customers pains, goals, fears, ambitions or cravings and
  • structure blog posts to teach, guide or answer in ways that
  • creates hunger for more of what we have to offer (a lead generation offer).

Beware: Investing too much time and energy in writing frequently can torpedo you. Tired of the stress of wondering, “Am I blogging enough?” Give up the habit!

Focus on following the structure outlined above. Form the habit. Start putting this process to work for you.

No. 2: Losing Visibility by Forgetting Google Authorship
In its effort to clean up the Web, Google launched Authorship. The essence of becoming a recognized Author with Google is all about one thing:

Giving authors of high quality blog articles (you) more exposure.

Here’s how. Google gives maximum attention to registered Authors by including a photo next to ALL blog posts appearing in its index. This grabs eyes. This beats out competing writers who aren’t Authors.

This drives more leads to your page!

You’re losing visibility if you’re not aligned with Google via Authorship.

No. 3: Investing Too Much Time Writing ‘Epic Content’
For a long while, I invested time writing blog posts that convert leads really well. Every single post I made “counted.” However, Google would only rank them on page 1 sometimes.

This wasted my time. I was literally writing great articles that nobody would ever read. Ouch.

Even more frustrating, sometimes Google does rank our articles—yet nobody clicks. Ugh!

So here’s the fix: Invest time in getting ranked on page 1 or 2 first. THEN, monitor for visitor traffic … and THEN tweak to optimize lead generation from your post.

I don’t recommend writing total crap. However, take the pressure off. Write, first, for search engine ranking. Use an effective blog post writing template (that generates leads) but don’t over-invest your precious time.

Here’s how to get into the habit. For example, let’s assume you:

  • completed keyword research—you know what customer pain, fear or goal you’ll address in your post;
  • understand and practice the 3-step system summarized in No.1 above; and
  • know how to make an effective call to action and are ready to earn leads.

You know how to get prospects to your site and what to do with them once there. You’re armed and dangerous. You can earn attention with magnetic headlines, get prospects to read and act on your post.

This blogging system is quality-intensive. But it can be a trap!

It’s very easy to over-invest time in a post that nobody will ever read. So write to get found in search engines first. Be diligent about structure (for search engine and human discovery). However, don’t over-do it. Wait.

Protect your time investment. First, write to be discovered. Don’t neglect proper form but don’t over-invest in polishing … optimizing it for peak lead generation performance. Good luck!

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.