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How to Make the Most of Your E-Marketing Efforts

January 15, 2001

Innovation doesn't always lead to success. Case in point: Although the Internet has revolutionized the way organizations market their goods and services, a badly managed e-marketing campaign may still be less successful and more costly than a traditional direct marketing campaign. Why is that?

For starters, email marketing can be very expensive if not targeted properly. Forrester Research has noted the wide range in the costs of acquiring new customers associated with various marketing tools. Direct mail to in-house lists, direct mail to rented lists, and banner advertising cost about $18 to $100 per sale. Emailing to in-house lists is most cost effective at $2 per sale, while emailing to rented lists is the most expensive at $286 per sale.

The first lesson for e-marketers, then, is to use your own harvested email database. The primary reason, an established relationship with recipients, leads us to the second point, which is respect for the privacy of customers and the value of permission-based campaigns.

Permission Matters

Despite the ease of blasting quantities of emails to unsuspecting recipients, extended reach does not translate into extended effectiveness. Think of successful interactions the way you think of quality telephone conversations: interactive and respectful. To be respectful, campaigns should support high levels of privacy. Remember, the more work you put into building a list that includes your recipients' interests and needs, the better the relationship and the more success you will have.

Furthermore, permission once granted doesn't mean permission granted in perpetuity. Permission fades over time. Successful campaigns are based on multiple opt-ins to ensure that receivers want to continue to receive communications from you. The lesson of permission emails is taking hold in the U.S., where individuals received on average 12.8 permission emails per week in 2000, according to eMarketer.

Open, Read, Click, Action

Your campaign's primary objective should be to have prospects take action. One of email's most attractive comparative features is that it offers the easiest call to action. Unlike print campaigns, there's no address, tear-off, number to remember, or salesperson in the loop. You can just click when the impulse strikes. But getting people to that point requires techniques different from those of traditional direct marketing.

For example, the number of characters used in the headline is of higher priority in email campaigns because headers generally have room for only 60-65 characters. And if you want the email to be forwarded to another recipient, you'd better lose another 10 characters in that line. Beware of using exclamation points, words like "free," and dollar symbols in headers because many users set up filters to eliminate such messages.

If you are successful in getting recipients to open the email, experts suggest that you have about four seconds for readers to figure out what it says, why they should care, what they are supposed to do, and how they should do it. That's why some e-marketers recommend short copy that can fit into the viewable window of an email application such as Outlook Express.

That way, without ever having clicked on the actual email, recipients can view your message. Remember, your objective should be to get them to take action -- respond for more information or, better yet, click to put in their orders. If you cram in too much information, they won't do it.

Some copy techniques work well for traditional and e-marketing campaigns. Though experts debate the value of using a P.S. in email copy, they agree that the direct mail Johnson box -- that two-line, boldfaced hook at the start of a direct mail piece -- can still increase the effectiveness of a mailing by up to 40 percent.

One of the dangers of "cool" technology, however, is that marketers may use fancy typefaces and HTML layouts that look great to recipients with the right email viewer but come across as a garbled mess to others. So use simple text and basic typefaces.

Tracking and Testing

Tracking the actions of those who received your email is crucial to your success. As a rule of thumb, track all of the recipients' actions once they receive the email. If a recipient clicks a URL and is sent to a web site, bring all of the recipient's profile information along so that you can track who requests more information, orders services, prints forms, and so on. Knowing this will enable you to analyze the success/failure rate of each part of the campaign process.

Perhaps only a small percentage of recipients are moving past the first phase of your campaign, but those that do typically make a purchase. Knowing why may improve your results significantly. So monitor and measure the actions taken as well as the number and length of visits to a campaign.

That leads us to testing. Test a small sampling of your entire list before sending the e-marketing piece to the entire database. If you are tracking properly, you'll know within 48 hours which copy and components of your campaign are working so that you can make changes and send the optimized e-marketing piece out to the remainder of the list. Also look at your response rates to determine which factors, such as timing, offers, headers, and body copy, make a difference.

Testing and measurement must be done continually because the value of getting it right is so high. For example, if you improve factors, your effectiveness is likely to improve by the multiplication of factors, not their sum. So keep improving them until you've maximized all possible factors.

Respecting the Customer

Respect your customers and their email inboxes. Remember, they own the relationship. Make it easy for them to unsubscribe as well as access and change data.

In the end, the marketer who learns fastest wins. Success is all about measuring and reporting, gathering lots of customer data, figuring out what it means, and making the necessary changes. The more you understand your customers, the stronger the bonds you'll form with them. Those relationships will translate into more business for you.

And relationships are something your competitors can't take away.

Donal Daly,


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