Best Practice Data Collection for Marketers

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1 Best Practice Data Collection for Marketers 15 ways to streamline your sign up process For more information please contact or call +44 (0)

2 Best Practice Data Collection for Marketers: 15 ways to streamline your sign up process Contents Introduction 3 Tip 1: Keep it simple Tip 2: Be clear and make it memorable Tip 3: Gain positive action Tip 4: Link to your privacy policy Tip 5: Be aware of legal requirements Tip 6: Do use double opt-in Tip 7: Include a welcome Tip 8: Encourage subscribers to mark you as safe Tip 9: Include a data protection notice Tip 10: Don t hide or complicate the unsubscribe process Tip 11: Do use a preference centre Tip 12: Keep permissions current Tip 13: Do make use of viral opportunities Tip 14: Use validation Tip 15: Do use drop down boxes Conclusion 13 References 13 2

3 Introduction Good quality prospect and customer data is the cornerstone of a successful campaign according to the DMA s Marketing Council 1 and we agree that data lies at the heart of your marketing strategy. Good quality data starts, however, with a good data collection process. Collecting data appropriately from customers will not only establish a positive relationship with them, but will also go a long way to improving your overall deliverability. According to our colleagues at deliverabilty.com 2, if you are struggling to maintain consistent deliverability you should start by focusing on improving the permission practices of your lists. Even though various factors can influence the deliverability and performance, the single important factor that has the most impact on your program is your list subscriber s permission. They also believe that your focus needs to be on the signup process and signup disclosure. Furthermore, our friends at ReturnPath 3 would say that 90% of the fate of your program has been determined at the point of data collection. For this reason we have written this paper to specifically focus on the sign up process and how you can best focus yours for optimum results. For the purpose of this paper we will mainly cover the collection of data via online sign up forms for the use in newsletter subscriptions and marketing communications. So effectively we are dealing with data that is of the opt-in nature. This means that these individuals have explicitly consented to receive s from you making your communication a solicited as opposed to SPAM or unsolicited commercial . Although there are certain exclusions such as soft opt-in in most cases using data that has been harvested or collected from websites, s and other sources in the public domain will contravene the Data Protection Act We have put these tips together based on advice from our expert strategic consultants (gained from years of practical experience working with customers across different industry sectors) for the purpose of helping marketers achieve more from their marketing. These include the essentials you will need to make the opt-in process memorable and effective. 3

4 Introduction continued... Please note that these guidelines are not a substitute for any relevant codes of conducts or laws. All these and most importantly the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 should be adhered to at all times. We have also used the DMA Marketing Council s Best Practice Guidelines and our tips are often practical implementations of these. The tips in this paper will take you through the ideal sign up process. When reading this paper put yourself in the shoes of the customer - think about how you feel when asked to provide personal data. To implement any of these ideas into your communication strategy please contact and we will help you transform your sign up process. Key: You may find the below useful to know when reading this paper in order to understand the context of who we are referring to: Data subject Data user Subscriber Recipient The individual who is handing over their personal data. The organisation making use of the data referred to in this paper as you or the marketer. The data subject once they have opted-in to your receive s from you. Refers to the subscriber in context with them receiving an . *Note: If there are any terms in this paper that apply to marketing that you may not be familiar with be sure to check in our Marketing Glossary available here or us on for a definition. 4

5 Tip 1: Keep it simple It s best to keep it simple when requesting personal data from people on your website. Only ask for information that is relevant for the purposes for which the data will be used. We recommend that you keep it to name, and subscription type and anything else that is vital to your contact strategy. If your sign up is too long or complicated this could cause the data subject to drop-out losing them at the first hurdle. If you do need extra demographic information, such as date of birth, job titles, and address information make it as simple as possible for the data subject to enter. Tip 2: Be clear and make it memorable Make the consent process memorable and make it obvious what they will receive. Be clear about what you are offering the subscriber. State the benefits, the content of the future s, the frequency and when the subscriber should expect the first . Relevance is the most crucial factor in successful programs and it is here that you set the relevance for the data subject and define how they will perceive you as a sender. Tip 3: Gain positive action We recommend that you use positive action to gain consent to send them an . For example don t use a prefilled tick box on your sign up form (Figure 1) or anything similar that has effectively completed their decision for them. Although this is not strictly illegal it is bad practice and can decrease the quality of your data and your deliverability. The reason for this is that the data subject might not be aware that they have opted-in. Again this is all down to setting the relevance, if they are not aware that they have opted-in they are less likely to read your and could mark you as SPAM. High levels of SPAM complaints will lead to deliverability issues. Simply use an empty tick box that the data subject needs to physically tick. Also make the opt-in wording clear to avoid any confusion and set the expectation correctly. Figure 1: Gain positive action 5

6 Tip 4: Link to your privacy policy Display a clear link to your privacy policy or a clear data protection message. It is best practice to place your privacy policy directly above your submit button and have it accessible via one click. You can view our privacy policy, for example, at Don t be tempted to bury any bad news within this policy. Be clear and as transparent as possible. Tip 5: Be aware of legal requirements It is a legal requirement that you display on your s and website certain company information that identifies you as an authentic trading establishment and data user. The information you will need to make available and visible comprises: Registered company name Registered company address (Registered trade or postal address) Country of company registration Registered company number (Any membership or professional/trade association) For consistency reasons it is best practice to include this on the sign up form. Legally the above information also needs to appear on every you send going forward (Figure 2A). A B Figure 2(A): Legally required company information. Figure 2(B): A notice stating why the recipient has received the accompanied by an unsubscribe option. *Note: Ongoing it is also a legal requirement that you include an unsubscribe link on all bulk sends. 6

7 Tip 6: Do use double opt-in Double opt-in (also known as confirmed opt-in or closed loop opt-in ) requires that the data subject needs to take further action to confirm their subscription. This is usually via a confirmation that requires the recipient to click on a link from which they can then confirm their subscription. Double opt-in or closed loop opt-in lowers SPAM complaint rates and is considered best practice for the following reasons: It is the only method of data collection where the data subject is provably giving permission. It is encouraged by ISPs. It is the criteria for many industry white lists. It improves the quality of your data as the data subject has had to make concerted effort to confirm their subscription. Avoids dead addresses (addresses that would bounce or could be SPAM-traps) from being added to your list. It is criteria for allowing removal from many blacklists. It allows a thorough, complete and auditable trail of the data subject s permission. Some marketers are sceptical of the double opt-in process because of the drop-out that may occur between sign up and confirmation, however fears are in fact unfounded as the focus is on long term list efficiency and ROI. According to the ISIPP s (Institute for Social Internet Public Policy) getting delivered.com 4 this may cause a drop-out but will improve the responsiveness of your list and in turn improve your overall financial return on the list. According to them reconfirming is actually culling those people who don t want your anyways and an important fact to consider with this in mind is people who don t want your cost you money every time you them. In our experience, confirmed opt-in programs with major drop-outs between the first stage and confirmation, can be significantly improved with simple changes to the transparency and speed of the process. 7

8 Tip 7: Include a welcome This often forms part of the double opt-in process (see tip 6), but it is best practice to send one whether using this process or not. This is a valuable opportunity to set the relevance and expectations and begin the nurturing process of your customer journey. It is good to add something of value within this and set the tone of your ongoing relationship. Within the welcome you should: Clearly confirm what they have signed up to. Confirm what data they have provided. Confirm how their data will be used and by whom (include the brands and branding they might expect to receive s from if third party). Perhaps provide them with an example of a previous communication so they know what to expect. Give them a chance to correct any incorrect data via an update your details form or preference centre (see tip 11 and 12 for more information on these). Give them a chance to cancel their registration if they have signed up in error. It is best practice for this to be a one click process with a message that says something like if you have signed up in error click here to cancel your registration. Provide them with a customer services telephone number that they can call if they have any concerns. Tip 8: Encourage subscribers to mark you as safe The welcome is also a good opportunity to include a notice requesting that subscribers add you to their safe senders list. This means that you have created an opportunity to solve any deliverability issues you might have with this recipient in the first stage of your relationship. It is also best practice to include this notice on your s going forward. 8

9 Tip 9: Include a data protection notice On the welcome and ongoing it is best practice to have a notice which clearly states why they have received an from you. It is best to have this at the top (Figure 3) of your . Alternatively, it can be effectively placed within the footer (Figure 2B) accompanied by the unsubscribe link. Figure 3: A notice stating why the recipient has received the . Tip 10: Don t hide or complicate the unsubscribe process Many marketers make the mistake of hiding their unsubscribe link. Make sure your unsubscribe link is clearly visible as research shows many recipients will mark you as SPAM if it is easier to find than the unsubscribe link. Also make your unsubscribe process simple, we recommend an unsubscribe that is one click away. If the recipient wants out, let them out! 9

10 Tip 11: Do use a preference centre We mentioned earlier that it is best to keep your web sign up form short to avoid abandonment. You may however wish to acquire further recipient data for the purposes of: Segmentation and targeting i.e. industry, subscription choices, interests etc. preferences i.e. HTML or plain text, frequency etc. We recommend that you try to acquire this information by means of a preference centre which you introduce to them within your welcome . This way the recipient can give you this non-mandatory information at their own discretion and leisure. This form also doubles up as a means of keeping your data current and correct. Include an Update your details here >> link, to this form on all your s going forward. For more information on Adestra Preference Centres please contact Figure 4: An Adestra Preference Centre 10

11 Tip 12: Keep permissions current Reach out to subsets of your data who are not opening or clicking every quarter or so. Ask them if they would like to receive something different, or provide feedback on your program. The recommended approach is a reactivation programme made up of a series of s urging the recipient to renew their subscription or interest in your s (Figure 5). This series could be set up to run automatically to data that fits certain criteria, for example if a recipient has not opened in x amount of months. Non responders to this campaign should be removed from your main list and saved for irregular mailings such as Christmas cards. To find out how we can help you set up an automated reactivation campaign contact Figure 5: Reactivation campaign Tip 13: Do make use of viral opportunities Virally acquired data is often of a higher quality than most data as it has been acquired by advocates of your brand. Therefore we highly recommend that you include a forward to a friend form on all your communications. To find out more about forward to a friend forms contact You still however need to ensure that these people officially opt-in before this data can be used. For this reason it is essential that you include a link to your subscription form within the forwarded to encourage the recipient to subscribe. Any viral, affiliate or social routes to your list should follow the same patterns as your main sign up process. Figure 6: Viral Opt-in 11

12 Tip 14: Use validation Make sure you have validation on your sign up form, especially on the field. Java script can be used to create validation that makes certain fields mandatory. You can also use similar validation to flag if a data subject enters an invalid address or, for example, letters into a telephone number field. It is also recommended to ask them to enter their address twice and place validation on these fields to ensure they match. Apart from the address field think carefully about what fields to make mandatory. Keep these to a minimum to avoid abandonment. Also make sure you have a message that pops up when the validation flags to let the data subject know what is missing (Figure 7). Figure 7: Validation flag Tip 15: Do use drop down boxes Use drop down boxes with generic options (Figure 8) for fields such as job title, industry or other demographic fields. This will not only make the job easier and quicker for the data subject but will also make for better data management and use. Collecting data in generic formats will make it more useful for targeting and segmentation. Having generic segments means you can personalise s by directing specific content to different segments. Figure 8: Use drop down boxes to make options generic 12

13 Conclusion By ensuring your data collection process is right, you will set the tone and expectations with your customers and gain their trust at the very start of your relationship. This not only benefits you from a customer engagement and loyalty perspective but will also help build a positive sender reputation which will in turn improve your deliverability. Most of these tips can be easily implemented and we would love to help you stream line your data protection process so don t hesitate to contact us on Once your data collection process is working correctly, the next step is to consider how best to plan your ongoing communications and put them into action! If you would like advice on this, be sure to read our paper Best Practice Design for Marketers, 30 ways to maximise recipient interaction with your . References: 1.Direct Marketing Association, Marketing Council. (2007) Best Practice Guidelines 2.Deliverabilty.com. (2010) How to Improve your Reputation Score [Online] 3. ReturnPath. (2008) In The Know blog [Online] 4.Institute for Social Internet Public Policy. (2009) The ROI for COI (Return on Investment for Confirmed Opt-in) [Online] 13

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