Email Marketing

Using Email for Customer Acquisition

Email is a proven marketing channel for many online retailers. It’s relatively easy to implement, and inexpensive. Return on investment tends to be high when marketing to your opt-in subscriber file or to visitors on your website. But can email be used to prospect and acquire new customers who haven’t opted-in or visited your site? The answer is “yes.”

Below is a quick guide on how to successfully use email as a prospecting tool.

Don’t Buy Email Lists

Email acquisition through list rental or third party newsletter advertising is very different than purchasing an actual email list, which should never occur. List buying may seem like an easy and inexpensive way to gain some new email addresses, but you simply cannot purchase another person’s permission. Moreover, the quality of the purchased addresses is often unknown and performance is typically poor.

Instead, email acquisition should be done with a reputable list rental agency. With list renting, your email campaign will be sent on your behalf and you never access the list. After your campaign is complete, a detailed report is provided on the performance of the campaign.

Third party newsletter advertising is another form of list rental. It can be very effective if the demographics of the newsletter base are similar to the your prospects.

In the example below, an advertisement for Cord Blood Registry is highlighted within the content of a newsletter from BabyCenter. The ad makes sense since the newsletter’s targeted audience is expectant mothers.

BabyCenter’s email newsletter features an advertisement that is targeted to expectant mothers.

BabyCenter’s email newsletter features an advertisement that is targeted to expectant mothers.

Target, Target, Target

When prospecting via email you want to select people with similar demographics or lifestyle interests to what currently makes up your best customers. The better you are able to identify the characteristics that make your product or service more relevant to the end receiver, the better your results will be. Testing out different audiences may also be a good way to gauge whether you can successfully break into new types of customer markets.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

In order to get people interested, you need to give them a reason to try your product or service, whether it is by making an incredible offer or by showcasing something of value to prospective new customers. When prospecting via email there is a very limited opportunity to communicate who you are and why the recipient should ultimately try you. Carefully construct your message, design and subject line.

Repeat to Establish Your Brand

Acquisition takes a bit of branding. Many times people need to see your message a few times before they decide to take action. Branding your company or website may take time before the recipient finally decides to click and consider your offer.

Follow Up

The value of prospecting doesn’t come with the opens or clicks. It comes with establishing a long-term relationship with a new customer. Your follow-up marketing to new customers — after an acquisition campaign — can make or break your success. The lifetime value of any new customer is where the investment will pay off.


Email acquisition campaigns simply do not perform as well as marketing to your own opted in file. As with any other acquisition method, using email to prospect should be viewed as an investment into the growth of your business. Immediate sales may not exceed the cost of the campaign, but the lifetime value of new customers should prove to be profitable in the long run.

Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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