Ask the Expert: E-Mail

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How can b-to-b e-mail marketers grow e-mail lists responsibly? Lewis: [First], be sure to get permission, however you acquire names, whether in response to an info request, such as a white paper or at a trade show. If you don't get permission at the point of capture, do it immediately thereafter and give recipients a clear idea of what you'll be communicating. But don't assume that their permission is evergreen. It's not. How you handle prospects from this point forward is crucial to retaining their permission and converting them into brand-loyal customers. For starters, reset your objective from list size to the percentage of names on your list actively engaged with your brand. While counts aren't immaterial, an engagement objective is much more conducive to responsible list growth and bottom-line results. Second, re-examine your data-capture strategies. Too many marketers see data capture as an “event,” and it's not. It's a process. There's a value exchange going on between you and your prospects. As you serve up value, they'll reciprocate by sharing more information with you. As you build out your profiles, your aim should be to understand who they are, such as their position (marketing or IT) and role in the purchase process (influencer or decision-maker). And where they're at in the buying cycle (now or 12 months from now). Segmenting your list by such criteria will enable you to shape messages by what's relevant to your prospects and to move them toward eventual product purchase. What's the danger in not growing e-mail lists responsibly? Lewis: If you don't do these things, you'll likely send out messages that recipients perceive as irrelevant (and possibly spam) and may ultimately undermine their view of your brand. To avoid that outcome, you'll need systems that allow you to interrogate your databases, as well as the activity on your Web site; build your segments and automate the rules surrounding them; and serve up the kind of relevant messaging that serves both your business interests and those of your recipients. M
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