5 acquisition tips to consider for your email marketing strategy

As I'm participating in Email Insider Summit this week, acquisition is a topic on my mind. There is no shortage of conversations around implementing engagement strategies to encourage consumers to interact, whether it's to make a purchase, book a service appointment or share their latest travel or restaurant experience. Conversations around engagement strategies are often the ones my clients want to have as well. Once engaged, consumers' emotional connections to brands strengthen and email marketers remain focused on engagement strategies to sustain their attention and interest. Perhaps more often overlooked are conversations centered on acquisition strategies. Acquisition is just as important to focus on as engagement strategies. Implementing the right email acquisition strategies upfront will enable you to be more successful in building an engaged and loyal subscriber base, ensuring strong return on their investments.

But customer acquisition is not that simple. You need to be strategic with your acquisition strategy as acquiring new customers is a costly endeavor. In fact, in the last five years, the cost of acquiring new customers has increased by over 50%. To increase your customer base, remember it's quality over quantity — the concept that resonated strongly with everyone who attended the roundtable I hosted at the Summit on this very topic. Acquiring the email addresses of thousands of customers who have no interest in your brand is far less valuable than acquiring even a handful of highly qualified customers who will become your most loyal customers and advocates. And if your leadership team is asking for a bigger list size, it's your job as an email marketer to educate them about the value of acquiring the "right" subscribers vs. "all possible" subscribers.

Consider these five tips when planning your email acquisition strategy:

Define what success looks like

To begin, make sure you know and understand the expectations of senior leadership and maintain frequent communications so everyone is in the know. Define your goals and be realistic and specific. Understand the type of data you want to collect along with the sources that are going to be of value to your brand's goals. Not every acquisition source and email address are created equally, and trying to do too much all at once is likely not going to produce the best results. Start by optimizing the places where your prospective email subscribers are most likely to come in contact with you: your website and your stores. Is your email opt-in form easy to find, or is it hiding in the very bottom of your site's footer? Are your store associates trained to ask for email addresses at time of sale and to explain the value customers would gain from subscribing? And make sure to define a measurement strategy to understand which sources are worth investing in. At the end of the day, it's all about return on investment — which sources are going to yield subscribers with the highest level of engagement and lifetime value?

Evaluate your marketing infrastructure

Once goals are defined, take time to evaluate your technology, processes and people to ensure you have the proper marketing infrastructure in place to be successful with email acquisition. Do you have away to know with certainty where every new email address is coming from? Are all your site pages and landing pages tagged? Are your databases and systems integrated? For example, when as tore associate captures an email address at the point-of-sale, do you have a way to quickly acknowledge and send a welcome email? Can you personalize that email based on the source of acquisition? Do you have the proper data assets on hand to augment what you know about the subscriber if all you've captured is email address and zip code? By evaluating those key areas, you'll be able to determine if you're equipped to manage email acquisition strategies in-house or if you should consider partnering with an expert.

Stay customer-focused

Identifying the acquisition channels or methods that are going to work best for you can be tricky. Oftentimes companies spread themselves thin by leveraging too many channels and tactics to try and acquire customers. This is costly and likely to results in many small trickles of names, with only a few that are truly valuable. Do your research to understand your consumers' channel preferences. Then you can effectively work towards your acquisition goals by having relevant and meaningful "conversations" in these preferred channels. Better understanding your customers will further help inform your acquisition tactics by allowing you to apply lookalike models when acquiring via display, social and other channels. Determine what works best for each individual consumer and make sure to always reinforce the value they'll receive from providing their email address.

Make testing an essential part of your acquisition strategy

Once you've come up with ideas for your acquisition strategies, be sure to validate your thinking and optimize performance by A/B testing. Testing is something each and every marketer must do — it is not optional. How else will you know hat works best? Here is an example. One retailer has quite aggressive pop-ups on their website for purposes of collecting email addresses from site visitors. You might think that pop-ups are distracting and you wouldn't want to provide this experience on your site, not to mention potential penalties on your SEO. You may be right. In the case of this retailer, every other less intrusive tactic they tested on their site never even came close to the rate of acquisition they've observed with the pop-up. So, they are willing to compromise in other areas in favor of continuing with the pop-up. Is the tactic right for you and your brand? You will not know until you test.

Consider onboarding as part of the acquisition strategy

You may have the most thoughtful and well-tested acquisition plan in place, but if your brand's onboarding experience for new subscribers falls flat, you will put all of your efforts at risk. Like in any relationship, first impressions can determine whether that first encounter leads to a second date or not. It is therefore imperative that the welcome program is timely and personalized to address each individual subscriber's unique needs and motivations. An email coming from someone who just made a high-ticket item purchase in your store deserves a quick acknowledgement and perhaps a recommendation for a care plan for the purchased item. On the other hand, an email coming from an online sweepstakes may benefit most from an educational series on the value of everything your brand has to offer. Besides data and integrated technology, you will need a flexible email architecture framework in place to allow personalized content to populate dynamically based on acquisition source, instead of having to design and maintain many individual email templates.

While email acquisition can be tricky, putting the above concepts into practice will help get your strategy on track and provide long-term value to your customers and your brand.