Boost Your E-Mail Direct Response

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The Internet offers significantly reduced acquisition costs, fewer production hassles, immediate response to testing and new customers in hours instead of months. All it takes to capitalize is a little Web savvy.


The following are some guidelines for a successful e-mail campaign.


Forget the home page. One of the biggest mistakes Web marketers make is sending prospective customers who click on ads to the home pages of their sites (unless the home page is a direct response page). Imagine Sony offering a discount on a Walkman and sending respondents to Sony.com, a launch page for thousands of Web pages covering music, TV equipment, movies, games and -- oh yes -- audio equipment. Web businesses make mistakes like this every day.


If direct response is your goal, create a specific direct response page or pages -- where prospects don't have to think. The Web is information overload in the extreme. Think how you feel when you find Web pages that are simple to use and understand. They're refreshing, and you intuitively will know what to do. Your prospects will feel the same way.


For soft sells, such as free magazine trials, keep the direct response site to only one Web page. This page should have a quick-loading image of the item and a short fill-out form for name and address. That way, prospects can't get lost even if they try.


For more complicated sales, try to limit the site to two pages and follow these guidelines.


Get the e-mail address. Not selling a complicated product is only a failure if you don't capture who came to your site. While I was addressing a group of the New York New Media Association on publishing a few months ago, the question came up regarding more complicated sales.


My response was simple: Get the e-mail address so you know who they are and can contact them. Every day at Joke-Of-The-Day.com, we send out a few hundred thousand e-mails with ads, many of them direct response ads. And each day, thousands of our members click and go to the advertisers' Web sites to check out the offers. But how many of them buy the products? For soft sells, trial offers and well-known products, the response rates are pretty good. But for unknown, complicated, considered sales or expensive products, the sales aren't that spectacular.


But that doesn't mean you can't run a successful and profitable campaign. It just means you have to approach the situation differently. Imagine you are running a new software company with a great but expensive product for telecommuting and you decide to promote it by advertising on the Internet. The sales process for expensive products on the Internet is similar to traditional lead generation.


Develop relationships. The best way to sell complicated or unknown products on the Internet is to develop a relationship with prospects. In the above example, a good way to do this would be to offer to send the person a free e-mail on "Tips and Tricks of Telecommuting." In this manner, you are getting the e-mail address, permission to e-mail them on the topic and the opportunity to present yourself as an expert in the field. In an environment like this, you will start selling products and even sell through referrals.


If 10,000 people come to visit a site, up to 5,000 of them may leave their e-mail addresses if they get solid value for doing so. Now you have a pre-screened group to target with special offers and the likelihood that a significant number -- between 10 percent and 50 percent -- of them will buy. So instead of selling 50 units, by developing a relationship, you eventually may sell between 500 and 2,500.


For direct response, e-mail ads work best. For online direct response, nothing works as well as advertising by e-mail -- both in e-mail subscription lists as well as in opt-in lists.


In test after test, advertisers at Joke-Of-The-Day.com -- including most of the largest direct response agencies and advertisers -- have compared response rates from e-mail lists to Web banner advertising. While text based e-mail can not deliver the pretty pictures of the Web, the conversion rates have been dramatically higher.


In one test of people who clicked through to the offer page from Joke-Of-The-Day.com's daily e-mail, the conversion rate of people who clicked through to people who ordered was 42 percent. This compared to an 11 percent conversion rate from general Web banner advertising. Other tests have yielded results with even greater differentials.


The reason is simple and psychological. The Web -- at least for now -- is still an entertainment medium. People like to jump from page to page and have short attention spans. E-mail, by contrast is more focused. If someone clicks on a URL from an e-mail, that person is going there for a reason and is not "just surfing around." In short, the Web is about surfing. E-mail is about doing.


Eric Targan is CEO of e-mail marketing company Joke-Of-The-Day.com / The Humor Network, New York, and publisher of Email Marketing News, a monthly newsletter covering the e-mail industry. His e-mail address is Eric@joke-of-the-day.com.
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