E-mail marketing — a bright star in a dim economy

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Jordan Ayan
Jordan Ayan

One question has dominated my conversations with clients and in online forums over the past several weeks: “Is my e-mail marketing plan recession-proof?”  The answer is that it certainly should be. E-mail marketing is something that companies turned to initially because it was an inexpensive way to reach large numbers of customers. Over time it has evolved and today has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing expenditure.

As the economy slows and businesses evaluate ways to conserve resources, marketing is often one of the first line items to be reviewed and sometimes cut. Despite its cost-effective nature, e-mail marketing is still a potential target. The key to successful e-mail marketing is to make sure your house is in order. Marketers can start by putting in place processes to provide tangible, bottom-line results.

Is your e-mail marketing recession proof? Here are five steps to make sure:

First, link results to business goals. You may measure e-mail success by opens or clicks, but are those the metrics your company uses to measure its overall success? If you are not already doing so, identify and document the link between e-mail investments and tangible business success, such as incremental revenue, margin improvement, store traffic, qualified sales leads or channel sales increases, among other metrics.

Next, be sure you have optimized your opt-in process. Your objective should be to build a quality database. To do so, take advantage of even the simplest forms of opt-in optimization, such as having an opt-in form on the home page and then again on every page of your website. Don't give up when IT and Web departments push back on this. The job they save may be their own.

Once you get subscribers, you don't want to lose them, so make sure that what you are saying is hitting home. Plan your messaging strategy carefully, and then develop messages that deliver content to specific segments if you can identify them.

Make sure that your e-mail service provider or your in-house IT department has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that messages get delivered (i.e. using authentication), and that they are monitoring delivery statistics. Every message that is not delivered is a missed communications opportunity.

Finally, learn from your mistakes. No one can truly move forward successfully without learning from the past. Marketers are no different. Look over the past year's campaigns. Do you see any trends, opportunities, ideas or plans that you can identify and apply to growing the business? Take what you learned and then test against it.

You probably are thinking that this list reads like the basics of successful e-mail marketing. That's because it is. Whenever there are bad economic times, the businesses that hunker down and use good blocking and tackling to their advantage are usually the businesses that survive and thrive. Let's hope we don't have a full-blown recession, but if we do, make sure your e-mail plan is recession ready.

Jordan Ayan is founder/CEO of SubscriberMail. Reach him at Jordan@subscribermail.com.

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