Any offline communication with the customer, such as the paperwork attendant on delivery of an item, order form, invoice or correspondence, should be seen as an opportunity to point the respondent in the way of your website. One method of encouraging customers who might otherwise be reluctant to visit your website might be pointing out the percentage reduction in invoice costs if they pay on line.
Whilst a major benefit of direct email marketing is the lack of printing, packaging and posting costs, direct mail has its place, and that is for collection of email addresses. The intent is to get the recipients to log on to the site. Failing that they should be encouraged to include their email address if responding by phone or the Freepost envelope.
Every face-to-face meeting between an employee or agent of your company and a third party should be seen as an opportunity. A sales representative, sales-counter staff, demonstrator, trade show representative or those at a conference should be trained to encourage potential subscribers to your lists. Incentives such as offers, competitions or prize draws, especially where they might not be expected, can give a good response. A sales pitch that is not persuasive might be turned around if the customer is still allowed entry to a competition if they give their email address.
Telephone contact can be seen as face-to-face in this context as well and not only in the telemarketing sense. A mention of the competition at a suitable time by call-centre staff could be helpful.
There is a word of warning over the email addresses supplied off line. Two difficulties occur, one practical, the other legal. Taking the latter first, collating and keeping vast paper records destroys some of the benefits of direct email marketing and in any case might not be the most dependable of opt-ins. Giving incentives to staff to collect addresses with a tick in that particular box might well lead to disputes at a later date. Give consideration to an automatic check, such as an email reminding that person that they signed up.
The other difficulty is that of hand-written email addresses. Three simple steps can lower the percentage of illegible addresses: allow an ample space for the address, ask for it to be in caps and lastly, only reward the person for those addresses which are valid.