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E-mail campaigns with meaning

February 1, 2001 

If phrases such as live streaming, managed firewall services and outsourcing of applications process make your managers' heads spin, rest assured your company can still take advantage of the digital revolution.

A well executed e-mail marketing campaign allows you to gauge the needs of consumers quickly and respond in a way that can be mass-market and personal at the same time.

And almost all companies worth their salt are taking part. The Warehouse connects with its pre-paid mobile phone users by e-mail and wine companies such as Fine Wine Online and Liquor King update treasured customers with specials and new releases. Even TV3 and Sky are looking at ways to update viewers with schedules for major rugby games using the digital in-box.

US statistics show that almost three quarters of connected consumers have two or more e-mail addresses, and many are choosing to receive regular e-mails from businesses.

Just over 40 per cent of all New Zealanders have access to the internet, with those choosing to receive commercial e-mail not quite as high a proportion as in the US but growing.

E-mail is a potent, highly personal way to build customer relationships and has one of the highest rates of reply of almost all direct marketing methods at 10-15 per cent.

But it's not just a matter of using the "mail merge" function on your e-mail package and barraging customers with useless information.

There are some basic rules to remember when instigating an e-mail campaign. Most important is to make recipients feel they are gaining something by opening your message. As Debbie Mayo-Smith of Successful Internet Strategies says, "the entire message should be 'what's in it for them'."

Get Noticed

The subject line of your e-mail - - the first thing the recipient sees, is critical. It needs to be eye-catching.

It is the "envelope" for your message. While unsolicited e-mail, or spam, is a pain for those with e-mail, spammers have cornered the market in effective headlines if not content. It may not relate to your business, but you can take a lesson from "Enter the compound of forbidden sex." Another effective eyeline grabber is "re: your request" or something that relates to a previous message. Just be sure that your headline reflects at least in part your content.

Content is key

Ms Mayo-Smith says registrations to a recent seminar organised by her company had to be cut at 220 on the strength of a totally electronic invitation list.

She says the message was successful because it was "written with personality and plain talk, with no technical jargon, gave clear instruction on how to register, had a secure micro-website for online bookings and used an attractive format." Succinct, natural language is best. She also suggests not to send a message as an attachment as "few will bother to open it and many corporate firewalls strip attachments off."

Permission is vital

MessageMedia general manager Chris Price says a focus on conventional media has meant many still have to get their head around what it means to get permission of the people you are marketing to. It should be easy for someone to sign up to receive messages and easy for them to unsubscribe, he says.

Personalise and customise

Mr Price says companies should examine the information provided by people who register at websites and on lists. "Where at all possible, get your users to give information about themselves and then use that information to target your marketing more specifically."

One example is local farming site, which allows its 8000 registered users to opt in or out of receiving deals, alerts and newsletters.

Keep your database up-to-date

A recent study by NFO WorldGroup and Return Path shows that companies' e-mail marketing efforts are being seriously undermined by frequent consumer e-mail address changes. Less than one-third of consumers notified websites, online newsletters and discussion lists of their change of e-mail address, most because they did not know how and thought the process too time consuming.

Matt Blumberg, chief executive of Return Path, says companies should make it as easy as possible for consumers to register a change of address. Amanda Cropper from local online ad shop Brave New World agrees that many companies do not clean their database up sufficiently before they do a mail-out. " Once you send out an e-mail campaign, you can't pull it back."

There is a wide variety of software available that gives companies a wide variety of complexity in their messaging. MessageMedia's Chris Price says packages can be downloaded from the web for around $100. To offer more "complex" messaging, such as being able to integrate an easy "unsubscribe" option or eye-catching graphics, costs considerably more.

Extra charges can include the amount of traffic your message and responses generate, and if your writing skills are not sharp, outsourcing of things like content.

"Most importantly is to bear in mind that it's a fast-growing area with customers and suppliers moving quickly. We suggest people go online and reference e-marketing net zines such as or our own to get ideas and information and keep themselves as updated on what is available."

© 2001 Dita De Boni,

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