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A few weeks ago the account managers ended up spending a tea break comparing which celebrities we’ve met, and which ones we’d like to. Our victims idols ranged from David Attenborough to Dave Grohl, but regardless of who it was, we all seemed to have an embarrassing story to go with our celebrity encounter. I realise there are a few obvious differences between asking a celebrity for their autograph and getting email sign-ups, but I felt that the lessons learnt by red-faced account managers could be applied to both, so here are my top tips for getting sign-ups and growing your database organically!

1. First impressions
When meeting a celebrity pitching yourself somewhere between the extremes of screaming “I love you” and just staring awkwardly can leave them with a better first impression and, in our experience, more likely to hand over their autograph (really, we’ve tried them all). The same goes for email – creating a good first impression and letting people know what they can expect to get from you in return for their email address means customers are much more likely to hand over their details. Which ever way you’re asking people to sign-up (whether it’s at an event, online or by text) make sure it represents you, and that any welcome emails give off the right ‘scent’ for your brand.

2. Word of mouth
Personal introductions often make for an easier conversation starter (this is how I imagine it will happen when I finally get to meet Paul Hollywood at some kind of cake-based event) and again, the same goes for emails. Using social media to get people talking and recommending that people sign up to your emails, or adding a Forward to a Friend form can work really well.

3. Who are you?
I think it’s fair to say that the opportunity to meet someone like Tom Meighan (Kasabian) would be fairly wasted on me, while for another of our account managers it was “love at first sight”. If you’re trying to grow your database, place your efforts on targeting those who have already shown an interest in your products or services. For example, add a sign-up page to your website so that anyone browsing can easily sign-up. You could also consider asking people for their details when they download apps or documents, and then follow this up with a nicely targeted email afterwards. This means you are developing their customer journey and engaging prospects right from the start.

4. Benefits
This might be most important of all. After all, why should someone just hand over their details? Many celebrities confess to having a love-hate relationship when it comes to the media and their fans – they can be incredibly intrusive, but they still do exclusive interviews and signings because at the end of the day, it’s their fans that have made them their fortunes. Customers need to see the benefits of handing over their personal details, whether that will be discounts, daily tips or being kept up to date with regular newsletters. Make these clear and people will be much more willing to keep in touch.

5. Timing
I recently went to a talk given by a well-known TV presenter, and got to meet them afterwards. They were actually around to speak to people before the show, in the interval and again afterwards. But often actors, comedians and presenters are all so busy before and during shows that this isn’t the case, and instead fans end up waiting for hours outside the backstage door in the hope that someone will appear. So, my final point to consider when getting sign-ups: when is the best time for a customer or client to hand over their email address? Will they be able to do it when they’ve just made a purchase in store, at a networking event, or would they rather sign-up by SMS while on the move? The process also needs to be quick and simple – you can always add an “˜update your details’ form or preference centre if you want to ask for more details later.

And the bonus point?
Once you’ve collected new email addresses you can then start to further target and personalise emails, for example by asking for more information so that you can email on their birthday or with news specifically relating to their interests. Sending a welcome email and then taking customers through a ‘life-cycle’ series of email campaigns after this will not only keep customers opening and clicking on your emails, but also makes it more likely they will then promote your brand to others”¦and so the cycle continues!