Boost e-mail success, think less is more

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As the CEO of an e-mail marketing service provider, I receive a lot of e-mail. That shouldn't surprise anyone, least of all me. But even I was startled when I read Forrester Research's US E-mail Forecast 2009-2014 report. In the report, Forrester predicts that by 2014 individual consumers will receive an average of 9,000 opt-in e-mail messages a year. That breaks down to an average of more than 24 e-mail messages a day, or more than one e-mail per hour.

Is that possible? Sure, especially as the economy improves and marketers from small and midsize businesses work to regain their footing. Among all of the available marketing channels, e-mail continues to be the top performer. It's also one of the least expensive, which means more and more businesses are turning to e-mail as a central component of their marketing strategy. And while it's good news that e-mail continues to garner recognition in the executive boardroom, the bad news is that it's becoming harder for e-mail to grab attention in the consumer's inbox.

On top of that, the kind of volume that Forrester is predicting will not come without considerable consumer backlash. Not-so-nice marketers will view 9,000 e-mail messages a year as a target. But intelligent marketers will understand that there is a limit, and something must be done to ensure that legitimate e-mail messages will stand out in the consumer's expanding inbox.

Hopefully you are already looking at ways to make your e-mail messages more relevant. The truth is that not enough marketers are, and the unopened evidence is making its way into our delete folders every day. When we ask why clients aren't sending relevant e-mail, this is what we hear, "I don't have the right data. It's too expensive. Without resources it's too hard."

The reality is that relevant e-mail marketing isn't hard — all you need to do is pay attention to what's happening in your e-mail. Don't overwhelm yourself thinking about how to use your vast warehouse of customer data. You can put together a wide range of successful and highly relevant e-mail programs using a much smaller sampling of data that you already have. And because this data is already at your fingertips, it ensures that your e-mail messages can be delivered in a timely fashion. Today your focus should be on identifying the meaningful segments of your customer data and coming up with the right offer for each segment. Where have these customers clicked? When did they last open an e-mail? What was their last purchase? All of this data is readily available and useful in driving relevant e-mail.

I strongly believe the most successful marketers of the future will have figured out how to send less e-mail, not more. If Forrester's forecast tells us anything, it's that it's time to think relevance, and mailing less to reach both your customers and your marketing goals.

John Rizzi is CEO of e-Dialog. Reach him at jrizzi@e-dialog.com.

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