Polish Your Permission-Based E-Mail

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It's hard to predict what the future holds for permission-based e-mail marketing for lead generation, as the technology and public response are constantly changing.


E-mail itself is becoming more effective and sophisticated with sound, movement and interactive links. For many industries, e-mail for new client acquisition is a viable direct marketing channel.


E-mail is hot and getting hotter, but could it get too hot?


According to Jupiter Communications, New York, people already receive an average of 40 e-mails per day, and in a few years that number is expected to jump to 1,400.


Would you expect a prospect to open your e-mail if it were one of more than 1,000 messages landing in his inbox that day? If you are thinking about marketing to prospects via e-mail, act now - before the floodgates open.


Opt for permission-based data. Most permission-based e-mail compilers - whose subscribers have opted in to the programs of their interest - are doing a good job maintaining data quality. They don't want to be labeled spammers and they want their files to be successful. They are also cautious and will not release the data to anyone. They control the transmissions and immediately delete anyone who opts out and any addresses that aren't deliverable.


The quality of the data probably doesn't vary much from vendor to vendor, but some e-mail bureaus make sure their recipients do not receive more than a few offers per month. No surprise that these lists seem to perform the best. Always ask your data consultant how often his e-mail databases are being used and how current the data are.


Also ask your permission-based e-mail vendor whether he will suppress your house file before transmitting your message. Duplicates are likely between the files and nobody appreciates receiving identical e-mails back to back.


Experiment with your campaign to raise response rates. The success of your e-mail campaign rests on the quality of the e-mail data, the offer, the design of the e-mail, the timing of the transmission and what you want to accomplish. It is often necessary to test and experiment with different offers, subject lines, ad designs and transmission times before obtaining an outstanding response rate.


Case in point: A colleague recently shared the following situation in which testing paid off in a big way for her client.


After seeing a drop in the response rate of his text-based e-mail campaign to consumers, a cable-broadband client decided his ads needed a fresh approach. They switched to HTML to add more graphics and sound, strengthened the offer and experimented with both story-based and offer-based subject lines. The story-based subject line (suggesting the e-mail contained a story) grabbed more responses from this predominantly male market group. (They are finding that women tend to respond better to subject lines that contain a free offer or coupon.)


This e-mail campaign pulled a 10 percent response with a 30 percent sell through and brought the cost of acquiring a new customer down from $70 to $7.


With e-mail, you also should test different times of day and days of the week to find the optimal transmission time. Higher response rates have been seen for e-mail broadcasts to consumers on Tuesday nights and to businesses on Wednesday mornings.


People read their e-mail differently. It's a guessing game, but it's a good idea to anticipate the behavior of your market group and how it uses e-mail.


Similarly to re-mailing your direct mail piece to increase response, rebroadcasting your campaign is often a good response-boosting strategy. It has been found that resending to the same prospects one week later boosts response rates significantly.


A recent campaign to 600,000 business names yielded an initial 1.6 percent response rate. Retransmitting the same file (minus the opt-outs) one week later pulled a 5.9 percent response. As with any advertising medium, repetition works.


Have a realistic response rate in mind and discuss it with your data consultant from the get-go so he can assist you in scheduling your e-mail broadcast.


Also, anticipate unexpected challenges. You may have to resend e-mail due to technical problems such as a fiber-optic cable being cut that prohibits you from providing accurate tracking on the first go-round. You also might want to resend an e-mail campaign if there has been a well-publicized computer virus circulating. Response rates decrease because people tend to delete unknown e-mails.


Support e-mail with other efforts. It is important to note that when compared with a compiled business or consumer file, e-mail compilers have a small portion of the records.


When you work with your data consultant, make sure you let him know what sort of response rate you desire based on your experience with offline data or direct marketing campaigns. Setting clear expectations upfront will enable your consultant to help you achieve the numbers you need for your campaign.


It is a good idea to both mail and


e-mail your prospects. Companies have seen an increase in the amount of qualified e-mail response when they have integrated their e-mail efforts with direct mail and other types of advertising.


Make the most of the medium. People have different expectations when it comes to the wired world. With e-mail, people expect instant gratification. When they respond to an offer, they expect fulfillment within hours or days - not weeks. If you won't be able to respond instantly, then choose a medium other than e-mail.


E-mail marketing tips. Here are things to consider when developing your e-mail marketing campaign:


• Test permission-based e-mail for prospecting efforts now, while it's still effective.


• Use data made up only of 100 percent permission-based opt-in e-mail records.


• Set realistic expectations regarding your response rates.


• Test HTML against text messages. People love moving parts and sound and HTML doesn't look like spam.


• Have a compelling offer that is appropriate for your audience if you want response.


• Try to predict how people in your market group read and use e-mail.


• Test your data, subject line, offer, the ad itself and the best time and day of the week to broadcast.


• Have a plan to rebroadcast your e-mail campaign a second or even a third time, but always suppress people who have responded and opted out.


• Provide respondents with instant fulfillment.


• Integrate e-mail marketing with direct mail and other types of advertising.


Yvonne Shank is national account executive at AccuData America, Cape Coral, FL.
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