If you see your email subscribers only as buyers, then you're thinking too narrowly. Your subscribers can also be your future workers, as many retailers have clearly discovered.
Here are some of the roles in which major online retailers have tried to cast their subscribers:
Employee/Recruiter. When you hire an employee, you want someone who's familiar with your products and brand. An email subscriber is likely to score high on both of those points. In a March 16 email, Staples included a banner at the bottom that asked subscribers if they knew someone who would like to be "one of the great minds behind the Easy Button."
While Staples is looking for store employees, TigerDirect is using its newsletter to find corporate employees. TigerDirect first included a "Now Hiring" banner at the bottom of its emails starting with a Jan. 24 entry. Then in its Feb. 18 email, it started listing specific positions it was looking to fill: "Advanced Flash/Web Designer...Banner Producer...Project Manager - IT." Considering that TigerDirect's customers are tech-savvy and comfortable tinkering with the guts of their computers, its subscribers are likely to be fertile ground for recruiting for IT positions. That said, in its March 30 email, TigerDirect was still highlighting those same three positions.
Content Provider. TigerDirect has also tried to recruit bloggers for its TigerDirect News blog, which it launched last July. An Oct. 24 email included a banner that linked to more details about the opportunity. TigerDirect made it clear that they "aren't hiring" bloggers, but are looking for people "who want to share their knowledge with others." Once bloggers are given the green light, they are given an assignment, which is then reviewed before being posted. It's a model similar to the one used by Zappos, which has a user-generated newsletter, the Daily Shoe Digest.
AbeBooks is also on the lookout for free writers. As part of its sign-up process for its specialty newsletters on science fiction, fantasy, medical and cooking books, AbeBooks asks if you would be interested in submitting book reviews.
Model. Newsletter subscribers may also be a source of undiscovered (e.g., cheap) modeling talent. Abercrombie & Fitch most recently put out a call for models in an Aug. 24 email with the subject line "Casting Call for the next Abercrombie & Fitch Photo Shoot." A&F wisely followed up with a Nov. 9 email, with the subject line "Go behind the scenes with Abercrombie's sexy New Faces," that included a link to a video that features scenes from the photo shoot and interviews with the models, which all talk about how much fun the shoot is. The video ends with another call for models.
Gap has also gotten into the act. In an Oct. 10
email, Gap appealed to its older subscribers, looking for cute babies for its ads.
Volunteer. For retailers like REI that have activism as one of their key traits, subscribers can also be a source of volunteers. Most recently in a March 16 email, REI touted its tradition of working with volunteers and solicited recruits, saying: "In 2006, thousands of volunteers joined REI to build trails, clean up public lands, restore waterways and give back to the places we love. Together, we're making a difference."
Email newsletter subscribers tend to be your best customers, but those same subscribers could also be your best workers. Don't sell your subscribers -- and yourself -- short by treating them simply as shoppers.