E-Mail Marketing Town Hall Looks to Future

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WHITE PLAINS, NY -- Panelists offered an array of advice on the state of e-mail and Internet marketing during an e-mail marketing town hall here yesterday at the fifth annual MeritDirect Business Mailers Co-op and E-Mail Marketing Conference.

Most panelists cited prospecting and customer retention when asked about the greatest opportunities in e-commerce in the next six to 12 months.

"We've already had a degree of success with e-mail prospecting," Fred Meyers of The Queensboro Shirt Co. said. But he thinks e-mail prospecting will take off when co-operative databases like those on the postal side become available for e-mailers.

"I think the real gold is in e-mail retention," said Reggie Brady of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions. She suggested that marketers segment their files by customer preferences and behaviors.

Panelists discussed the challenges of e-mail prospecting.

Diane Tiberio of Reed Exhibitions said a prospecting campaign her firm did using a Harley Davidson giveaway as an incentive failed to produce leads of high quality.

Meyers stressed having a technologically advanced back-end system to handle the resulting leads and sales.

Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR suggested "integrating the tried and true with the new," such as using search engine optimization to secure leads.

Rob Sanchez, the panel moderator and senior vice president of list management and interactive services at MeritDirect, said e-mail prospecting sometimes is better used as a lead generation and list building tool rather than a sales tool.

"If you are selling a high-priced product, one e-mail is probably not going to lead to an immediate sale," he said. "It really depends on your business model."

Sanchez also urged attendees to know what they are getting in terms of e-mail list rentals. This includes the source of the names, the opt-in procedure and the frequency that the names are mailed.

Panelists gave tips on avoiding spam filters.

Jim Kinlan of KMT Software suggested sending e-mails using the same from line every time and using what he called very clean HTML.

"Send e-mails from service bureaus that have relationships with the ISPs," Sanchez offered.

Even if you may get filtered in some cases, Meyers said, never water down your offer just to reach more people.

Brady offered a URL for e-mailers to check their messages for possible spam triggers at http://spamcheck.sitesell.com.

Panelists agreed the CAN-SPAM Act slowed e-mail marketing for a while but that it is mostly back up to speed. Though Brady said e-mail marketers must keep a close eye on government evaluation of CAN-SPAM's success, she predicted that new technology would make a dent in the amount of spam.

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