Monday, June 08, 2009

Ask more than "So, what's your address?"

Ah, the old quantity vs. quality debate. Many folks ask themselves, “Do I want a large list or an active list?” Since I am not a mind reader, there’s no way I am going to attempt to answer that for you. But for the sake of having something for you to read, let’s discuss having an active list. One way to do that would be segment your list based upon their zip code, birthday or some other demographic information. The more relevant the information a recipient receives, the more likely they are to be engaged with the messages they receive.

Here are some steps to using segmented information:

Step 1: Ask for this information on your email sign-up page.

Before you add questions willy nilly, ask yourself what the most meaningful information is to have to market your goods or services. I met someone who sold infant clothing adorned with logos of U.S. colleges and it hadn’t occurred to him to ask for the child’s birth date to send information to parents specific to their child’s size. Think beyond basic snail mail address information.

OK, that’s swell and groovy, but what if you’re thinking, “I’ve already collected 3,245 email addresses? How do I go back and add more information about these folks?”

I’m glad you asked!

Step 2: Asking for information retroactively to segment contacts already on your list.

This MailChimp blog post has a lot of great ideas for adding information organically. The idea detailed in this post is to tell list contacts that you’re having a random drawing and will send the winner a free prize if they enter more information about themselves into your database. Create a reason for your contacts to come back to your site and tell you more about themselves.

Step 3: Creating a way for list members to update their information – preference center

Sometimes called a sign-up form, a preference center is a web page that allows your contacts to tell you more about themselves and which of your offerings they want to receive. The Musician’s Friend offers this preference center that asks for information about the contact, including birthday.

And here’s an example from Rocket Software that gives an explanation for each of their newsletters.

Step 4: Be sure your preference center is set up to allow contacts to log in and make changes. All of the above is great for collecting information up-front, but enabling contacts to retroactively update their profiles is critical. If you’re going to send out a note to your list to ask recipients to come back to your site to update their profiles (like the idea mentioned in Step 2), be sure you have a way for them to do this. It may be called an “Update Profile Form” by some email service providers (ESP). No matter the name, this is a function your ESP should offer.

Now that you've gone through the process of learning more about the folks you're emailing, be sure to tailor your content to your audience's specific interests.

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