Improve e-mail deliverability by giving consumers power

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In the 1970s dystopian sci-fi thriller "Soylent Green," Charlton Heston, as Detective Robert Thorn, discovers the secret source of the green tablets that he and his fellow Earthlings have ingested and declares, “Soylent Green is people!”

I bring up this item of relatively obscure Hollywood trivia to make a point about the way most e-mail marketers regard their e-mail lists. They often look past their individual customers and treat their lists as if they're undifferentiated blobs. To these marketers, I want to say, “E-mail lists are people!”

We've found that the most successful marketers optimize both deliverability and their e-mail reputation when they stop looking at their e-mail lists as a single, homogenous entity. Instead, they treat it as a collection of discrete individuals, each with their own preferences for content, frequency and channel.

How do you do this? Basically, you need to give the power back to each individual subscriber. First, each subscriber “votes” with their permission when they ask for e-mails from you. The subscriber raising his/her hand and “asking” to participate in a dialogue becomes the best determinant for a marketer's success in building their e-mail reputation and, in turn, optimizing their deliverability.

Second, look carefully at your content. Did you make the effort to capture additional information about the preferences of each subscriber? Did you monitor their behavior through Web site analytics to determine what they like? Or, did you just decide to blast the same message to your entire list? Guess which method works best.

Third, consider the frequency or the rate at which a marketer sends their promotional e-mails. Our recent data shows that marketers have good reason to set appropriate expectations with their subscribers for e-mail frequency; but they need to live up to them. One of our retail clients recently showed that they can actually entice formerly non-responsive subscribers to “reengage” (open, click and buy) by reducing the frequency of their e-mails. Counter intuitive? Maybe. Subscriber-friendly? Yes!

Fourth is channel. In today's iPhone world, consumers have the choice of multiple messaging and marketing channels, including e-mail, phone, SMS, social networks, RSS and Twitter. ExactTarget's 2008 Channel Preference Survey found that consumers may prefer one channel for messaging and another for marketing.

Want to improve your e-mail deliverability? Improve it subscriber by subscriber by asking them what they want, when and through which channel. Our research says you won't be sorry.

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