Making E-Mail Acquisition Succeed

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"We do not use e-mail for acquisition purposes. It just doesn't work for us!" says one marketer. "We have tried it in the past, and it just doesn't work. It bombed!" says another. If I had a nickel for every time I heard these two statements, I wouldn't have to write about how wrong they are.

It is not easy to make e-mail acquisition work. However, it can be done. We do it every day for clients. So how do we make it work?

First and foremost, you need to make sure the marketers are committed to the medium. They cannot rent one segment from a sweepstakes-type list because it was inexpensive, see minimal conversions, then proudly announce, "E-mail doesn't work!" You must persuade them to stay the path. They need to follow the same strategies they adhere to when implementing a postal mail plan. Yes, an e-mail acquisition program takes a small investment, but moreover, it takes a large commitment by the marketer to the medium.

Secondly, you need to test, test and test. It is critical that the marketer test the numerous variables (one variable at a time) that combine to create an effective campaign. These include the offer, the creative, the list, the links and the landing page.

The offer is critical when creating an e-mail campaign. The marketer needs to give the recipient a compelling reason to act upon the e-mail. For example, history has shown that a marketer who sells merchandise online has a significant increase in conversion when using a promotional offer. Consider time-tested direct mail offers such as dollar-off coupons, percent-off coupons or free shipping and handling.

When developing an e-mail creative, the marketer needs first to establish a control. Once that control is instituted, the marketer needs to test different creative in hopes of bettering the results. If the new creative does return increased results, do not get overly excited: Test the creative once or twice more to ensure that the initial success was not an aberration. If the results continue to exceed that of the old creative, you have found a new control. Begin the process all over again.

With e-mail, like direct mail, how precisely the list is targeted to the offer is critical to the campaign. The marketer needs to test a variety of e-mail lists to find the most responsive names for the offer. Recency, frequency and monetary value are important within e-mail lists. Thus, where applicable, focus on lists of recent online buyers or registered users.

More importantly, when researching e-mail lists, focus on the origin of the list to ensure compatibility with your offer. Ensure that you obtain names from branded, well-recognized sites or sources. Since an outbound e-mail announces to the recipient, in the form of a header, exactly where they gave permission, a well-recognized source will lend more credibility to the message.

Two of the biggest mistakes made during the process occur with the placement of the links and just after the click at the landing page. The marketer should ensure the link (call to action) is positioned within the first paragraph of the message. Do not make recipients search the message by scrolling to find the link.

Regarding the landing page, do not just drop off recipients who clicked onto the marketer's home page. Instead, send them to a custom-designed landing page that is consistent with the offer in the e-mail. Landing pages prevent recipients from getting lost and ensure that they see what you want them to see first.

Because of the immediacy of results and the low cost, e-mail is the ideal medium for the direct marketer. With e-mail being a newer medium, however, the marketer may not see positive results until all the variables are tested and refined. Stick with it, and you will reap the benefits.


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