Speakers Ponder How to Deliver on E-Mail's Promise

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NEW YORK -- A panel at the Direct Marketing Association's List Vision show tackled the challenges and advantages of the constantly growing online market and how best to use the integrated opportunities.

Issues such as data security, spyware, privacy and CAN-SPAM Act compliance were at the heart of the session.

"On the e-mail side, delivery is key," said Lou Mastria, chief privacy officer and vice president of public affairs at NextAction, Summit, NJ. "You could send out the best e-mail in the world, but if it doesn't get to anyone, what is the point?"

Mr. Mastria suggested strategies such as e-mail prospecting, using segmentation and personalization as well as multichannel contact strategy development.

It is also key to re-mail previous respondents, as learned by Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, WV, which offered a $100 room discount to those who did not respond initially and saw net revenue of $75,000 within 48 hours.

Marketers also must make their messages large and clear, Mr. Mastria said. And it is important to avoid having too much copy.

Another panelist said consumers still appreciate a telephone number as well, with 20 percent of sales transacted via that channel.

"Any e-mail that you send out, make sure that there is a toll-free 800 number always included in it," said Regina Brady, president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions. "Not everyone is ready to leap to the Web site and make an order, so you have to think about multichannels."

Sites should try to include a customer service page where consumers can update their e-mail addresses.

Pre-announcements of catalogs and magazines via e-mail also give respondents up-to-date information.

"Sixty to 70 percent of marketers might be marketing in multichannels, but they are not all multichannel marketers," said Al Gadbut, president of AcquireWeb Inc.

This becomes simpler when consumers are engaged through segmentation and personalization. Tests of e-mails highlighting products of demonstrated interest to an individual buyer have shown increases in average order value and revenue per e-mail.

"When you talk to consumers about their true interest, they are more likely to respond to you favorably," Mr. Mastria said.

The challenge to this segmentation is marketing to unknown names, said Ron Stokes, marketing and advertising director of New York Magazine. These are house file people of unknown origin, he said.

Marketers often experience a loss in response rates with them, so continuous testing is vital.

"If e-mail was the first Kool-Aid I drank," Mr. Stokes said, "the second one was e-mail append, and I went in kicking and screaming and I urge you to test it."

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