There's more to e-mail than e-mail

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Bob Hale
Bob Hale

How does your company approach direct mail? Do you just randomly send the same package to everyone on your list, without regard for past behavior or purchase models? Probably not. So why is it that when it comes to e-mail marketing, so many organizations apply an entirely different — entirely lax — standard?

All too often, while marketers are busy applying analytics to every other facet of direct marketing, e-mail is being handled on its own, segregated from the rest of the  communications strategy.

Sending thousands of e-mails to thousands of addresses, even if you have permission, isn't much better than spamming.

All it takes to inform your e-mail marketing efforts is a little knowledge of your customers' behavior. If you think you don't know enough about them, you're wrong. In fact, what you know about their online activities can go a long way toward rounding out your overall customer view — and a long way toward increasing revenues across your organization.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, e-mail drove more than $16 billion in revenue last year and influenced nearly $100 billion more.

Those are impressive numbers, but it's clear that of the 83 percent of marketers that use e-mail, many aren't mining it as well as they could be.

What do you need to tap into that potential?

Deep customer data, not just aggregated Web data or click-throughs. Interact with your customers. Find out their preferences. And pull together everything you know from every source.

Insight into that data. Find the right software and tools to learn about your audience using demographic, tracking and account data. Using disparate applications to accomplish these tasks usually doesn't work. It's not practical. “Right software and tools” means, using a single integrated platform. Don't worry, they're out there.

Action. You've got the facts, now act on them. Data-driven decisions are easy to justify and easy to measure at the back end.

Measurement. If you can't measure it, you shouldn't be doing it. You need to know what works, and what individual customers and prospects prefer.

The ability to fine tune and change directions. Responding to what you learn lets you continually tighten future campaigns.

Using e-mail as a full-fledged direct marketing channel, and applying the same analytical standards you've set for offline efforts, can help you get a better look at your customers, build stronger relationships and increase returns in every possible way. That's the value of real relationship building and acknowledging the real value of your customer.

Bob Hale is vice president of business development for Alterian. You can reach him at bhale@alterian.com.

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