Don't lose sight of your site

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So much affects the success of your e-mail marketing program: creative, relevance, segmentation, deliverability, rendering and list quality. As hugely important as all of these are, however, none is as central to your effectiveness as your Web site.

It doesn't matter how high your email click-through rates are if you aren't driving subscribers to take the desired action on your site. Without conversions, your e-mail program can never be the success you assured your boss it would be.

In the early days of e-mail marketing, conversion often took place in the inbox. E-mail images and text were often the primary means of conveying information and issuing the call-to-action. That's no longer the case. Because of cramped inboxes, preview panes, image blocking and overwhelmed consumers, most email marketing messages now serve a tease-and-point function. They pique your interest then drive you to a landing page or relevant page on your site.

Go ahead and look at your own inbox. Whether they're retailer promotions, online publications or corporate newsletters, most messages contain article teasers or product-and-pricing thumbnails. Marketers provide just enough information to make you click through to their sites, where they want you to take more important conversion actions.

Don't make the recipient work to find the exact product, offer or incentive that got their attention. If your e-mail offers a 10 percent off Valentine's Day special, the landing page should be all about hearts, flowers, products and pricing. If your e-mail touts a best practices white paper, your landing page should make it easy to register and download the white paper.

Ideally, the e-mail and its corresponding Web site or landing page should feature the same key design elements, such as logos, colors, fonts and graphics. This tells the user viscerally that they have landed in the right place.

You can further increase conversion rates by providing a customized experience. Pre-fill any forms with name, shipping address and other known data, or generate the Web page using dynamic content and personalization techniques.

Optimization testing is also critical. Conduct A/B splits or multivariate tests of your landing pages, then improve your content and design accordingly. Also, don't forget to ensure that everything works on your Web site by including your landing pages in your email marketing production checklist.

Simply by keeping your Web site and email messages in sync, you can increase your conversion rates - and deliver the ROI your boss demands.

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