Analysis Drives E-Mail Efforts

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Permission-based e-mail marketing offers marketers a new frontier with its privacy issues, low cost of message distribution (which translates to the proliferation of e-mails filling our inboxes) and the availability of immediate, measurable results.

Marketers must use analytical tools to better understand and serve their customers. Without the ability to observe results -- and to improve service -- a marketer risks plundering its customer base. With this comes the risk of brand degradation and list fatigue.

E-mail marketing differs from traditional offline direct marketing in two primary ways. First and foremost, it offers the marketing panacea of dynamic (personalized) content. With digital content, not only is the cost of "collateral" less than for printed materials, but also specific information can be tailored to each individual. Marketers truly can send only relevant information to interested people.

A second fundamental difference is that it offers immediacy of information in terms of reporting and analysis. In contrast, measurability and accountability in offline direct marketing exist in a fashion that can now be viewed only as rudimentary and unsophisticated. Given the proper technology, immediately following an e-mail distribution, information commences to flow, detailing who was sent what information, who responded, and to what specifically did they respond.

As we are aware, however, data gathering is but the first step. The data must then be analyzed. Without knowledge of the recipient's behavior, an e-marketer will repeat mistakes and fail to evolve to a higher level of personalized communication.

The two primary reasons for conducting data analysis are the ability to identify the results of differing efforts and audiences so future campaigns are more effective at meeting objectives, and to minimize list fatigue by sending relevant information. Relevance can be observed though effective analysis.

With electronic DM, the potential to track, measure and report on campaign effectiveness leads to an explosion of data. When dynamic content is introduced, the individual links within a message increase significantly as each message is personalized. Add to the mix transaction data and Web log data, and the database processing requirements escalate quickly.

Whenever data is concerned, the old computing adage, "Garbage in, garbage out," comes into play. A comprehensive electronic DM system may include data from numerous sources that must be logically handled through technology and process. Such data points include:

• Electronic messages sent (click behavior).

• Transaction data from transaction server (purchase behavior).

• Web log (site behavior).

• Registration declared interests.

• Demographic data.

Assimilation of this information into actionable, defendable steps requires a thoroughly defined set of objectives and processes. Three primary areas must be addressed for effective e-messaging campaigns:

• Simple campaign measurements: messages sent, messages opened and links clicked.

• Dynamic content: analysis of content insertions and measurement of rule effectiveness.

• RFM: analyzing click-and-order data.

With this capability in place, the e-marketer then uses more traditional direct mail techniques -- such as test cells -- to determine the effectiveness of alternative messaging approaches, prior to sending to an entire audience.

The bottom line is that the fundamental principles of direct marketing will not change as a result of electronic DM. However, the marketer's ability to gather data almost immediately, combined with the powerful analytical and process tools available today, produces tremendous control and accountability that will enable marketers to rewrite the book of effective marketing.

• John Kingery is CEO of @Once, Portland, OR, an e-messaging company. Reach him at

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