How to Build Your E-Mail List

As the need to grow cash flow and suppress expenses grows, stations continue to slice outside marketing budgets. Most of the major broadcast companies cut marketing expenses in third and fourth quarters. Stations are then required to do the next year's budget based on actual expenses and zero growth...Where does this lead us for now? We proactively must consider less expensive methods of marketing ourselves.
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As the need to grow cash flow and suppress expenses grows, stations continue to slice outside marketing budgets. Most of the major broadcast companies cut marketing expenses in third and fourth quarters. Stations are then required to do the next year's budget based on actual expenses and zero growth.

Where does this lead us for now? We proactively must consider less expensive methods of marketing ourselves.

Event marketing - or as some managers call it, street marketing - has become one of the most popular tools for drawing attention and actually generating more money. Yes, all stations should expose themselves to the public this way. However, don't kid yourself; in a major market of over a million people, this exposure simply is not enough to move the needle by itself.

What's the second-least inexpensive method managers are likely to employ for marketing? If you're not hearing about it yet, you soon will. Time to scrub that e-mail database of yours and figure out a way to grow the number.

Although focusing on e-mail database marketing sounds like a simple task, I'm fearful that most marketing managers will fail to grasp the basics, thereby not only failing, but alienating their most loyal listeners.

Build the list

First, let's discuss growing your e-mail database.

One of the fastest methods is direct mail. Odd, huh? Here's how it works: Rent a list for your target demo. Do a direct-mail piece that offers a great prize - the smallest I would consider here is a free car.

Require that participants give you their e-mail address. Include a box that they can check to receive offers of other special contests and get your free e-mail newsletter. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how many people will opt in into your database when you employee this method. My theory is that this typically succeeds because you're tapping into contest players who always want to win free stuff.

A direct-mail method using a big prize certainly is among the most expensive options, but it's one of the few methods that offer speedy growth. Yes, you should use only those e-mail addresses of people who have opted in. Do not be tempted to use those who haven't - it's illegal. Also they'll waste your time with complaints, and most will unsubscribe anyway.

The remaining methods of e-mail database growth are gradual and require constant surveillance.

1) Do on-air e-mail contesting. Instead of taking the 10th caller for a typical contest, tell your listeners that you are accepting e-mail entries instead. For example: "I've a got a free pair of Shania Twain tickets. If you'd like them, send me an e-mail with your name and phone number. I'll take e-mails for the next 10 minutes and than randomly draw a winner. Our address is iamawinner@wxxx.com. Good luck!"

The difficult part here is clearing out the in-box you use for this contesting daily and then making sure you sort the addresses into a "ask if they are interested" list. Even though this group has not specifically opted in for your database, I suggest (others will argue with me on this point) that you e-mail them once, thanking them for playing the contest and asking them if they'd like to be signed up for other free stuff.

2) Listener calls. Every time your DJs take a request, have them ask for an e-mail address. If they have time they can even ask the caller if they'd like to sign up for your free stuff. Otherwise you must e-mail them to find out if they'd like to opt in.

3) Remotes. Wherever you do an appearance or remote, make sure folks at the event give you their e-mail address.

You'll collect more addresses if you're offering people a chance to win something. Include a check-box on the form where they can opt in. Be most cautious with e-mails collected using this method. If the people are obviously in your target, you're fine. But if you're in a place like a shopping mall, you'll be getting entries from some folks who are likely not really interested in your radio station.

4) Your Web site. It should have numerous points where users are encouraged to give you their addresses. These points can include Web contesting; an "event reminder" section, where listeners may be reminded that you're appearing in their area; and a section that effectively tells users about the benefits of opting-in to your list.

What quantifies success in database size? Everyone's got a different answer to this one. I suggest that if you don't have at least 10 percent of your cume, you're not at a point to effect very much.

Start slow

Because I've discussed e-mail content in past articles, I won't go into depth here. I only want to remind you that e-mails you send to listeners must have substance.

Marketing directors usually are great about sending out marketing messages, but need assistance when it comes to including info that's about music on the station, the lifestyle of the listener or something that's funny. If your e-mails are only about your station, over time you will boost your unsubscribe rate.

Speaking of which: make sure to monitor your unsubscribe rate. Check your list size before and after sending out a mass e-mail. Trends will show you what your listeners like and what they don't. Do not generalize these results. They will vary by format and demo.

What does e-mail database marketing cost? Sadly, it is not free as many general managers suppose. You need the right software, hardware and enough bandwidth. You don't want to send listener e-mail directly out of the same system your staff uses for communication. Most office systems are not set up to handle tens or even hundreds of thousands of e-mails at once. Talk to your IT department before proceeding.

In the beginning, start slow, learn from your mistakes and never rely on automatic spell-checking!

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E-mail Portability Petition

Mitchell Lazarus, writing at the Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth PLC ComLaw Blog, raises some interesting questions that flow from a petition before the FCC to ensure the portability of e-mail addresses.