Repeat customers provide a far better ROI than new ones. Studies prove it. That’s a key reason to strengthen your business by building long-term relationships with customers.

But that can be easier said than done if you merely sit around and wait for those customers to find your Amazon listing again, recognize your company name when they’re looking for another product you sell, or remember that you exist at all. It’s far better to be able to contact them yourself—but how?

Amazon does not want you to contact buyers

Amazon is very protective of customers and wants to guard them from spam (not to mention make sure they’re not diverted to other e-commerce platforms). That’s why the Amazon Terms of Service (ToS) specifically prohibit sellers from accessing customer email addresses. Sellers can run automated email campaigns through Amazon, of course, but the addresses remain opaque.

How do you get past the veil? There are both white-hat and grey-hat techniques. Both are worthwhile, because direct marketing through email has lower costs and a higher return that most other digital marketing channels. Research also shows that it’s much easier to convince former customers to buy than to entice a new one. That can translate to faster product launches and stronger sales of related products. Finally, a good email list can help build traffic to your own e-commerce site and help you avoid being overly dependent on a single, unpredictable platform. (You know who we mean.)

So market more effectively and make your business more sustainable by constantly growing your customer email list. Here’s how to do it without risking an account suspension:

1: Get seed names

The first, safest way to build a list with your white hat firmly in place is to identify customers before they get to Amazon. Then they’re not Amazon’s customers buying your product, they’re your customers using Amazon to buy it. Once you have their email addresses, you can drive customers to your Amazon listing, which we suspect helps boost your overall search result ranking.

This method is easiest, of course, if you sell on another platform or in a store front, as well as on Amazon. But it’s not impossible otherwise. Get visitors to opt-in to an email list on your website. (You do have a basic website, right?) This is readily accomplished with web forms and pop-ups created by tools often provided by web hosts, including WordPress.

You can also buy email lists to get started. Finally, use social media or other advertising to convince other people to give you their email addresses. Everyone hates spam, though, so you’ll probably have to offer something in return. That brings us to…

2: Offer an incentive

Through advertising, social media, or any other way you can reach your audience, incentive people to give you their addresses, and maybe even those of their friends. You can offer people a discount code, a freebie, or valuable information. That information could be not only useful but tailored to possibly encourage a purchase, such as “12 Things to Remember When Buying A Widget” or “5 Secret Ways to Make a New Gizmo Even Better.”

Your offer should drive participants to a custom landing page where you collect their email addresses as the price of admission. If the giveaway is a discount code, push them to your Amazon product page to use it. If you’re providing other information, include links to your relevant Amazon product pages. That way, you can’t be viewed as diverting customers, but actually bringing more to Amazon.

3: Plan your incentive so it can go viral

Try not to limit your incentive to names you already have or the people who see your promotion directly. A better strategy, also known as viral marketing, usually involves providing a discount code or giveaway, and encouraging (or further incentivizing) people to share the goodness with friends. In other words, they get one goodie if they enter their email address, but they get a second goodie if they forward the offer to a friend, provide others’ contact information directly, or post the offer on social media for you. No marketing is more effective than the perceived sanction of a friend, and an incentivized referral campaign is a good way to generate word-of-mouth.

One giveaway that’s proven effective is a time-sensitive discount code that can be entered when buying on Amazon. For customers who might be wavering, even a small discount can get them to make the leap and buy—and from you. And of course, that purchase will help goose your marketing flywheel[JS1] , improving your search ranking and all that entails.

Yes, there are horror stories about discount codes going viral — that’s why you need to carefully set up and limit such campaigns. But it can be a terrific way to collect email addresses.

Alternately, your giveaway needn’t cost much at all. It can be as simple as free information with value, from pet training tips to a ringtone that will make people laugh. Run a contest, offer a product sample, assemble a recipe book you can relate to your product, or create a how-to video and offer the link. Brainstorm: What might help customers be even happier with your products? Or what would entice you to turn over your email address?

4: Put an offer on product inserts or packaging

This is admittedly the grey-hat approach, but major players do it, and you probably can, too. Just be sure to offer the customer genuine value, whether that’s a warrantee extension or a sample of a different product you sell. Collect their email addresses on your website, then drive them back to Amazon to use any discount.

5: Use your list for good and not evil

Whatever your giveaway costs can probably be quickly recouped when you use the list that results. Email marketing can help you capture repeat business for consumable products, cross-sell related products, and upsell customers to a newer model. A list can also make it easier to communicate with customers to prompt reviews or identify what else they need that you could provide.

Be considerate, though. Remember, you’re after a long-term relationship. Build trust with genuine human contact, from thank-you messages to confirming they don’t need support, without constantly selling or asking for a favor (including a review). That way, your customers and your email list can both work for you a long time.

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