Ask The E-Mail Diva

Dear E-mail Diva,

Could you give me some advice on our list? In the course of the last 8 months we've built our own internal newsletter/customer list up to about 3,400, and just recently we chose to test generating 5,000 opt-ins with a co-reg company. What advice can you give me in aggressively building our list, but with similar results to that of our customer list? *(See below for results of last week's newsletter.)


Matthew Hunter, Co-Founder, Couture Candy

Dear Matthew,

While I can give you advice on building your list, you must understand that you will never get comparable results from new names as you get from your customer list. In direct marketing parlance, what you have are:

  1. Suspects: co-registrants who thought they might be interested in what you have to offer and expended one second's effort --a check box post-registration on another site--to find out.
  2. Prospects: subscribers to your newsletter who actively opted in but have not yet been motivated to buy.
  3. Customers: people with a demonstrated interest in your value proposition, who may or may not be loyal.



Someone wearing a piece of clothing from, particularly if they had a good experience with the purchase, will always be more responsive than a stranger.

So how do you find more strangers and turn them into buyers?

The first place to start is by looking at your e-mail program. What value are you providing to subscribers? I signed up for your e-mail and the message I got was very straightforward: "Buy, buy, buy." You have a wonderful site, chock-full of information of interest to fashionistas: tips, inside stories, celebrity gossip, sweepstakes, offers, new collections, etc. Why isn't this great stuff in your e-mail?

Your goal is to make CoutureCandy welcome in the inbox, and the hard sell will not be welcome for long.

You know your readers' interests--they tell you, in that great forum on your site. To address individual preferences, allow subscribers to select topics of interest on your sign-up form. Make it optional; not everyone will take the time, and get it after you have achieved your primary goal: the active opt-in. In the meantime, give people lots of choices within your e-mail to get them to your site.

Show specific fashions as well as links to general categories and site content. I may not be interested in any of the specific fashions shown, but I may be in need of a handbag or want to see the latest Gwen Stefani collection or hear what she has to say about it. Invest in quality copywriting. Don't tell us the boring details we can see--color, hem length, etc.--and hope that a lot of exclamation points the copy will seem interesting! It doesn't work! If you can't make it exciting, no amount of punctuation will. Link text should invite users to find out more; don't ask them to commit to Purchase Now! (Test it, you'll see.)

When you have an e-mail program worth touting, promote it. Go to the sites that site visitors discuss in your forum and advertise on those sites and in their newsletters. Tell potential subscribers exactly what you have to offer (by now, hopefully, not a heavy-handed sales pitch), show them an example and expound on the benefits. I signed up for your newsletter and found out afterward that it entitled me to 10 percent off my first purchase. Your STAF (send-to-a-friend) link is buried at the bottom of your e-mail. If you want people to use it (and they will if your e-mail content is interesting) make your STAF prominent.

Your $1,000 shopping spree sweepstakes will build your list faster, but, as you can see from your results, not necessarily lead to sales or even happy subscribers. By my calculation, 22 percent of the co-registrants who clicked on your e-mail, did so to get off your list.

You can go for quantity or quality. You can think of list-building as a numbers game and trick as many as possible into signing up, then hit them over the head with a hard sell. It will work to some extent--if the spam I get from foreigners looking to deposit thousands in my bank account is any indication. Or you can build your list by developing and promoting an e-mail program that is on par with your Web site and balances customer interests with your marketing message. Guess which one will build your brand and lead to more sales?


E-mail Diva

*Last week's newsletter results were as follows:



Spam Reports





5,000 Co-reg Company Opt-ins







2,000 CC Newsletter Subscribers







1,400 CC Customers







Send your questions to the E-mail Diva, Melinda Krueger, at

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