Asking for more information

I’ve had a few conversations recently about how important it is to ask for more than just an email address when setting up a form on a website to begin an email marketing program. So many times, someone will add a box to collect an email address, make sure the form works and think they’re done. That’s some short-term thinking right there!

Of course you want an email address, but how can you segment your database with just an email address?! You can’t. (Unless you want to separate the Yahoo!’s from the Hotmail folks….) As a result, when getting addresses for your mailing list, be sure to collect information that will help you segment your database in a way that’s relevant to the purpose of your email program. Let’s say you want to send offer A to folks who live in Georgia and offer B to everyone else. To do that, be sure to have a place for people who are signing up for your emails to enter in their state.

After the fact…
Now say you’ve been collecting addresses for a long time and want to go back and get more information to go with these addresses. Think that’s going to be tough to do? Think again. Here’s how you do that:

  1. Set up a preference center. That’s a fancy name for “form to collect information for my email database beyond just an address.” Here’s a link to an article with tips for better sign-up forms.
  2. Craft an email to explain why you’re now asking for more information. Be sure to carefully explain that you’re doing this to send them future emails tailored to their location/interests/whatever else you plan to ask about them to segment your list. For example, if you’re going to be offering seasonally-relevant items to your list members, mention that you don’t want to accidentally offer a snow shovel to a Floridian.
  3. Include a link to update their profile in your database. Every reputable email service provider (ESP) will have a means for inserting this link into your email. It’s generally part of the footer boilerplate verbiage. The form itself is similar to the email sign-up form, but that form would give your recipients an error message since their email is already in your database. An “update profile form” will recipients to add the information that’s asked for in your sign-up and associate it with their email address.

Tactically, that’s how you get started. Now that you’ve begun to collect more information about your recipients, it’s time to segment your database and send them relevant information. That’s the topic for next time!

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