Improving open rates for your acquisition e-mail

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As a panel participant at industry events, I am often asked a common question on the topic of online marketing: “How do you increase the open and click-through rates for e-mail?” I see hundreds of e-mail campaigns by dozens of marketers each year, and I've found it's the fundamentals that marketers overlook when building their e-mail strategies. The following principles and practices, associated with acquisition e-mail, also apply to CRM programs and serve as strategies to help yield higher response rates and an effective e-mail marketing program.

When analyzing your e-mail campaign, the first step involves assessing your open rates. As a metric, open rates can be flawed. Less than 25% of all e-mail clients allow images to be served when the e-mail is opened. In order for the open to be measured, the recipient must right-click on the message to request that the image be served. Only then can the opened message register as being opened.

This means the number of people who actually open your e-mail can be much greater than those measured. How do you get the majority of people who open your message to right-click so they can view your images? It boils down to basic trust and value — that's what motivates people to engage with your e-mail enough to take that extra step.

As a marketer, how do you enhance the trust and value proposition associated with your e-mail campaigns? If you don't have an established brand, you need to build both brand value and trust. When used properly, e-mail can be a cost-effective brand-building tool. However, other media, such as banners, search engine marketing and offline media may provide you with greater value as you build your brand. It's critical to understand that if you have the budget and time commitment, you'll get a better lift and stronger ROI by using a diverse mix of online and offline marketing solutions that coordinate around a particular campaign and a clear, consistent message. It sounds simple, but marketers who misunderstand this point have wasted millions of dollars.

Once you've maximized your branding and multichannel strategies, it's important to consider quality offers, along with  frequency, to help increase the open rate of your e-mail. Offers by the same marketer that promote sales or discounts yield higher opens than non-promotional offers. The higher the discount offering, the better the response will be.

Remember — the Internet and e-mail are tools for shopping. Consumers seeking bargains want to believe you're offering them a special promotion.
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