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How can we leverage our business partnerships to help build our e-mail lists?

Building lists through partnerships can be a very successful list growth tactic. It is imperative, however, to carefully evaluate a partner before exploring opportunities for e-mail acquisition efforts. Too many e-mail marketers learn this the hard way, choosing partners that don't fit their audiences and vice versa.

There are two common approaches for leveraging partnerships to grow your e-mail list: third-party partner mailings and co-registration. But I wouldn't run at either opportunity blindly. Growing your list organically will always produce the most qualified audience.

Third-party mailings are leveraged typically as dedicated e-mail sends to the subscriber base of a qualified partner that features some content of interest to the demographic of the partner. You would usually include an opt-in message allowing the recipient to subscribe directly to your e-mail list to continue receiving valuable information from your brand. It is important to note that your ability to communicate with a partner's list in this way will be dictated by their privacy policy and their partner messaging restrictions. Some partners may charge for such access or require the same level of access to your subscriber base.

Co-registration allows for you to include an opt-in to your e-mail program when a person is subscribing to the partner's. While the opt-in is explicit, the actual act of subscribing may be quickly forgotten depending on whether the box is pre-checked or not. Another challenge is that since the subscription did not come from your site, there may be some delay in getting the data to you—which could prevent you from sending a timely welcome message directly from your brand. Co-registration can be a very successful acquisition method if partners are carefully chosen, but remain mindful of the data challenges that may be associated with this method of acquisition.

Leveraging partners can be a safe way to add new addresses to your promotional e-mail programs. Just choose the right partner with the right audience, build the right strategy first and then let it takes its course.

Kara Trivunovic is senior director of strategic services at StrongMail Systems (www.strongmail.com), a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.

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