A new approach to e-mail marketing to get your message read

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In the early days of online marketing, e-mail marketing was a fresh and different way to reach people and, for a brief period, click-through rates were frequently in the double digits.

Then people's e-mail boxes became flooded with marketing messages - some legitimate, some outright spam. And e-mail response rates fell from the stratosphere back to Earth.

But the deluge continued. Individuals installed spam filters. Corporations built firewalls. And e-mail response rates, once stellar, were now not much better than what postal direct mail could produce.

According to an article in The Marketing Report, most people regularly open and read a maximum of 16 permission-based e-mails. If your e-mail doesn't come from one of the 16 sources whose e-mail the recipient regularly opens and reads, your chances of getting any kind of response are significantly reduced.

How do you become one of the 16 trusted sources from whom the recipient will accept an e-mail communication?

You might become part of that "inner circle" of preferred e-mail senders if the recipient is already your customer. A survey from www.epostdirect.com, for instance, shows that customers do value and read two specific types of e-mails: transaction confirmations and account status updates.

Since these e-mails get read, you could add a promotional message or special offer - with a link to a landing page - to a transactional Web page through a process called co-registration.

A good example of a co-registration is VNU Business Media's Co-Reg Network, delivered weekly to corporate executives who subscribe to VNU's trade publications.

Subscribers are presented with your offer at the same time that they are filling out VNU's online subscription form. When subscribers elects to learn more, they check off a box next to your offer and VNU provides you with the subscriber's contact information and relevant data.

You pay per lead based on data elements you want to collect - from name and e-mail address to full contact information with job title, industry and employee size as well as information on products they buy and an unlimited array of other customizable data elements.

Another way to join the inner circle of preferred e-mail senders is to publish an e-zine that the recipient has willingly subscribed to and actively looks forward to receiving. But there are two problems with that strategy.

First, with literally thousands of free e-zines available on the Internet, chances are that your recipient already gets more than he or she can read. And therefore it's tough to interest him or her in yet another.

Second, producing a quality e-zine -whether monthly, weekly, or daily - takes a lot of time. If you want to reach a particular group of prospects on an occasional basis, the marketing ROI you get from such an e-zine may not justify the cost or effort.

One e-mail marketing method that promises to solve this problem - and gain advertisers quick entry into the inner circle of preferred e-mail subscribers without committing to a regular e-zine - is the sponsored e-mail alert.

A good example of a sponsored e-mail alert is CMP Media's Business Technology Alert, delivered weekly to IT executives who subscribe to InformationWeek, Network Magazine and other CMP trade publications.

CMP has been publishing technology business magazines for over 30 years and is well respected by its subscribers. Therefore, these busy readers include Business Technology Alert, which they see as a value-added service, in the inner circle of online publications they actually open and read.

The advertising cost is priced similarly to space advertising. Its rate card offers an initial test of 50,000 names for $200 per thousand, with significant savings offered for greater frequency and quantity.

For this fee, an advertiser can write customized content featuring its products and services for the week it sponsors the alert.

We have recommended Business Technology Alert to a number of marketers, and the results have been so promising that all of them have ordered repeat insertions.

This new product is much different than what was previously offered by publishers.

In the past, sponsorship meant getting a few words of your copy at the top of a newsletter that was crammed full of other content and often, other advertisers' messages. In this new product, you have the exclusive right to use the entire e-mail alert for your message only.

The benefit: no other content competes for the subscriber's attention. Best of all, since you can use active Web links in your HTML and you can choreograph the exact sequence of words that will allow the subscriber to read and respond by going to your Web site to fill out a response form, download a trial, or contact your representative.

Here's how it works: A publisher or content provider produces a free e-mail alert and distributes it on a regular schedule to his subscriber or reader base.

For a fee, the publisher allows various advertisers to sponsor different issues of the e-mail alert. If you are the sponsor, then you provide the "exclusive" content highlighting your products and services for that issue.

The sponsored e-mail alert has a number of advantages over other forms of e-mail marketing. First, since it immediately gets your message past the spam filters and into the inner circle of e-mails the recipient will read and open because your message is being delivered as an issue of an e-mail alert to which the reader already subscribes.

Second, because your message is delivered in an e-mail alert format rather than as an online ad, it is perceived as useful information rather than marketing - which increases readership and response.

Third, it appears as though your message is being endorsed by a third-party - the publisher.

Fourth, if you sponsor an e-mail alert for which the readers have all taken an affirmative action to opt in, the potential for spam is eliminated.

Finally, sponsored e-mail alerts are affordable. There's no need to design a masthead, create an online publication, or build a subscriber list. All you pay is the sponsorship fee, which typically has a cost per thousand equal or slightly below renting an e-mail list reaching the same market.

As prospects are increasingly wary of whom they allow into the inner circle of e-mail senders whose messages they will open and read, a sponsored e-mail alert, giving you the right of exclusive content, allows you into that circle. It comes without the cost or commitment of publishing your own e-zine, and with the kind of credibility only a third-party endorsement can give you.

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