Responsible e-mail should be marketers' next main focus

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With “relevance” now everyday vocabulary, our focus should shift to the tactical elements of relevant marketing — i.e., responsible e-mail.

Forrester Research data show consumers trust e-mail more and use it more often than any online channel. We must reward this trust with responsible communication strategies to improve our position among everyday consumers.

But, there are pitfalls surrounding our industry. As Forrester analyst Julie Katz notes, e-mail is “like the crack cocaine of marketing — cheap, addictive and potentially dangerous.” While the channel's appeal can't be ignored, it must be approached with caution and responsibility. This is where some brands fall short.

To put responsible e-mail marketing into action, create straightforward, robust preference centers. Make it easy for customers to tell you what they want, while keeping in mind that their stated preferences are not static and susceptible to change. Responsible marketers should provide customers with an easy method of updating and changing their profiles, avoiding complicated logins and multiple usernames/accounts. By relinquishing control over the uniformity of marketing content and the method of contact, marketers can make positive impressions with customers.

Our customers expect us to treat them as individuals. Nowhere is this more evident than with social networking, which has taught marketers that “unofficial” customer opinions are sometimes more powerful than official ones. Consumers want to feel important and increasingly require the brands they use to know who they are, acknowledge them, respect them and value them.

During a given week, a customer stands to receive multiple relevant e-mails from an organization, yet most marketers do not prioritize the value of each message. These include a shipping notification, a birthday message, a standard promotional e-mail or a reminder e-mail, but are often sent without regard to frequency or importance. This is not only counterproductive and wasteful, but can result in a weakened relationship, or worse,
unsubscriptions. Prioritizing and setting time limits on relevant messages should be part of the campaign process if you have numerous automated trigger campaigns or many business units.

Soon, our success in preserving the efficacy of the e-mail channel will come down to incorporating responsibility and relevance into every customer interaction. Engaging customers in a more honest, meaningful way is essential to building and maintaining healthy, profitable and long-term relationships with them.

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