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Integration Is Key for E-Mail Acquisition

It is no surprise that e-mail is the most popular online activity. Forty-two percent of e-mail users check their business e-mail even when they are on vacation; 23 percent check their e-mail on weekends; 53 percent of business users check their e-mail six or more times during the working day, and 34 percent of users check e-mail constantly throughout the day.

This constant consumer interaction with e-mail creates a novel and unprecedented marketing opportunity. However, we still are in the early stages of e-mail marketing. Marketers are just beginning to recognize the importance of integrating e-mail for acquisition into their broader online and offline campaigns and applying the same principles to e-mail that we are accustomed to with traditional direct marketing.

A recent Forrester Research report, based on conversations with 50 consumer-focused e-mail marketers, concluded that e-mail is used for retention, not for acquisition. The marketers interviewed indicated that they send 90 percent of their e-mails to existing customers.

In contrast, they said they rarely used e-mail for acquisitions. However, according to IMT Strategies, e-mail for acquisition works. Its research asserts that response rates for e-mail acquisition campaigns have actually increased. Click-through rates have increased 24 percent. Conversions are actually higher than conversions on retention campaigns (in the 6 percent to 7 percent range). Unsubscribe rates have dropped 25 percent.

Currently, e-mail for acquisition is often still used in isolation. Integrating e-mail campaigns with other online and offline marketing tools will improve overall effectiveness of the marketer's strategy.

Imagine, for example, that the marketer spends $100 to acquire a customer offline through direct mail and also spends $100 to acquire a customer online through e-mail acquisition.

If both customers respond to the first promotion, it will still cost $100 to re-contact the customer who responded to the offline direct mail piece. It will cost the marketer only pennies, however, to re-contact the customer that was acquired through the acquisition e-mail campaign.

This strategy will drive significant return on investment over the lifetime value of that customer.

Some of the most effective e-mail acquisition campaigns are integrated with offline campaigns. Marketers combining online and offline direct mail efforts, such as using e-mail to follow up on direct mail offers, drive response rates in the 18 percent to 20 percent range, said Grey Direct/Biz Report. Using the combination of e-mail and direct mail, marketers can reinforce their messages and offer alternative ways to purchase.

To make acquisition campaigns work best, marketers must return to traditional marketing principles. Marketers should test a wide range of lists and selects that make sense for their products and offers, and compare results against a control. Creative should engage target customers by tailoring the message to the offer, the list and the select. For example, a generic 10 percent off your next stay at a hotel will not perform as well when targeted at an entire list as it will when targeted at users within that list who have indicated that they travel several times a year.

Smart marketers are using e-mail not only to get in front of existing customers but also to reach new prospects in a powerful way. They are relying on e-mail as a strategic tool to increase sales, develop long-term customer loyalty and also to establish new revenue opportunities by converting strangers into permission or sales relationships.

Marketers are becoming increasingly excited about the effectiveness of this low-cost targeted marketing tool, but we all need to take the next step — integrating acquisition e-mail with our retention e-mail tools and offline marketing strategies as well as leveraging our knowledge about offline direct response to pinpoint successful e-mail acquisition marketing strategies.

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