The impact that innovations such as social networks, smartphones and mobile applications have had on consumers’ lives cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to data and the new culture of sharing and word of mouth recommendations. People are now more prone to divulge information and interests that were once reserved from brands, and marketers are quick to leap on such available data to engage more effectively with consumers.

So if consumers readily tell brands about their hobbies, interests and lifestyle, how can brands capitalise on this to add depth to their customer database? Harnessing this new potential is essential to quickly growing an email database, and so marketers must look for ways to convert initial interest into an ongoing relationship.

Making sign-up options for email marketing programmes obvious and as easy as possible for consumers is a major aspect of growing an email marketing database, but what else can be done to fuel acquisition? Incentives, intuitive, easy-to-use forms, and social networks all have their part to play in establishing and growing a powerful database of engaged and interested recipients. Here are a couple of tips on how this can be done.

1) Allow customers to opt in

First of all, marketers looking to grow their email database must give customers the choice of ‘opting-in’ to various marketing communications through email, mobile and social channels. Our research reveals that few marketers are using this opportunity to grow their email database, with 95 per cent of UK companies having no opt-in option on their Facebook page. With the majority of marketers in the UK missing their key audience by not tapping into arguably some of the biggest and most influential brand advocates and fans currently available, what can they do to resolve this issue?

When allowing users to opt-in via a Facebook page or a homepage, a good way to  appeal to consumers is to offer them something of value, such as exclusive offers or discounts if they sign up to a newsletter or mailing list. It is misguided to expect something for nothing, and so incentivising consumers is often the most successful way of getting those ever important mailing list sign ups.

In a world where the social profile is equivalent to an ID card, savvy brands are also bypassing the traditional opt-in form by allowing one-click opt-in via social networks. Rather than presenting an opt-in form of 1-x number of fields, these brands allow recipients to opt-in securely using existing credentials from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular networks. This innovative new technique, called Social Connect, can increase overall opt-in rates by as much as 25% according to recent Silverpop research.

2) Make opt-in forms easy and interesting

It must be easy for customers to sign up to your email marketing programmes. If the opt-in is easy and accessible, more people will want to join. Likewise if you include a sign-up option in all outgoing newsletters and marketing messages, larger numbers of customers will want to sign up to learn more about a company. Quick and simple to subscribe is the key.

In today’s mobile and social world, opt-in extends far beyond the website.  The Top 11 UK Retailers effectively use opt-in forms on social media fan pages as well as mobile opt-in forms at the point of sale.

Marketers should also make sure that the content they send to their existing database is interesting – this is an obvious point but one that is surprisingly often forgotten. Consumers are more willing to share thought provoking content than bland sales copy, and so marketing messages should be adjusted to provide insight and valuable content alongside applicable sales material. This in turn will be seen by their friends once it has been shared, who will be more likely to join a mailing list based on a personal recommendation than an open invitation from a company.  In research conducted by Silverpop around social sharing, it was found that consumers are most likely to share content that they feel is exclusive. The benevolence of their actions in sharing this information with their friends is a big driver in viral activity.

3) Incorporate social networks

Using social networks to generate interest in your email marketing programmes is an effective way to encourage people to sign up to your email marketing list. Tweeting to existing followers with interesting content and pointers to exclusive offers from your newsletter or website will encourage users to sign up to future communications or visit your website, where the sign-up option should be prominently placed. Customising social networking pages with a subscription option means that marketers can appeal to their target audience by asking only for an email addresses, as they have already obtained other necessary data when that user ‘liked’ their company page. This has the added bonus of being effortlessly simple, with no complicated forms that discourage users from signing up and also allowing them to feel at ease with the data they are sharing.

4) Allow user feedback

To make the most of the available channels and to gain a true insight into what customers want, marketers should provide email recipients with the option to provide feedback. If something’s not working, it allows marketers to adjust it and fully utilise the potential that each specific channel provides.

Or, alternatively, if the emails and service are well received, it allows customers to express these views. Testimonials and case studies are often the most effective way of reaching out to new subscribers, as many consumers want to know the benefits of such a service before signing up.

Today’s content-focused brands are also using social media as a test bed for new content, tone of voice and other creative changes for their brands. By monitoring social dialogue with and about your brand you can get a more accurate gauge on how and in what manner your customers who like be spoken to.

If companies take on board these tips, and utilise the plethora of opportunities available to them across the many platforms of communications that are springing up, then they will reap rewards as they market to a consumer base that is engaged and in tune with their communications. This engagement will quickly translate to greater ROI, and the benefits of an efficient and effective email marketing campaign will be plain to see.


Richard Evans

Richard Evans


Richard Evans is Director of Marketing, EMEA at Silverpop