Make the most of e-mail marketing

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Marketers must make every e-mail count in a down economy, say experts. But what does it take for messages to reach their target? Four industry pros zero in on the best tactics.

Margaret Farmakis
Senior director, strategic services, Return Path

I recommend going back to basics. While optimizing subject lines may seem simplistic, learning what resonates with your subscribers can signifi­cantly boost program performance and help keep your complaint rates to a minimum. Recent studies show 35% of e-mail users open messages because of what's contained in the subject line, while 69% of e-mail recipients report e-mail as spam based on the subject line.

Start by testing to see what works. Traditionally, marketers have been advised to keep their subject lines straightforward and to the point. How­ever, humorous subject lines that make subscribers curious may actu­ally perform better. You won't know until you test.

It also pays to seek feedback. You'll never know what your subscribers real­ly want unless you ask. Send a survey or link to a poll asking your subscribers to vote for their favorite subject line.

Be sure to measure performance accu­rately. With the prevalence of preview pane viewing and the “images off” set­ting, open rates may not best indicate subject line effectiveness. Instead, con­sider click-to-open rates.

THE TAKEAWAY
Study the data on subject lines and ask for feedback to find what works best


David Fowler
VP, e-mail marketing strategy, Alterian

In a weak economy, it's more important than ever to maximize the power of your e-mail database. Perhaps it's time to do an information analysis. With that, you can create a roadmap for the devel­opment and possible consolidation of the information silos that may reside in vari­ous locations across your business.

Keep the database current. While good data is valuable, old data does not provide you any benefit in terms of customer execution. Consider clean­ing it up. Old non-engaged e-mail addresses are a great example. Take them off your house file if they don't perform. Implement corporate policies or guidelines regarding old e-mail.

Find out as much as you can about your customers. Empty or incomplete customer profiles will not allow you to successfully market and hit your financial goals.

Target marketing using the database you own has become extremely impor­tant. The more you know about your customers, the more opportunity exists for you to communicate with them. Don't forget, it is about what they want and when they want it. E-mail relevancy is the key to successful campaigns.

THE TAKEAWAY
An e-mail database requires updating and purging for optimal performance


Betsey Fortlouis
Senior director of member communications, ASPCA

An integrated, multichannel approach to e-mail marketing should drive visits to your Web site and bolster customer communication.

For any company or organization, obtaining information from people who visit your Web site is critical. You want to immediately engage a visitor and capture as much data as possible. Ideally, you should get both mail­ing and e-mail addresses, so you can communicate on and offline. At the ASPCA, all new prospects who provide a postal mailing address also receive a direct mail acquisition package.

Ask yourself if there is something you can offer as an incentive that will make them want to share their address. For example, if you have a “free” brochure or sticker they can sign up for, then online visitors may be more willing to provide the information. They see a tangible benefit and, in return, you obtain valuable data.

Remember, if you can start with an e-mail address, then you can begin to engage a constituent or customer with online communications and cull more information from them.

THE TAKEAWAY
Having e-mail and postal addresses for prospects enhances communication


Eric Cosway
EVP and CMO, QuantumDigital Communications

Good design starts before a recipi­ent even opens an e-mail message. Marketers may cut down on the rate at which recipients delete or report e-mails as spam by using a company name, the name of a familiar associate or product name in the ‘from' field.

The subject line is the second chance to make an impression on e-mail recipi­ents. Clearly and directly summarize the e-mail's theme in the subject line. Limit subject lines to 50 characters or less, because most e-mail platforms cut off messages beyond that point.

Next, consider that only a portion of a message is visible in a preview pane. So, critical information such as a com­pany logo, offer or call to action button should be placed as close to the top left of the e-mail as possible.

When designing the full, opened e-mail, marketers should place call-to-action buttons, phone numbers and promotional offers towards the top.

Finally, use alt tags with images. If a browser does not load an image, then the contents of the alt tag will be dis­played. Similarly, provide a text-only version of e-mail messages, as some browsers may not support HTML.

THE TAKEAWAY
The right design elements can lead e-mail recipients to open a message

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