E-mail receives a bigger allowance ... with more chores

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E-mail is one of the youngest children in the marketing family but has long struggled for attention in the shadow of its print and online siblings. Today it enjoys the role of family favorite due to its efficiency, immediacy and measurability. With this new attention comes added pressure for the e-mail channel to provide quantifiable return on investment. This happens if the e-mails resonate with recipients, driving them to engage with content. Consider the following when creating engaging e-mail content:

Know your audience. If the only thing you know about a customer is their e-mail address, you are already behind. In order to put together an e-mail that really hits the mark, you need to know some basics about them. Outside of your demographic profile, here are some other items that are worth considering:

Where do they consume your content? Is it a PDA, iPhone, Blackberry, or computer? This data can help you make sure your recipients can actually interact with your message

Have they opened in the past? Knowing if customers have been engaged in the channel helps determine if testing is necessary to boost open rates.

Are people clicking through? You can have the highest open rate in the industry, but without clickthroughs, it isn't doing you any good. Clickthroughs allows you to analyze the elements driving engagement. Most platforms will provide functionality that will allow you to view which areas are driving the highest click-through rates. It is the perfect place for your call to action.

Listen to your audience. This can be in the form of direct reply, but more likely this is in the form of reviewing the response metrics. Previous campaign open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates are all metrics to examine when shaping content for future campaigns.

Don't blast, be relevant. Studies have shown that more e-mail recipients click through on a piece of content that has relevance to them. Dynamic content e-mail campaigns allow companies to use a single creative template but dynamically insert relevant content based on set business rules. This allows companies to provide targeted content based on consumer wants and needs.

Be creative and test. A proper testing plan can help identify not only what creative treatments are working but can provide guidance on the time of day, week, month for deployment as well as let you know which segments of your audience is most engaged.

In this new age for the marketing family, e-mail has been given a bigger allowance, but also more responsibility and more chores. It is e-mail's responsibility to prove its worth and represent the family well when it is sent out.

George DiGuido is VP of e-mail marketing at Zeta Interactive. He can be reached at gdiguido@zetainteractive.com.

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