Basic steps to break through inbox clutter

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During the recession, companies launched e-mail campaigns in record numbers because it is cost-effective and measurable. According to a study by Forrester Research, spending on e-mail marketing in the US will balloon to $2 billion by 2014. In many cases, marketers are opting to shift marketing money from traditional media to interactive marketing.

The study forecasts that in five years, consumers will be deluged with more than 9,000 e-mail marketing messages annually. Marketers will be challenged more than ever to break through e-mail clutter and deliver relevant messages. An economic recovery will come. We just don't know when. Some leading economists seem to think it has already started. Companies should to begin to plan now for the recovery. An effective e-mail marketing plan should focus on the following areas:

Customer segmentation. Refine your segmentation strategy. You may discover new customer segments emerge as the economy recovers.

Relevance. What works in a recession may not work in the recovery. Refine your message and be mindful of ways customers may change their thinking as the economy improves.

Test, test, test. Testing now will go a long way when the recovery comes. Take the time to learn what messages, offers and delivery time frames work best for specific targets.

E-mail acquisition. You should be measuring the effectiveness of your e-mail acquisition channels. Social media is a great place to collect e-mail addresses and find customers with a high level of engagement.

Subscriber incentive. You must offer something in return for a valuable e-mail address? Test which incentives works best: coupons, free whitepapers and guides can be effective. Also be aware of your competitor's offers.

Preferences. Not all of your customers have the same interests. Give customers several options and more control in the process and they may become more engaged. Offer choices when they choose to opt out.

Content and creative. Refresh your marketing messages. Messages that work now may be obsolete once the recovery comes.

Deployment process. Evaluate the e-mail data flow and timing to ensure that deployment is smooth. We discovered a major bottleneck for one of our large retail clients that greatly improved delivery and open rates. Now is the time to eliminate any issues. Also, evaluate your vendors. You may need more power to meet your goals in the recovery.

Don't wait for the economy to improve to make these enhancements. You want to be ahead of the curve. Rest assured your competition is already planning for doing the same.

Kim Harrison is managing director of Key Point Marketing. Reach her at kim@mykeyconsultant.com.

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