How to Optimize Different Types of Email, Part 2: Acquisition Email

Avatar Act-On
Email Marketing

acquisition-email-marketingThis is the second of a three-part series. 

Last week I discussed Retention email. This week I will cover the issues, challenges and rewards of Acquisition email.

Acquisition email:

Acquisition email’s primarily goal is to convert potential leads into sales- and retention-based customers.

Easy to say, but in practice hard to do, as the barriers for success are more complex than the retention-based email marketing activities we discussed last week.

One of the key factors driving acquisition success is data (email addresses in this case) and the way it’s collected and permissioned.

There are many organizations out there that supply (rent or purchase) email addresses that have a level of permission (opted in) that will allow you to send them communications and ultimately utilize this data to grow your house file or generate sales.

So how does it work? 

In this scenario, a marketer acquires a list of addresses through a third party and emails to the list, hoping that some percentage of it will be interested in what the marketer is selling.

Here’s how addresses get on that list: Suppose you bought a product or signed up for a webinar, and didn’t read the fine print…in which the vendor stated that unless you opted out of something, your email address would be shared with third parties.

Your email address then went into a list comprised of other addresses gathered the same way. The third parties rent or sell that same list to lots of organizations that will use it to conduct acquisition email campaigns.

As a worst-case scenario, let’s say my company buys a list and sends an email to an individual, let’s call him “Tom.” I know nothing about Tom (other than he once attended a webinar or bought a product, which in all probability he doesn’t remember) so I send him an email with a product or service that has NO relevance to him whatsoever.

Tom’s a busy guy, so my irrelevant email irritates him and he hits the “Mark This as Spam” button. So do a lot of the other people on that list. This results in high complaints, which in turn result in negative deliverability and reputation. Not good.

As you can see from the example, the risks to acquisition email campaigns are high. Especially as you are potentially relying on third parties to supply you with the data to initiate the outreach.

However with a little change in plans and program management, you can use the acquisition channel to your benefit. Here are tips for success:

Best Practices in Acquisition Email

  • If your goal is to convert data for list-building purposes then adopt some of the tenets of retention-based marketing, such as welcome programs, onboarding etc.
  • Deal only with reputable data organizations. NEVER acquire data from the web or from sources you don’t trust. If the cost of the list and the volume sound too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Mail only to people who have opted in and have had proven engagement with the data provider.
  • Mail based on some known factor, such as interest in a specific product or other relevant factor.
  • Watch your deliverability like a hawk; high bounce rates are an indication that a list is old and non-engaged.
  • Delete non-responders. Names that don’t respond are not interested in what you have to say, period.
  • By not removing them your deliverability will suffer, guaranteed.
  • Make it easy for the lead to unsubscribe. It’s better for your reputation to have ten people unsubscribe than to have one mark a message as spam.
  • Lastly, shift your focus from a quick sale (one and done) to nurturing the lead. This will provide longevity in the contact and ultimately better ROI.
  • Be patient, list building (organic or by acquisition efforts) is a marathon and not a sprint.

Acquisition email is hard to do, and ensure success. There are many pitfalls and barriers in place to trip marketers up and limit campaign progress. In the context of the entire email eco system, Acquisition email falls on the low end of the ladder.

Take small steps as you enter the acquisition channel… take it slow. Know your audience, your vendors, your data, and most of – all your deliverability.

Remember, you are competing with retention-based email for access to the inbox real estate, and that fight is becoming harder to win.


Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts.