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Collecting Information on Your E-Mail Marketing Contacts

9 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Building Your E-Mail Marketing Lists

When it comes to your e-mail marketing contacts, the only information you absolutely must collect are an e-mail address and permission to send your e-mails. However, even as you acquire basic information, make plans to gather more data over time so that you can better target your customers.

Gathering essential e-mail marketing information

Essential information for e-mail marketing purposes comes in two categories:

  • Professional: Information your contacts want you to know in order to send relevant business information, such as their preferred e-mail address, the products they’re interested in, and their zip code, if you conduct events or have multiple locations.

  • Personal: Information you need in order to treat the prospect or customer as a human being. A first name is good to have along with any personal preferences relevant to your product or service (a travel agency may collect seat preference on flights, for example).

Expanding your knowledge of your e-mail contacts

Asking subscribers, both active and potential, to share their interests allows you to sort your e-mail lists into categories and send contacts in each category relevant information.

Open-ended questions rarely provide you with useable information and are difficult to categorize. Instead, provide multiple-choice answers with each answer corresponding to a category you can use to send targeted e-mails.

Ways to sort your communications include:

  • Communication type: Ask your subscribers to choose the information they would like to receive — and then send them just that. You can always ask contacts to update their preferences later.

  • Demographic interests: Asking for demographic information — such as age or income — can prove difficult because people are concerned about privacy, and they generally aren’t willing to share this information unless they know why you need it and how you use it.

    Try combining demographic and interest questions together as one category so that you can make inferences without having to be too direct. A sample of possible list titles:

    • Spare-no-expense travel destinations

    • Singles-only event invitations

    • Gardening on a budget

  • Preferred customer interests: Some people tell you what interests them only when they feel that they will get preferential treatment as a result. Try positioning interest information so that the reward is receiving the information, with lists like

    • Priority, reserved event tickets

    • First-to-know product announcements

    • Early bird access to product-specific sales

Classifying your e-mail contacts by behavior

You can collect behavioral interests on your e-mail contacts by making assumptions based on answers to questions or by observing how prospects, subscribers, or customers behave in the context of your business relations. Segmenting your subscribers into private lists allows you to send more relevant information without involving subscribers in a time-consuming process.

Keep your behavioral interest categories private. Your contacts may not self-identify with the label you place on them.

List categories that can prove useful include

  • Coupon users: These customers are more likely to respond to promotions with associated discounts and freebies.

  • Repeat buyers: If you can identify when certain subscribers are likely to be thinking about a purchase, you can sort them by date of last purchase and send your message when they’re likely to be interested in a purchase.

  • Very Important Customers (VICs): This list can include big spenders, frequent shoppers, referral sources, or people who give you valuable feedback about your business. VICs should be welcomed, thanked, and pampered.

  • Advocates: Hopefully, you have some customers (besides Mom and Dad) who just love your business and recommend you to friends and family. Segmenting advocates into a separate list allows you to send them gifts and incentives that no one else receives.

  • Customers and prospects: The nature of a business relationship often changes after a person has parted with some money, and the nature of your communications probably needs to change as well.

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The Essentials of Building Your E-Mail Marketing Lists

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