List Acquisition and Lead Generation: 9 Tactics That Work

June 14th, 2012 by Anthony Schneider

Email Acquisition and Lead Generation Ain’t Easy

Here’s the problem: you can’t sell more products if you can’t reach more potential customers. Here’s another problem: over time people unsubscribe from your newsletter or buy your product or services and are no longer in the list acquisition

Here’s the solution: new prospects, lead generation and, possibly, list acquisition as a way to get there. Opt-in lists mean more email recipients, more buzz, more word-of-mouth, more queries, more sales. But licensing a third-party list is not the first or best way to build your list or drive sales.


Be Afraid (of List Acquisition)

Email lists are expensive, many times contain bad email addresses and often result in complaints. Licensing a list, testing vendors, developing creative and providing HTML all adds up to an expensive one-time transmission to people you don’t even know. Worse, many third parties send sub-standard emails that wind up undelivered or in junk folders. And who wants to pay to send a crappy email that doesn’t even reach the intended recipient?

List acquisition rarely achieves the ROI to warrant its continued use. There are, of course, exceptions, but generally you don’t get sufficient bang for buck. “A lot of people have been burned buying names at ridiculously low prices from sites that threw offers up there on a churn and burn model,” says Michael Lastoria, CEO of Innovation Ads, a boutique agency specializing in co-registration campaigns.


Build Don’t Buy

Try to grow your opt-in list the old-fashioned way: build your own. Home-grown lists always perform better.

You can grow your email list (or house file) through referrals, data append campaigns, modal acquisition, sweepstakes, co-registration, offline promotions and other mechanisms. What works best? Depends on your company, product or service, and audience.

Here are nine tactics. Chances are one or more of them will work for you.


1. Gather Emails Everywhere

If you don’t have a big list already, then start capturing opt-in email addresses on your website, at trade shows, in-store, everywhere. Also, you can use friends and family to spur referrals and grow your house files. Everyone who buys a product or downloads a whitepaper can potentially become a newsletter subscriber, and everyone who signs up for your email has the potential to become a powerful brand advocate.

Your website optin form and the triggered welcome message are vital pieces of the lead generation arsenal, so be sure they are working to entice and invite prospects.

> Read more on best practices for email opt-in pages.
> Read more about insurance industry optins and online lead generation strategy.

Email append (using true customer data) can turn old lists and non-active email addresses into fresh, active subscribers lists. Sales teams and outbound telemarketing can also work to build your list (especially when combined with a high-value content-related incentive).

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2. Content is Key

It’s not enough to have a bunch of email addresses. You need engaged subscribers who will buy, promote, share, advocate. Smart, timely email content will go a long way to ensuring that your subscribers are – and remain – engaged.

“Readers are looking for an excuse to hit delete and move on to something else,” explains Eric Wilinski , founder of Cantaloupe Content, a San Francisco-based branding and copywriting agency. “To hook them, let them know up front how your email is relevant to them, by explicitly stating the key benefit you plan to discuss. To keep them reading, make the rest of the copy clear, concise, and focused on that key benefit.”

Depending on your business,  value added information, sneak peeks and perks, such as sales, bargains, white papers or free reports will  hook visitors.

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3. Turn Subscribers into Advocates

Word-of-mouth recommendations are the best way to build your subscriber list. “Want to get readers to share your content? “ Wilinksi says. “Develop white papers, case studies, demo videos, and other high-value content that can accelerate leads through your sales funnel, then create emails to drive traffic to those assets.”

Make sure your email is ready to share, with social and email sharing buttons.

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4. Use Social Media

Social media is a great way to build leads of prospects and friends.  Your Facebook page — and even Facebook ads — can work effectively to gather email addresses of potential customers. Flickr, your company or personal blog, Twitter, all can help feel the lead gen funnel. YouTube, LinkedIn or other channels feature videos that can contain a call-to-action. Enable the Products and Services function of LinkedIn, utilize banners and maximize the impact of your status updates.

> Read our presentation on “Getting Started in Social Media.”
> Read more on how to generate leads from LinkedIn on SocialMediaB2B.

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5. Modal Acquisition

Your website is one of the best places to attract potential customers. Modal acquisition is a simple way of making your site work harder to attract and engage prospects.

A modal window (commonly referred to as a “pop-up” window) is a type of window that appears on a website that is a secondary window to the web page.  When a customer visits your site, the modal window invites her to subscribe to your list. Once she does that, she receives a welcome message. You can then send triggered emails, sales or other promotions to entice signups and visits. (And if she doesn’t want to sign up, she just exits the modal unit and returns to your site).

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6. Sweepstakes

Use your current subscribers to generate additional interest through referral sweepstakes and other promotions, and remember to ask the referrals to opt-in (an unchecked opt-in box to capture subscribers is standard best practice).  How are the results? We’ve seen sweepstakes that grow opt-in lists by 20%, and we’ve seen word-of-mouth programs double the size of an opt-in list in one week. Using your own merchandise will ensure the right audience, so it’s probably a better idea than offering, say, a cash prize. You may get fewer subscribers but you’ll get higher quality signups.

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7. Co-Registration

Co-registration (aka coreg) allows you to gather leads from like-minded sites other than your own. You can contract with owners of sites (or a network of sites) with traffic to collect a list of names of people visiting their sites who request information based on your offer. We’ve all seen this type of promotion: you stick your opt-in offer as an extra check-box on another site’s registration page. You can set up your own co-registration deal with a like-minded website, or you can use a co-registration service. The former requires more legwork but tends to work better. You pay per name for each person who responds, and you tell the site in advance how many names you want (or can afford). Some sites will have a minimum order, and some sites will work on a barter basis.

Co-registration doesn’t work for everyone. Make sure there’s a good fit in terms of brand, product and audience. “You should treat co-registration requests the same way you would treat a request for a joint venture,” suggests sales and marketing consultant Sean McPheat.

Test before you roll it out, and make sure the coreg unit adheres to the highest legal and ethical standards. You don’t want to attract the wrong leads, and you definitely don’t want to violate CAN-SPAM or list harvesting laws.

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8. Co-Sponsorships

Many B2B trade publications will license their list for suitable marketers. While not necessarily less costly than using a list vendor, these lists are targeted and the recipients responsive. We have seen very good results for B2B marketers everywhere from construction to insurance to medical optics.

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9. Email Ads

B2C marketers may want to sponsor or place an ad in an email newsletter. Marketers are seeing high clickthroughs from sponsored newsletters with appropriate demographics, reach and other attributes.

Putting your message in a successful, appropriate email newsletter means you get access to an existing, attractive audience.  There are a lot of good newsletters out there, so chances are there’s one that is a good fit for your brand and demographic.

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Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan

What’s the first, best step for your company’s lead acquisition? Let us know what worked, or ask us about our recommended approach.