Last year Vodafone Netherlands started with a new email marketing prospecting program. Growing their customer base is a real challenge, seeing the mobile phone market is shrinking.

Immediately after launching the email program, they started with Marketing Performance Improvement.

Vodafone is also using some innovative list-growth techniques, which are certainly paying off.

The email marketing plan and roadmap

I talked with Christiaan Holman, Senior Manager Consumer Online Sales & CRM of Vodafone: ‘When we first started the prospect program, we plotted a roadmap to activate the 50000 email addresses which were still untouched (no marketing messages were sent to that group before). That meant taking inventory of the database, systems and content. The first email was a re-activation email to the contacts we already had. The lead generation part was new for us.’

Marketers: put your money where your mouth is

Christiaan continues ‘Marketers should think more in terms of putting their money where their mouth is. You can talk a lot about online marketing, but do it. Most marketers know what they should be doing. But do it. It doesn’t have to be all at the same time, start with a few things and build off of that solid foundation.’

Building blocks: Heartbeat, action emails and behavioural email

The lead generation program consists of three layers:
• The heartbeat: a monthly emailing
• Calendar driven action emails, for instance around special days like Christmas or the world championships.
• Behavioural email: Email triggered based on the behaviour of individual recipients.

‘Behavioural e-mail marketing is a form of event driven email. Where customers automatically receive emails based on their individual behaviour. In the case of Vodafone it could be possible to filter, after they have been to the Vodafone site with their Iphone, you wouldn’t send them a promotion for a BlackBerry, but the next Iphone. Or you could send them an offer for an Ipad.

Innovation in lead generation and list growth

‘One of our goals was database growth. Each program needs a critical mass to test. This form of lead generation was totally new for Vodafone, it was an innovation within our organisation to work on generating opt-ins for the prospect email program, we started from zero.

Stimulating email opt-ins with the right incentives

Vodafone tested several incentives to stimulate opt-ins. Winning a Netbook, concert tickets or an iPhone for instance. The Netbook preformed best, surpisingly also in the eventual clicks and conversions from the campaigns.

That is a direct tip: register and keep track of the subscription sources. That way you can see what the quality of different sources are and steer towards the better ones.

When working with 3rd party or affiliates, you want to vary the incentives as well. You might be fishing in the same pond, but would like it to appeal to different segments of that audience. .’

Free lead generation

Christiaan: ‘You don’t have to pay for all lead generation, I would advise any marketer to look at the places you are already in contact with your prospects. Download this free email list growth template to help you with that. Vodafone has great reach within our target audience via for instance The Voice. Via the app users could register, which led to 80.000 new subscribers. Against a minimal additional investment.

Discovering additional touch points

Where do you run into leads? For us it is in the Vodafone shop in the shopping centre. Not everybody will directly buy a new product, but they could subscribe to the newsletter. Also there are a lot of inbound opportunities, people call customer service with questions about a (new) phone. They already expressed interest in Vodafone, so it would be a shame not to stay in touch and get that double opt-in. This is the next step in our email program: Offering registration from inside the store.

Progressive profiling within the email program

‘I love the word relevance. Gathering subscribers is important, but you also want to know more about those recipients. Mainly because that allows you to present better offers and send more targeted emails, progressive profiling allows us to build up your database over time. ’

Scored progressive profiling
‘We have made a list of interesting data point and prioritized them from 1 through 5. The most important data gets the score 1 and least important gets a 5. The expiration date on the contract, for us, is very important in doing a personal offer at the right time. So that gets the highest score. If data is missing a dynamic content block is filled. That is done completely based on business rules. The moment this progressive profiling was implemented, it could be added to every email we send.‘

A better user experience decreases unsubscribes

‘One of the important optimizations was the profile page. When we started this was a single page where the subscriber could change all preferences at once. Handy, but not user friendly.

‘To improve the user experience, the profiles are divided into categories now: “My data”, “My phone” “My preferences”. The opt-out is placed on a different page, so we could create a separate flow for that. If people chose to opt-out, they will see the benefits of the email and options to change their preferences. If they still want to opt-out we present an exit-survey.


Looking back just one year, there were some great results from the new prospect email marketing program. Looking at pre- and postpaid subscriptions, the sales results increased with more than 700%. Vodafone was also able to double their Prospect Database compared to the year before.