For best engagement, follow 40-40-20 rule

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For many years, direct marketing messages were mostly about a company and its products, with little thought given to the recipients and their needs. With inboxes filled thanks to the popularity of e-mail marketing, irrelevant information is likely to be ignored or treated as spam.

Marketers should focus on three components in a specific balance for successful conversational marketing: 40% database, 40% content and 20% testing. Open and click-through rates are important, but developing an interaction between an organization and its customers or prospects is most critical. What can be better than stimulating a conversation about your brand that a person then responds to or forwards in an e-mail, or shares in a social network? The goal is to encourage interaction to identify a qualified prospect who may become a customer.

You must remember your data assets are not all equal. You would never treat your best customers like your worst, yet you would be surprised to hear how many companies do not understand their own database assets. Segment based on active customers, associated revenues, prospects and level of engagement. Separate the responders from non-responders, find out why they aren't interested and remove them if necessary. Many marketers have a fear about dropping names. The goal is to reduce complaint ratios and boost open/click percentages. Sender reputation is now determined by both complaint rates as well as engagement. Less is best when it comes to quality e-mail programs.

After a clean database, relevant content is a building block. The key is to develop and maintain a high level of perceived value. As best you can, make sure every e-mail is relevant and creates a positive experience. Consistency and predictability adds to relevancy. Are the from lines, e-mail addresses and delivery times set?

When you let customers or prospects talk about your product or company, it is much more believable than a company tooting its own horn. Invite recipients to forward to colleagues and to share via social media networks. Remember, they'll do it anyway, so why not be part of the conversation and learn from it?

No matter what success levels you achieve, do not suffer engagement complacency. From optimizing landing and registration pages to boosting conversion rates or testing confirmations or thank-you messages, you should strive to improve performance levels. When you reduce outbound e-mail volume with a clean database and improved engagement, you invite your best customers to work for you in promoting your products and services.

Andrew Sambrook is general manager of IDG List Services. Reach him at asambrook@idglist.com.

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