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Direct e-mail marketing could be a hit for you

May 10, 2002 

For most companies, the quest for new customers is never-ending. Despite its negative rap, direct e-mail marketing presents a marketing opportunity worth exploring.

Like traditional direct mail, direct e-mail involves the promotion of a product or service to a list of people. As with traditional postal-based direct mail, the list or lists that you use can greatly affect the success of your marketing campaign.

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of e-mail lists available. They cover the gamut of demographic profiles and can range in size from thousands to millions of names. To help sort through the myriad options, a mailing list broker can scour the market and present a set of relevant lists that you can rent. For a free quote for a mailing list broker, go to

When evaluating list options, find out how the names were acquired. Opt-in lists where people choose to receive occasional notifications are more likely to respond to your offer than compiled lists of e-mail addresses. Also learn how frequently the list gets used. Lists that are frequently used can suffer from overuse where recipients are less inclined to notice mailings or may be filtered off and never be viewed.

Most lists these days support HTML-based e-mails. This means that you can send an offer as a Web page, including color and images, instead of plain text only. However, not every e-mail address on the list may be set to receive this type of e-mail. If your offer relies heavily on a visual component for its success, you may want to check what percentage of a list can actually support HTML-based e-mails.

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While you are responsible for designing the offer that will be sent, be prepared to have the list owners handle the actual mailing. Unlike direct mail where you typically receive addresses and are responsible for sending your mailing to this list, e-mail list owners typically prepare and send the mailings for you.

No matter who sends your mailings, they should be tracked. At minimum, there is the number of e-mails that were sent, excluding those that bounced back. Breakouts indicating the number of HTML versus text-based e-mails can also be informative. Most importantly, links should be tracked so you can determine which ones were most effective.

You will generally find e-mail lists to be slightly more expensive than postal mailing lists. Expect to pay $75 to $150 per 1,000 names for a consumer list and $200 to $450 per 1,000 names for a business list. Broker fees are included in the mailing list costs. Your overall costs should be lower though versus direct mail since you don't have postage or printing costs to consider.

While you may be reluctant to test this type of marketing, remember that direct e-mail is in the eyes of the beholder. What is "spam" to some is a downright treasure to others. Finding the right lists can be the key to your direct e-marketing success. Mie-Yun Lee is editorial director of BuyerZone (, a virtual purchasing adviser for small businesses, and author of "The Essential Business Buyer's Guide." Call 800-938-0088 for more information.

by Mie-Yun Lee. Copyright © 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.

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