Why buy the cow when you can get the whitepaper for free?

Durham_Bull_flip_sideRecently I’ve been helping a client who has been hitting spam trap addresses. Like most senders we see, they weren’t doing anything malicious but needed improvement in some of their practices. One of these practices involved their method for collecting data via whitepaper downloads, and it’s an error I’ve seen a lot of marketers repeating.

It’s not exactly a secret that one of the best list growth strategies is to offer useful resources – such as whitepapers, webinars, and other best practice guides – that require the recipient’s email address to receive the content. However, mishandling the sign-up process can lead to delivery headaches – most of which can be avoided by following some simple rules.

  1. Require an email open to download the resource. In the case of the client I mentioned earlier, users who entered their details were immediately taken to a download link for the whitepaper. There was no confirmation required, and no incentive for the recipient to open (or even look for) emails from the sender.Without this step, users can enter any information they please in that contact form. This can lead to hard bounces if the address doesn’t exist, complaints if the address exists but belongs to someone else, and possibly even spam trap hits. I’ve even heard anecdotally from anti-spam advocates who will intentionally use monitored or trap addresses for these types of forms (see #2 for more on that).You could include a direct link to the resource in the email or link to a specified landing page where the resource is located.
  2. Be transparent about your intentions. If you plan to send ongoing marketing messages to the recipient, say so. I’ve heard so many senders argue that anyone who submits the form knows to expect email from them, and that may be true in many cases. But I can assure you that appealing a block from a blacklist provider or ISP with the assertion that they “should have expected” your email isn’t going to get you very far.As with any opt-in form, you should set clear expectations of the type and frequency of mailings you intend to send. Whether it’s quarterly industry updates, daily news nuggets, or anything in between, the recipient should know exactly what to expect. Don’t limit yourself to bland legalese copy – let them know about all the great information they can get and how often they’ll see it in their inboxes.When these expectation are not set (most of the time in my experience), the likelihood of getting bogus information greatly increases. Even those users who provide accurate data will be more likely to report the message as spam later if proper expectations are not set at the time of sign-up.
  3. Provide value beyond the download. If you’ve gotten a reader to provide their (valid) information in exchange for a resource, they’ve already indicated they see value in your content. Your challenge now becomes giving them continued value. You can start this with those proper expectations mentioned above: promise the reader lots of engaging, relevant, and effective content in their regular email updates, then make sure you deliver it!Providing value to your subscribers helps your delivery by ensuring that recipients remain engaged with your content, which in turn helps improve delivery rates.

Much like contests or social media promotions, providing resources in exchange for email addresses can provide a boost to your email list growth efforts as long as you keep these principles in mind.

– BG


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