E-Mail Marketing: The Emerging Story

Most experts would agree that e-mail has become the killer application of the Web. Yet few things in marketing have changed as fast as e-mail.

The rules and etiquette have gone from the true believers of double opt-in, followed by the more reasonable opt-in e-mail to the now almost-standard opt-out e-mail. We have evolved to the acceptance by many, but certainly not all, of appended e-mail addresses.

None of this should come as a shock because it means that e-mail in general is being accepted as a standard medium of communication.

There is one difference between the first three versions of e-mail, which are double opt-in, opt-in and opt-out, versus appended e-mail. To one degree or another the individual receiving the first three has given some sort of permission. Many people will argue with what permission means, but everyone would agree that some form of permission has been given.

While I’m not advocating appending, it seems the trend is moving toward general acceptance in direct marketing.

No permission has been given with an appended e-mail address. The person or company that is appending the name with an address has basically guessed at what the address is or has tagged the street address to an already existing file. Several issues are involved here under pending legislation where it will be required to state the source of the name or e-mail address. Appended names may fall into a violation, but probably that will not be the case.

I have a simpler question. How, before actually blasting out my newly appended e-mail names, will I know whether the file is any good?

How do I know that the service company I went to for the appending has done an accurate job prior to sending tens of thousands of e-mail names in a blast?

How can I avoid receiving back either “spam cop” notices or hundreds and hundreds of bounces?

Here is a solution. This assumes that you have some legitimate e-mail names that have been collected by one of the three permission-based options that I stated above. Let us say that you have 30,000 permission-based e-mail names already on your house file. Let us also assume that overall the house file has 100,000 postal names, and you wish to append the 70,000 that are left.

My test is the following: Take 10,000 of your permission-based e-mail addresses that you already collected, send the postal addresses of these names to your appending service bureau. Let them append what they think would be the proper e-mail address. Then do a match between the 10,000 that you know are accurate and the new e-mail addresses that the service bureau appended.

Without blasting one name or receiving any spam complaint or bounces, you will know whether the appending service is going to do the job for you.

Now the question becomes, what percentage of the proper addresses is acceptable for the price?

Here is some background on business-to-business appending. Do not expect the service bureau to come back with more than 40 percent hits. Having said that, even some BTB individuals have more than one e-mail address. The key here is, you already know that you have 10,000 deliverable e-mails, and therefore the hit rate against your own files should be at least at 25 percent accuracy.

Everything is in the eyes of the beholder. If one e-mail address can yield a $3,000 sale, then 500 correct new e-mail addresses may be worth your while. If you are selling a $39 widget, that will not be the case.

There are other items that will improve your response:

One is the case of the multiple links in an e-mail message. Do not confuse multiple links with multiple offers. I think most direct mail copywriters will agree that one direct mail piece should be written for an offer so as not to confuse the consumer or buyer. The same is true in e-mail. Recently, however, I’ve seen multiple links that lead to different offers. Your multiple links should go to the same offer, not to different offers. The same direct marketing principles apply to postal and e-mail.

A second quick tip for e-mail is personalization in the subject line. Individuals like to know not only who is sending the communication but that they are receiving the message as an individual and that you have taken the time to write them a personal communication. Use their name in the subject line.

A third tip is that most e-mails now arrive on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays to consumers and businesses. This has become the practice because of the huge amount of e-mail that was sitting at people’s desks on Monday or Monday evenings from a weekend or because on Friday people are looking forward to escaping for the weekend.

This trend is causing a flood of e-mail to arrive midweek, diminishing the recipients’ chance of reading each message. I’ll refer to this as the triage effect. People have to choose which messages they read and discard the others.

It may be worth retesting Mondays and Fridays to see whether a new balance is taking place. Eventually e-mail blasts may get priced at higher rates for different days of the week. It may be similar to how companies buy radio spots during drive time. With e-mail per thousand costs dropping, pricing may become based on criteria other than source of name or unit of sale.

The rules of e-mail marketing are changing daily. What was improper or intrusive yesterday may become the norm. In all cases, common sense will win the day. If it does not make sense, do not do it.

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