As published in Chief Marketer

The proliferation of digital marketing has created an avalanche of noise, forcing consumers to find new and innovative ways to filter them. To combat this, many digital marketing pundits have strongly encouraged the use of permission-based marketing where prospects and customers have specifically requested to start a relationship with a company.  In an era where trust is paramount and consumer attention elusive, this advice is solid. Unfortunately, this advice fails to answer a simple question that has been dogging marketers for years: how do you obtain and scale the acquisition of consumer permission in the first place?

In the past, co-registration was considered a shady strategy used by unscrupulous companies to aggressively grow their marketing lists and sales leads. Seen as a “shotgun approach” that emphasized quantity over quality, co-registration was something spammers and purveyors of payday loans engaged in. Registrations were often incentivized with paths that lead nowhere. Worse, to scale profits, intermediaries often sold the lead data they collected multiple times over, leaving the concept of consumer permission tarnished. Despite these past transgressions, the basic co-registration methodology, applied with scruples and care, is by far one of the most cost-efficient and effective ways for companies to obtain explicit consumer permission, building a trove of qualified marketing and sales leads.

The co-registration process is when a publisher (these days every company is a publisher) and an advertiser form a relationship by themselves or through an intermediary to exchange consumer contact information based on permission—essentially permission-based sales and marketing leads. Co-registration leads are gathered when a visitor to a website, app or other digital property registers for something specific (e.g., a free membership, magazine subscription, or white paper) and then is offered the opportunity to opt-in to receive information from one or more advertisers on a contextually relevant topic.

Nearly all Internet users have come across co-registration in one form or the other. If you’ve signed up for free email through Yahoo!, you mostly likely encountered a page asking if you’d like information on related Yahoo! products and services. This type of co-registration is an internal cross-pollination process. Essentially, co-registration is an “up-sell” to visitors who are interested in “opting-in” to receive more information from advertisers. With one simple step (a checkbox for example), a company gains permission to communicate with consumers about requested information. The reason this methodology is very effective in generating initial permission is that a potential prospect or customer is already in the mindset of giving permission and has taken the necessary actions to do so.

This basic methodology can yield quality lead generation benefits such as targeting genuinely interested prospects; efficiently building a solid leads database, driving brand awareness, and increasing targeted traffic. To maximize these benefits, a set of best practices must be strictly adhered to, otherwise marketers run the risk of severely diluting their efforts.

1. Never use pre-checked boxes or defaulted positive opt-in mechanisms.This is an absolute must. This is simply a bad practice and avoiding publishers and intermediaries that engage in this practice will save marketers from future problems a pre-check can cause. You only want prospects that have expressly given permission through their own action. While this will naturally decrease your ultimate numbers, the leads you do get are of much greater quality and are much more likely to buy from you.

2. Follow up quickly—and steadily—with your leads. Co-registration provides you with a steady stream of leads but it’s up to you to convert them into customers. Leads obtained through co-registration have likely never been to your website and may quickly forget that they have opted-in to hear from you. It’s the classic case of “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” Be sure to get in touch with them quickly, and remind them why they are hearing from you. Know which digital properties your co-registration leads are coming from so that you can reference them in your introductory email. Have a plan for future communications, as well. You’ve got to maintain momentum.
3. Make sure your follow-up messages are accurate and relevant to the initial co-registration ad. If you offer a weekly email, make sure subscribers don’t end up on your daily list. When contacting for the first time, they may not know who you are, or even remember that they have requested information. So develop a quality auto-responder campaign and follow through on what they were expecting to receive. If you offered a free report in your ad copy, make sure they receive it promptly. Lastly, The auto-responder should be CAN-SPAM compliant and offer subscribers an easy way to remove themselves.
4. Keep ads simple—but make them enticing. Typically with co-registration, you only get one or two sentences in your ad copy to describe and promote the products and services that your prospects are signing up for. Make sure your copy and graphics are contextually relevant or have demographic appeal to the digital property your ads are syndicated to. Remember, including incentives and sweepstakes of low value attracts leads of low value.

5. Validate all lead data at the source if possible. Dirty data and email addresses are a waste of time and resources and data cleansing at the source is well worth the investment. Besides, if you use email to follow up with your leads, than email validation is a must since sender reputation and delivery are greatly dependent on hard bounce rates. If cleansing and validation is not an option at the opt-in source, do it as quickly as possible before the data enters your CRM or ESP system.

With new ad filtering technologies available to consumers, companies will need to find innovative ways to acquire marketing permission. Co-registration, when applied ethically and responsibly, will yield marketers the permission-based starting point on which to build new relationships with prospects.