Friday, February 23, 2007

The Downside of Co-Reg

On Wednesday I explained how you can use co-registration (co-reg) to quickly bring in leads and grow your company's e-mail list. Briefly, you place your offer (with a brief description of the product or service you provide) on the registration page of a website that receives high Internet traffic. Visitors to that website are given the opportunity to sign up for your offer at the same time as they sign up for your co-reg partner's offer.

However, there is a downside to the co-reg lead-accumulation strategy. If not done correctly, it can become a spam nightmare and a waste of your valuable marketing budget.

Have no fear. I've identified five main problems you could run into, and have included ways to avoid them ...

1. Too Many Leads

A co-reg that brings in thousands of leads per day is a sign of trouble. Leads that come in big bunches are usually unqualified and unproductive. Getting 5,000 new leads for your company in one day sounds too good to be true ... and it usually is. The co-reg site could be illegally harvesting the IP addresses of every visitor, for example, or sending files of old names.

A good legitimate co-reg with normal traffic should give you hundreds - not thousands - of leads per day. Check for dead names and multiples - then "de-dupe" the rest. ("De-duping" is the process of eliminating any names that are already on your list.)

Before rolling out with a big purchase of leads from a co-reg partner, test small batches to make sure they work for you. Protect yourself by including a cap in your initial contract. You might, for example, draft the contract to say, "Remove this offer after 2,000 leads are acquired" or "Client agrees to spend no more than $3,000 on leads."

2. Incentive-Based Affiliate Programs

Avoid co-reg sites connected with incentive-based affiliate programs. If an affiliate can earn gifts or commissions for bringing in a large number of leads, they might be inclined to set up a bunch of fake e-mail accounts and sign them up on hundreds of lists. This translates into your paying for a bunch of bogus e-mail addresses. Affiliate programs where they earn free telephone minutes for every offer accepted and every friend they sign up are the worst. The leads are worthless. Those people don't want your offer.

Trust me, I know! We once spent $5,000 on an incentive-based test sample, and the leads produced next to nothing. So don't waste your money on these incentive sites. You want quality, like-minded sites and their visitors.

3. Pre-Checked Boxes

Some co-reg services use pre-checked sign-up boxes on their confirmation pages. Many find this acceptable, but I do not. Pre-checked boxes are deceptive. The site visitors are clearly not taking action to opt in to your e-mail list. The permission to receive your offer is passive, and they will end up getting e-mail they probably won't remember signing up for ... thus creating the presumption of spam. You don't want this problem.

You'll get fewer leads with unchecked boxes ... but the leads you get will be better quality. The spam complaints and potential black listing of your ISP are not a fair tradeoff for the additional leads you'll collect.

4. Vague Descriptions

Make sure the description that accompanies your offer on the co-reg site is very specific. You are paying for each referral, and you don't want to generate leads that are simply not interested in what you're selling. By providing a good description, the overall quality of the leads will be higher, even if the number of referrals is lower.

It's best to hire a professional copywriter to write the description. But whether you hire someone to do it or do it yourself, make sure you have several people who represent your target market read it. If they don't understand your offer, fix it so they do.

5. The "Select All" Feature

Be wary of co-reg services that use a "select all" feature that allows visitors to subscribe to all the offers in one shot. This is often seen when a co-reg host offers dozens or hundreds of lists in a solicitation. Chances are that someone who has opted to receive hundreds of e-mail offers is not going to have time to read any of them.

Stay away from these "opportunities." Remember, even if visitors to the site take action and click on that "select all" box, such multiple registrations will create the presumption of spam when they forget they signed up for them. And the presumption of spam can be just as dangerous to you as spam itself.

There it is... as one part of your campaign, co-reg services can be an excellent means of growing your e-mail list.