How to evaluate your subscription channels

Growing your database is important for your online marketing strategy, no need to point that out. If you are not harvesting new email addresses, your email database will shrink gradually because there are always a number of unsubscribes per mailing. That’s why investing in maintaining — and preferably growing — your email database, is critical for every email marketing strategy.

However, there are different methods to grow your database. Buying an email list will significantly boost your email database volume, but will only slightly impact your overall return. On the other hand, you could build a qualitative database collecting addresses through a well-constructed webform on your website. But if your registration form isn’t used all that frequently, you won’t get enough new subscribers to fill up the gap from the unsubscriptions.

The ideal strategy is a combination of different methods that work best for your brand. Some expensive methods will have a high impact. Others will be practically free, but have only limited impact on your database. The best way to choose the right channels for your brand is to rate them.

In general, there are 3 criteria to analyze your registration channel.

    • Does it generate high or low quality addresses?
    • Does it generate a high volume or low volume of email addresses?
    • Does it require a high or a low investment?


Want to do some rating yourself? Here’s an example for each possible combination…

igh quality – High volume – High Cost = Offline direct marketing
Offline direct marketing means you collect email addresses from a postal database. You can segment according to your own preferences and incentivize them when they subscribe. The cost per subscriber will be high due to production and incentive costs.

High quality – High volume – Low Cost = Viral campaigns
Viral campaigns have a low cost per subscriber, due to huge amount of extra subscribers. This is a great way to collect addresses and build your brand. The tricky part is that you can’t actually build a viral campaign, a campaign becomes viral by its own strength.

High quality – Low volume – High Cost = Guerrilla techniques
Guerrilla techniques are well-targeted and short term campaigns to get new subscribers. They use some aspects of viral marketing but have a shorter lifespan. Smart guerrilla
campaigns can turn viral.

High quality – Low volume – Low Cost = Webform registrations
The classic data mining tool. Generates a good quality of email addresses at a low cost, but grows slowly. You can optimize this channel by using the right form. Just re-read about our post on pop-up registration boxes on that subject.

Low quality – High volume – High Cost = Co-registration
In general, co-registration is asking subscribers if they want to be contacted by third parties. This generates a high volume but often is of lower quality.

Low quality – High volume – Low Cost = General data buying
Probably the fastest way to grow your database is to buy generic addresses like info@ and sales@. They have a very low quality and will generate little return. Also keep in mind that more and more legislations and best practices are switching to an opt-in method.

Low quality – Low volume – High Cost = CPC advertising
A cost per click per person who lands on your registration form. There isn’t a lot of segmentation so you don’t really know what you’ll get.

Low quality – Low volume – Low Cost = Bannering campaign
Placing a media banner to get people to your site. There is no specific segmentation for your subscribers. This method is more suitable for branding campaigns.

Conclusion: Analyze your registration channels and define which type they are. This way you can chose the channels that work best for your brand.

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