Customize to Avoid E-Mail Clutter

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Well-crafted e-mail messages can boost sales, drive Web site traffic, generate brand awareness, promote customer loyalty, attract prospects and enhance customer relation management.


But with the quantity of messages growing exponentially and saturating people's


e-mail inboxes, readers need to cut through the clutter by adopting some type of filtering mechanism. Obvious spam messages are automatically discarded, as are any with unwelcome e-mail addresses in the "from" line. Companies that do not previously ask for permission to send messages run the risk of being identified as spammers. Likewise, messages lacking useful information will quickly fall into the category of unwelcome e-mail.


Instead of joining this category, marketers can easily become a valuable resource simply by providing the information that customers requested.


The foundation lies in building a clean list of people who have confirmed their willingness to receive information via e-mail. By collecting their information into a customer database, marketers can define the appropriate audience for each one of their messages. Furthermore, they can identify their audience's specific interests and craft personalized messages. By following these basic guidelines, marketers can be assured that they are sending a unique message that will stand out as a valuable resource.


Building a Permission-Based List


A permission-based list consists of people who have voluntarily subscribed to your list, thus agreeing to receive your commercial messages. Interacting with such a list not only ensures that you are delivering your messages to people interested in your company, it also respects the privacy of your business contacts. Even though you may have collected people's e-mail addresses for other communication purposes, it does not mean that they have agreed to receive your marketing messages. Clear permission should be obtained beforehand.


The most effective way to compile a list is through advertisements on your Web site. CNN.com only gathers subscriptions on its Web site. It has more than 30 lists with a subscriber base that ranges from 1,000 to 400,000 members for each list, and it has immediate plans to grow its newsletters by as much as 300 percent.


Subscription requests can be reconfirmed with a reply message from the person's


e-mail account. As you are collecting information for each subscriber, you can refine your database by asking for additional demographic information. Understanding the needs of your customer will make it easy for you to define your audience, as well as create unique messages for each one.


To maintain an updated list and database, make it easy for your readers to modify their information in your database and give them the option of signing off your list whenever they wish. You can provide clear instructions for this at the foot of each message that you send.


LifeMinders.com is the largest member-based online direct marketing company, providing personalized content and advertisements via e-mail to a loyal community of more than 12 million members. People can choose to receive messages in 16 categories. For this, the company has constructed a database of 700,000 to 6 million members in each category.


Members have provided LifeMinders with detailed interest and demographic profiles that LifeMinders uses to send targeted, customized messages. It utilizes application programs that allow editors to write and target their content so that no two members receive the same e-mail. It collects information such as age, breed of dog and ZIP code.


LifeMinders recently announced it will begin outsourcing its permission-based eMarketing technology to sites across the Web. Outsourcing sites will have instant access to this powerful technology for building their own lists for


distributing targeted, personalized advertising and content.


Define Your Audience


By leveraging the information in your database, you can push content tailored to your audience's requests. You can perform queries of your database to define the appropriate audience for each one of your messages. This ensures that you will send your readers pertinent information. As a result, customers will begin to highly value your e-mail service.


The risk of not targeting your marketing messages is that readers may automatically discard all of your future messages after they have received some with irrelevant information. Being selective will strengthen your ability to build a relationship of trust and loyalty with your readers, thus increasing the effectiveness of your messages.


Harris Interactive uses e-mail lists to conduct market research. Volunteers participate in online market research and polling studies, signing up to answer questions on a wide variety of subjects including healthcare, economy, science, technology, foreign affairs, politics, sports, entertainment and lifestyles.


For this, Harris takes advantage of the ability to interact with its extensive database in order to use mail-merge capabilities to customize its messages. It pulls samples from its database of more than 5 million people and delivers as many as 1.5 million customized messages every day.


Personalize Your Messages


The ability to construct personalized messages provides the advantage of maintaining a one-to-one relationship with each reader, thus heightening the effectiveness of your interactions. By extracting specific information from your customer database, you can perform simple merges, as well as customized tasks such as preparing billing statements that include customer account number, services rendered and product purchased.


Bell Canada uses the information in its database to send highly customized billing statements, billing history, notifications and other announcements via e-mail to its customer base.


To profit from e-mail marketing, you should strive to build a solid relationship with your readers by providing them with high-quality content that they have requested. As more and more companies start doing business on the Internet, it becomes more difficult for users to differentiate between vendors. It is most likely that they will prefer companies they are familiar with and that provide them reliable resources and solutions.
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