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How to build your customer database without buying a list

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 17 Nov, 2014
Essential Essential topic

Three steps to organic list growth

Often marketers will want to email as many people as possible, as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible. This is a common mindset which can end in marketers purchasing or renting an email list.

If you are looking either for immediate or long term results, buying a list is not the answer. Instead follow our three steps to organic list growth to build your database without damaging your email list health.

Step 1. Optimise your web sign up

The first step in building an organic email list is optimising your web sign up. This may seem obvious; however web sign up can be easy to get wrong, so make sure you have this basic step perfected to avoid any negative knock on effects further down the line.

  •  Optimise your form
    Begin by creating a solid form which will encourage users to hand over their information instead of leaving your site.
  • Make the form visible
    When adding your sign up form to your site ensure that it is visible and included on all main pages; remember to make signing up to your list as simple as possible.
  • Use double opt in
    Double opt is the practice of asking a subscriber to confirm their request to be added to your email list. After their initial request via your web sign up, a confirmation email is then sent to the email address entered on the sign up form, stating that they must confirm their subscription request.
  • Add a preference centre
    When someone is about to unsubscribe from your list it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to hear from you anymore, they may simply want to change their details or contact frequency.

Step 2. Grow your list organically

Now you have perfected your web sign up form you can get creative with building your list organically. There are lots of options available to businesses, the following are some of the most popular and proven methods which you should be practicing:

  • Offer something in return
    To encourage users to part with their data you will have to offer something in return; make this as enticing as possible!
  • Utilise social media
    Your fans on Facebook are already engaged with you, so encourage them to sign up to your email list so you can continue to communicate with them regularly.
  •  Run competitions
    Competitions are a really fun way to build your email list. You can continue with social media and host these on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or you can use a dedicated landing page.
  • Promote at events
    Trade shows, exhibitions and promo opportunities are perfect for meeting potential customers who are looking for your product or service.
  • In-store opportunities
    Consider asking customers to fill in their email address when they make a purchase to receive a virtual copy of their receipt or a discount on their current/future purchases.

Step 3. Manage your list

Your list is gradually increasing, but the work doesn’t stop there. An email list can actually do more harm than good if it is not managed effectively, so be sure to keep on top of it with the following steps.

  • Practice good hygiene
    List management can start with simple, ongoing data checks for spelling errors or typos entered, such as [email protected] or [email protected].
  • Clean hard bounces
    Sending email to addresses that bounce will do far more harm than good to your email ROI, therefore it’s important that you regularly clean your list of hard bounces.
  • Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe
    The thought of removing addresses from your email list when they haven’t actively unsubscribed is a scary one. However it is actually proven best practice for marketers to remove unengaged addresses to ensure that their lists only contain subscribers who are actively engaged.
  • Refresh your data
    After a period of time the data on your email list will become outdated; contacts will change jobs, change email addresses and change ESPs. Every business will have their own opinions on when data needs refreshing, so decide on where you draw the line and work to refresh your data at this point.

Key takeaways to building your database

  • Buying a list is not the answer to list growth, in fact it can damage your email list health.
  • Ensure that your web sign up form is spot on, while this may seem obvious, it can have a huge impact if done badly.
  • There are lots of ways to grow your list organically, experiment and find the best fit for your business.
  • Don’t forget to manage your list. Remember, small, engaged list will be better than a large unengaged list.
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By Expert commentator

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