Making Money With Your E-Mail Campaigns

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Recent news about Internet businesses has been dramatic: companies folding, massive layoffs, disenchantment by Wall Street.


Yet another, more positive story is unfolding. For companies building their Web business on a solid foundation of experience, the future is filled with opportunity and promise.


Take advantage of the opportunities out there. How can you take advantage of these opportunities and be a leader in building your online business? Very simply, by following the tried-and-true approaches that direct marketers have espoused for decades.


First and foremost, begin collecting and maintaining a database of your customers' e-mail addresses. This should include direct mail, retail and online customers, both their e-mail addresses and their postal addresses. This will allow you the flexibility to contact them using multiple promotional tools, i.e. e-mail campaigns or postcards.


This database of e-mail names and addresses is a valuable asset and should be maintained with the same care and integrity as you maintain your current customer file. This means investments in a database and data scrubbing, cleansing and deduping activities.


E-mail messaging is a science. Armed with this database you can begin to test e-mail campaigns to your customer file. The science of creating an e-mail message is critical to your success. The elements of a successful promotion are the basics that direct marketers have perfected: the offer, the copy, the creative image, the right timing, the right target audience and the right product.


Now you must add new elements to the science:


• A subject line in the e-mail that entices the recipient to open it.


• Your corporate name prominently shown to assure the recipient that it is not unsolicited spam or a virus.


• A creative image/message that fits a typical screen and eliminates the need for scrolling.


• Messages must be created as HTML and text-only to accommodate the different Internet servers.


• Hot links that take responders to the important areas of your site.


These are new critical issues and require the attention of professionals.


Reading e-mail campaign results. What can you expect from an e-mail campaign to your house file? Industry statistics are in the range of 5 percent to 25 percent for click-throughs (people who click to one of the links you have imbedded in your site), and response rates vary from less than 1 percent to 5 percent.


Now that you have a winning e-mail campaign, you can delve into the more risky, and exciting, area of online prospect e-mail campaigns. Back to the basics - the lists. With research and attention to detail you will find quality online prospect lists. It requires the work of a professional who is familiar with what lists are out there and how to find the best ones for your campaign.


One key element to focus on is where the names came from, i.e., at what site did Internet surfers opt in to receive third-party advertising? Also, what self-reported demographics and psychographics have they provided? Does the list manager provide overlays to further enhance the names such as SIC listings, occupations and purchasing activity?


In the majority of cases, list managers do the e-mail push, which means that you must supply your creative to them and they will execute the campaign. This service is included in the cost of e-mail names, which explains the higher cost of these lists. A professional broker will also negotiate a better rate for you.


Another very innovative area to explore is co-endorsed reciprocal e-mails, or viral marketing. In this scenario, you join forces with a partner to endorse each other's e-mails to your own house files. So partner No. 1 sends an e-mail to its house file promoting the goods or services of the partner and vice versa.


The beauty of this strategy is that you each get direct access to the other's customers with an endorsement that gives your own brand credibility. Another version of this strategy is a new promotion called an "e-ride-along." In this case, you get to advertise your company as part of the e-mail message sent by an affiliate.


Finally, the tried-and-true methods of direct mail are extremely effective in driving people to your Web site. These include:


• Space advertising in publications.


• Direct mail postcards.


• Catalogs.


• Alternative media programs.


All of these promotions allow you to direct your customers and prospects to all of your channels: mail, phone, Internet or retail.


This is the time to promote your Web site and reap the benefits of effective advertising and business to your site. There are many promotions to test and explore, including offline strategies and more innovative online strategies.


Marketers who begin to build their understanding and knowledge base early on will be poised to grow their Internet channel. It may not be in fashion today to be positive about the future of the Internet, but perhaps those who take measured action will have a positive story to tell.
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