The one thing all winning e-mail departments have in common is a killer list.

The inbox is a sacred place. It’s a destination to which you have been invited. Built correctly, your e-mail plan will yield enormous results.

Let’s take a look at how you can construct a high-quality internal e-mail database.

  1. Leverage your online customer service Web portal. Customers who do business with you online provide a great opportunity to enhance your e-mail list. Consumers want to complete online transactions to make their life easier.

    Starting a new subscription, making a payment, placing a subscription on hold, or tipping a newspaper carrier are examples of transactions easily completed online.

    Require your customers to register an account for the right to complete online transactions. The Web portal accounts are linked to their subscription accounts. So they identify themselves by providing key information.

    One piece of data you shouldn’t miss is asking for their contact e-mail address. Once they submit their registration forms, allow your system to send confirmation e-mails to consumers at the e-mail addresses they provided.

    When they receive the confirmation e-mails, they click the confirmation link, which verifies them as customers. Using your Web service portal provides you an ongoing source of top quality e-mail addresses.

  2. Maximise your offline customer service, too. Every day and every hour, every inbound call provides you another opportunity to build your list. With a little work and creativity, your call centre channel provides a big pay-off.

    Change your call procedure to include a quick e-mail address look-up during every customer service transaction. When the contact e-mail field is blank, which denotes no e-mail address, your customer service rep simply asks for it.

    Be prepared to answer objections. A creative way to get around a persistent e-mail objection is to provide back something of value. Work with a local restaurant, grocer, or retailer. You provide “pull through” to their business by e-mailing a so-called voucher back to a customer who provides you a new e-mail address.

    Be kind to your retailer; place a very short offer expiration and customise the voucher with the recipient’s name and address. Remember, you’re e-mailing the voucher, so customisation is a snap.

    The second benefit is your process inputs e-mail addresses of only the highest quality. It puts pressure on your customer to provide you with “the” e-mail address. Not the one they use to enter sweepstakes or keep the salesmen away.

  3. Integrate the data of others. Investing in high-quality e-mail data append can grow your list very quickly. By submitting contact records of your customers, you receive back appended contact e-mail data.

    The moment the data ships to you, be prepared to send a “welcome e-mail” to the newly appended e-mail addresses. This confirms your intentions to form an e-mail relationship with your customer. It also provides the consumer the mechanism to opt out.

    The key to quality data append is to tightly match your data. This can be accomplished by combining data from a number of data agencies. When a record matches across multiple data providers or sources, you have a reliable match.

Communicating with consumers via e-mail is a privilege. Not so long ago, in order to reach the inbox, you’d have to wait for your recipient to turn on, log in, and hit send/receive to interact with your e-mail message.

Today, consumers are attached to their e-mail literally at the hip. Mobile devices have connected users to their inboxes anatomically.

Done correctly, e-mail marketing is the single most efficient way to communicate with consumers in a very personal way.