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4 Less Direct Email Marketing Acquisition Tactics


Third party email providers - “advocates” and “affiliates” - require additional diligence when it comes to the acquisition side of your email marketing efforts. This is mainly due to the variety of tactics they may use, from simple forward-to-a-friend mechanisms, to digital advertisements, to full-scale promotional email campaigns. Third party arrangements are especially troublesome due to the lack of brand control and lack of data about where email addresses are really coming from. Nowadays, too few marketers and SMBs actively monitor their affiliates’ email programs, putting their company’s bottom line and digital marketing strategy at risk.

We decided to compile a list of four common examples of third-party tactics used for email acquisition. These tactics are effective when used at the right time, for the right audience, but it’s important to understand how they work in getting you more email subscribers. Thing is, the third-party will not be held responsible for any CAN-SPAM or legal violations - you will.


Co-registration is an tactic in which companies arrange to collect registration information from users (from sign-up forms, shopping checkout processes, etc.) when they “check” if they would also like to be added to a specific third party email list. This is most likely used as a reciprocal arrangement between partners, or a paid relationship on a per name basis.

This powerful form of performance-based marketing allows users to commit themselves to receiving email communications from you, which should trigger a lead nurturing program on your behalf. Recent studies report that these leads perform as well as, if not better than, leads from a company’s own website. It’s clear as to why co-registration is a highly competitive and attractive acquisition option.

Email List Rental

Many digital marketing professionals feel that there are more effective ways to collect email addresses rather than renting third-party lists. This is mostly because high-quality lists are pricey and successful acquisition requires getting customers to commit from an unsolicited email. Forrester Research believes that search marketing and digital ads are more effective acquisition tools.

List rental can be used successfully for email acquisition if you get the right list from the right owner. You should understand that lists-for-rent have become distrusted by marketing directors, due to poor permission practices (single-opt in, etc.) and pitiful list performance. Likewise, it’s common to hear marketers compliment this tactic when they obtain postal addresses too. Both email and direct mail can make for quality, multichannel campaigns, which typically result in a higher ROI.

Forward-to-a-Friend (FTAF) 

This popular form of viral marketing is often integrated with social media marketing, enabling existing subscribers to share your email with colleagues. You may also see “Share” buttons on blogs, online publications, and other sites that allow you to pass it along to friends. If done properly, this tactic can be an extremely effective source of new email addresses, especially newsletter subscribers.

CAN-SPAM does not directly address FTAF, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had a say on the matter:

  • If you make FTAF functionally available without a call-to-action urging someone to FTAF, then the forwarded message is not subject to CAN-SPAM laws. The message is considered to be “routine conveyance” vs. initiation of commercial email.
  • If you offer payment or incentive for forwarding the message, then you are held legally responsible and should comply to CAN-SPAM rules.

Note that FTAF is different than Tell-a-Friend (TAF). FTAF simply forwards a one-time message to a recipient. TAF sends a one-time email invitation to subscribe to your email list.

Email Append

This tactic is not highly recommended or considered best practices by many marketers. It’s actually a relatively controversial practice where a company takes records of customers who they know the complete physical address and match those records with third-party email lists. B2C marketers are said to have more success than B2B marketers using this tactic, but the average email append rate is very low.

CAN-SPAM does not make email append illegal, but testing shows that appended email addresses tend to be poor performers than if emails were acquired organically. A common experience among marketers is the low response rates, making it difficult to justify the time and money used in preparing such efforts.

If you do test email append, you should be aware of the differences between “opt-in” append and “opt-out” append:

  • Opt-out append is when an individual is added to an email list, sent an email invitation, and required to click a link within that email (or take a similar action) in order to opt out.
  • Opt-in append is when an email invitation is sent to customers who are then required to click a link within the email in order to opt in. There are several different opt-in methods, and a double opt-in is the golden standard in email permissions.


Don’t attempt to make all of this happen by hand. We suggest building a business case or hiring Noggin to review targeting, testing, and technical resources. Focus your efforts on improving the customer experience both during the acquisition process and immediately after successful acquisition. Contact us and let’s start improving your email marketing efforts today!

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