Beyond the inbox: the next step for e-mail marketers

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Junk mail is good mail that went to the wrong person. For e-mail marketers, the same concept is true. What one person considers spam is the perfect message for someone else. The key is to make your e-mail message highly relevant so recipients don't dismiss it as junk.

How do you increase your message's relevancy when you're sending to a large list and don't personally know 99.9% of the contacts? The secret is to go beyond e-mail, to what I call “e-mail plus.”

E-mail plus means you're getting your message out directly to communities of interest, such as what you'd find on Yahoo, Google or Microsoft. On Yahoo alone, 800 million people are in a community of interest. Each community of interest is tightly focused on one subject, with thousands of members sharing their experiences, photos and passion. As such, the ability to target your message to the people who need it most has never been easier.

For example, suppose you sell a product that would interest triathletes, such as flavored water that helps you recover faster from intense exercise. Just in Yahoo, you can find 1,072 communities of interest for triathletes, each with thousands of members. Since your product has the benefit of delivering rapid recovery, you can be assured that all the people in these communities of interest would want to know more about the product. Now your message is not junk, it's highly relevant information.

But this is e-mail plus, so you're not going to just buy a list of community members and e-mail them. Instead, you'd become a member of the group(s). Then, you'd find the most credible person in your topic. In this case, maybe someone who won a high-profile marathon or an Olympic athlete. You'd contact that person and get them excited about the product so they agree to endorse it. Finally, you'd post messages in your communities of interest that includes the person's endorsement.

Depending on each recipient's community profile settings, some will get the post sent directly to their inbox, while others will need to be logged in to the community to read it. Chances are high that many will surf to your site and opt in to your e-mail list.

To tie everything together, use the person's name and endorsement in your traditional e-mail campaigns too. Put the person's name in the subject line of your message to encourage recipients to read it. This is just one more approach to stack the odds in your favor and make your e-mail campaigns go beyond the inbox…into the hearts and minds of your intended audience.

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