Q&A: Michelle Eichner, VP of product management, Unica

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E-mail marketers are facing many new hurdles in 2011, as well as some old ones. Direct Marketing News chatted with Michelle Eichner, VP of product management at Unica, an IBM company, about the challenges of selective inboxes and the importance of clean lists.

Direct Marketing News: What are the major challenges and trends that e-mail marketers are looking at this year?

Michelle Eichner (Unica): The challenges and the trends are almost synonymous issues that we're facing. The ISPs are tightening their spam filtering techniques, which is a big challenge for a lot of mailers. At the end of the day, they are looking for consumers to give them signs that they are interested in a particular domain's mail. So whether you forward, click, or report as spam, there are new metrics that they started in 2009. In 2010, we started to see them use those metrics in full force and apply them to their algorithms. Reasonable mailers were having deliverability problems because they didn't have enough people showing signs of interest in their mailings. That poses a big challenge to an e-mail marketer: it's not just about getting delivered; it's about finding some level of deliverability that can encourage engagement, and that can be a host of different things.

DMN: What are the best strategies for dealing with this new reality?

Eichner: One thing we've shared with our clients is to use something that's a little bit more gimmicky to encourage a click. We need to encourage the customers to take some kind of action, which can be creatively done through something gimmicky, fun, social, or something else, such a fun offer that you have to click to get something. It can be a forward-to-a-friend campaign that supports both growing the list and perhaps a little promotion.

DMN: What are the other big problems that e-mail marketers are facing?

Eichner: I'm still sort of surprised that today's marketers don't have very clean lists – and I mean some still have significant numbers of inactive names. I'm surprised that in today's society where they have been doing e-mail marketing for so long that they are still not adhering to the fact that they should retire names. If you continue to mail to them, that's a sign of disengagement, and eventually those ISPs are going to turn them into spam traps. If you have an e-mail address that is closed, but no one has formally closed it, the ISPs will turn those into spam traps and that tells the ISPs that you are not cleaning your lists. I am kind of surprised today that we still see so many reasonably sized mailers that should know better but who try to do the blast-and-spray model of the 1990s.

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