June 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

Cultivate your own garden to effectively grow an e-mail list, report says

Persuading consumers to voluntarily enter their e-mails on web sites ranks at the top of e-mail list growth best practices, a new survey finds.

List growth was one of the top priorities for e-mail marketers queried in a recent survey by e-mail services vendor ExactTarget – of some 350 surveyed, 38% cited it as a top initiative for 2009, a figure exceeded only by the 41.9% who said making e-mails more relevant and 51% who cited conversions from e-mail.

The survey, conducted by ExactTarget with the E-mail Marketers Club and the Center of Media Design at Ball State University, determined that some tactics work better than others for growing a list. Survey respondents were asked to rank their experience with 18 list growth practices in terms of the quantity of names they generated for the list, the quality, and the overall return on investment. Researchers then factored in whether the marketers planned to continue using the practice going forward to come up with a ranking.

Top marks went to collecting e-mail addresses from consumers who enter them on a web site voluntarily. Incented registration-in which site visitors are offered something in exchange for supplying their e-mail addresses-followed, and requiring an e-mail address when making a purchase was third. Rounding out the top five most effective practices for list growth were collecting e-mail addresses when a customer calls a retailer’s call center and collecting them in stores at the point of sale.

List rental, a popular tactic among marketers, ranked fourth from the bottom among the best practices studied. According to the report, tactics that promise quick results, including list rental, aren’t necessarily ineffective, but they don’t work as well as organic growth strategies.

“A strong list growth strategy requires that marketers invest time to implement good organic list growth tactics such as on-site registration, inbound call centers, and capture at the point of sale. Ensure these components are in place before looking to ‘hunting’ tactics,” advised the report.

Brett Brewer, director of strategic services at ExactTarget, is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 15-18 in Boston, in a session entitled E-mail segmentation for beginners.

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