E-mail is just one tool in your marketing arsenal

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When e-mail marketing began, the possibilities of reaching new audiences through electronic means and getting real time results made marketers absolutely giddy. Today, many of those marketers find themselves wondering why they can't raise their conversion rates. That's because those marketers define e-mail as a contact strategy rather than a key piece of the overall interactive marketing strategy. While e-mail by itself remains effective, its uses have evolved. Marketers need to think of it as one tool in an arsenal that leverages other tools and disciplines to make it more effective.

Teaching marketers to think of e-mail in these terms starts by engaging the right parties across an organization to define measurable business objectives. Business rules driven by a robust comprehensive database platform can help determine when a piece should be sent out and what it should say. Everyone involved in the messaging and creative strategy must be in agreement on these objectives before sending the first e-mail.

Successful e-mail campaigns — along with having a good list of targets — also carefully define the attributes that drive the messaging and timing. Say a new cable customer recently signed up for on-demand programming as part of the package. This gets fed into the database, which triggers a communication welcoming the customer as a subscriber and offering a menu of on-demand programming.

After a month, it becomes apparent that his/her on-demand choices focus on sports. Because e-mail operates in real-time, and he/she has indicated this preference, business rules dictate the automatic sending of information about upcoming sports programming days before a game, increasing the likelihood that he/she will tune in. But when the behavior changes, so does the information the customer receives. The new behavior triggers another communication on upcoming relevant releases to view.

With Web 2.0, e-mail has become a key part of the central nervous system of the overall interactive customer relationship. It maintains a relevant flow of information between company and customer, and reacts quickly to changes in customer behavior. Effective e-mail marketing relies on a constant data feed that updates continuously for effective communication and outcome.

Marketers should focus less on “how often” they send messages and more on “how relevant” those messages can be. By getting all the right parties involved, focusing on content more than frequency and creating messages based on quality data, marketers can transform e-mail from a contact strategy to the driving force in an overall interactive marketing program.

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