DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: Frequency: The Missing Ingredient

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We all know that the right audience and relevant messages are critical to an e-mail campaign, but even then many have failed. Why? We found that there's a third critical variable: frequency. And for most considered purchases, frequency plays a paramount role in determining success.

One successful client in implementing multiple-frequency e-mail campaigns is Gateway. Since 2003, Gateway has relied on this strategy to sell big-ticket items ranging from $5,000-plus plasma televisions to computers with $699 price tags.

Our most recent work for Gateway was to influence consumers who expressed intentions to buy laptop computers.

Prospect identification. To develop a prospecting list of laptop intenders, we reviewed purchase-intent data captured at our many online survey mechanisms. On sites such as, the location for the electronics online magazine we publish, we received information from consumers on products they are in the market to buy, such as laptops, home theater equipment and other high-ticket electronics. This self-reported information is maintained in Thomas, Townsend & Kent's Affluent Americans database.

Contact strategy. Next we worked with Gateway to develop the optimal contact strategy for the M320 and M680X lines. Buying a computer is a considered purchase, so the sales cycle may take days or even weeks. But most intenders eventually will buy. Therefore, keeping Gateway's name in front of them is critical.

We launched this e-mail campaign with a two-pronged approach: solo e-mails to the prospect list and ads in Home Electronics Journal, followed weeks later by additional e-mails with different creative.

Response tracking. Tracking for Gateway is tricky with the long sales cycle and multiple distribution channels via Internet, telephone or retail, so our solution was to match Gateway's buyers file to our mailing files.

Though match-back isn't 100 percent, it's much better than any other method. The match-back for recent Gateway promotions generated a 3.27 times return on investment and revealed that the multiple-frequency e-mails continue to be one of Gateway's most effective programs. A review showed that many consumers purchase 30 days after receiving the first e-mail. And for every online sale, 2.3 sales were generated by phone or at retail.

The lessons from Gateway's successes are that purchase intenders will open and read multiple messages if they are relevant, and giving prospects more than one chance to hear from you during their decision-making window increases response dramatically.

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