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Building Your List: Challenges and Solutions

by: Bryan Brown (@getvision)
27 September 2011

Adding a contact to your email or prospect list is the first step in building a comprehensive database of preferences and behaviors that enable you to send automated, triggered, highly relevant messages based on these variables.

Here are five common challenges marketers face in building their lists, along with accompanying solutions that I’ve seen work well in addressing these issues.

The Challenge: People don’t want to register on your website and/or for your offer.
The Solution:
Offer social sign-in as an alternative.

As a marketer, you want to eliminate any barriers that stand between you and a prospective customer. And given a Blue Research study showing that 75 percent of Web visitors are bothered by site registrations and will change their behavior as a result, offering these people the option of signing in with their social login—e.g. Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn—is an easy way to help add these valuable names to your database.

The Challenge: You want to collect the information you need to connect with customers and/or prospects, but your lengthy forms are turning people off.
The Solution:
Ask a few key questions initially, then use progressive forms to gather more info later.

It can be a major buzz kill when you entice prospects with an offer, only to see them flee the scene because the form you required for download asked them to share their entire life history. Gathering data so you can deliver more relevant messages is an admirable goal, but instead of asking so many questions before you’ve established a relationship, start off with a handful of items, and then ask a few more questions each time a contact fills out a new form, gradually collecting data as you build the relationship. (Read more about progressive profiling.)

The Challenge: You don’t have a good mechanism for collecting customer and prospect information at your store or trade show booth.
The Solution:
Use tablets (e.g. iPads), SMS and local check-ins to gather opt-ins.

In years past, gathering email addresses and contact information at physical locations and then syncing it with your database was a logistical challenge fraught with the potential for error. No longer. Now, with new marketing technology, you can use iPads to gather contact info at stores, trade shows and other physical locations—with or without wireless connections—and then sync to your marketing platform later.

Another option is to encourage event attendees and in-store customers to opt in to your email program via text message. Once you’ve got an email address, you can then use progressive forms to gradually collect additional profile data.

Finally, with local check-ins on the rise, consider using “To-Do” lists to tease your email program and increase engagement.

The Challenge: You have lots of Facebook fans and/or Twitter followers who aren’t in your marketing database.
The Solution:
Promote your email programs and generate leads via social networks.

It only takes a little bit of time to set up an email opt-in or lead gen form on your company’s Facebook page and/or tease your email program via Twitter, and adding these followers, friends and fans to your email channel will enable you to gather more data points and communicate with behavior-driven, personalized messages ideal for nurturing of relationships and increasing conversions.

The Challenge: Many people who make purchases from you haven’t opted in to receive your emails.
The Solution:
Include an email opt-in call-to-action in your transactional messages.

Transactional emails are among the most relevant messages you’ll send, so take advantage of the opportunity to tease to your email program. Scared of annoying valued customers who are already subscribers? Use dynamic content to insert opt-in promotions only within transactional receipts of those customers who haven’t yet enrolled in your email program.

What list-building problems are you struggling to get your head around? Post your questions and comments below.


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