The result of the Web registration process is a registration database. This can be a valuable tool, said Seth Goldin, president of Yoyodyne, an Irvington, N.Y., company that runs contests aimed at collecting such databases for marketers, but only if you follow the rules.
DON'T TRY FOR TOO MUCH
The first rule, he says, is request only what you can use, then use it. Second, scale the back-end that houses the database so it can grow as your customer base grows.
"It's easy to maintain a database of under 10,000 people. But when databases grow past that point, many companies have been hurt by being unable to respond, via e-mail, to market demands from the database," Mr. Goldin says.
As for what data to collect, Kim Bayne, Colorado Springs, Colo., author of "The Internet Marketing Book," suggests you ask the same questions of Web visitors you'd ask visitors at your trade show booth. "You want to know if they're a tire-kicker or serious buyer," she said. "You want to know whether you're reaching the right market."
MATCHING NAMES AND ADDRESSES
Michael Paolucci, president of Interactive Imaginations, New York, which runs the Riddler games site, suggests matching databases. "If I can get a name, an address and a phone number, I can find exactly who that person is in the real world, and from there I can go to [Lombard, Ill.-based] Metromail [the nation's largest seller of direct mail lists] and find out all I need to find out about him.
"The Internet isn't going to solve your marketing problem entirely," he added. "Use it to bridge your entire ad campaign. The key is you have to know the name and address."
Whatever data you get from your Web site, however, treat it carefully. "People like the fact they're behind their screen, that they can get information they want and you can't see them," said Ms. Bayne. So if you want to build an e-mail mailing list, ask registrants if they want to be on it -- don't assume they do.
If you're courteous and collect information slowly, you can build quite a database, said Linda Della, VP-marketing for Likeminds, Sebastopol, Calif. You can then use "collaborative filtering" to recommend products.
NEW SOFTWARE TOOLS
Movie Critic, a Web site run by Likeminds' parent company, Songline Studios, provides this technology. On Movie Critic, demographic data is combined with users' tastes in movies to deliver recommendations for films.
Such "preference data" becomes a profile that can predict with pretty high accuracy what products you'll want. Likeminds calls the concept "cybergraphics."
Collecting that data, however, requires new skills from marketers, said Sandra Vaughan, senior director-corporate marketing for Los Altos, Calif.-based BroadVision, a Web site operator that also sells services to personalize sites. "When you're asking people questions on a Web site, you have to make sure the person gets value for the answers," said Ms. Vaughan.
USE DATA CAREFULLY
If you do your homework, you can get great results, said Donna Iu-Colano, director of interactive services for 1-800-Flowers, Westbury, N.Y. Ms. Iu-Colano's registration database is based on a "mail concierge program" launched in May 1994.
"We invite people to register important dates with us, and we send reminders via e-mail," she said.
Members of the program spend $10 to $15 more per visit than those who aren't in the program, and receive an average of 10 e-mails a year. Contests and games help build traffic, and new registrants are offered discounts as incentives to return.
"The cost of maintaining the database and issuing reminders is nominal," she added, and the benefits are huge.