Reach Next Level of E-Mail Marketing

Still unconvinced about the effectiveness of e-mail marketing?

Consider this: An Acxiom/Bigfoot e-mail test generated a 1.5 percent response rate within an hour and a final response rate of 20.7 percent.

In other campaigns, e-mail response rates have reached 56 percent in fewer than two days.

Marketers are masters of marketing to large groups because marketing to small groups has been too costly. But with e-mail, it is now possible to micro market. For example:

* A cruise line with excess capacity can execute an e-mail campaign that offers special discounts to the line's most frequent customers in time to fill empty seats.

* A retailer can cement relationships with its best customers by delivering a special offer only to them and electronically connecting them to a private area on its Web site to take advantage of the promotion.

* A cataloger can move low-inventory items by e-mailing to several thousand or even a few hundred customers and still control costs enough for acceptable profit margin. Such just-in-time, pinpoint marketing protects the bottom line, builds customer loyalty and avoids polluting a customer list with margin-busting offers.

E-mail provides an innovative way to maximize return on one of a company's most important assets, its customers. By providing more and better information about individuals' responses and buying patterns, e-mail technology enables marketers to fine-tune offers in even the largest campaigns down to the one-on-one level.

For instance, by embedding several response links or electronic connections to the marketer's Web site in an e-mail promotion, marketers can determine who responds to a solicitation and what aspect of the offer stimulated their response. Moreover, that insight is as readily obtained in a mailing of 5,000 messages as it is in a mailing of 5 million.

Consider a Web music retailer who collects e-mail addresses from site visitors. The retailer might construct an e-mailing that highlights its latest additions in each music category. Embedded hotlinks could let the consumer listen to a preview of a CD in each music category. Even if the prospects did not buy, consumers who listened to the latest jazz offering have indicated an interest in jazz. The next time this music retailer contacts that consumer it will be to tell them about new jazz offerings.

By integrating e-mail marketing results into a database, marketers archive key information about every message recipient. The resulting database will identify who was most motivated by discounts, rebates and special offers; who was most interested in hearing about the latest merchandise; and who did not respond and probably needs a different approach. In future mailings, the marketer can use this intelligence to create a stronger dialog with each customer.

Through a databased approach, the Web environment can also be personalized, making it easier for customers to order. For example, as part of subscription renewal efforts publications could bring subscribers to a Web site where their order form information is already prefilled. The consumer could simply review the information and click a “Yes, bill me” field or enter his or her credit-card information.

Customized Web-display features are available through some of the more advanced e-mail delivery systems and can improve response rates dramatically.

Capture the Advantages of E-Mail:

* Link e-mail with Web content. Embed hot links in the message that will make it easy for the reader to visit the marketer's Web site.

* Keep initial mailings short and to the point. Remember, recipients are reading these messages on their computer monitors.

* Employ message personalization and customization when possible.

* Analyze each call to action or link in a mailing to determine what works and what doesn't, and archive that knowledge in your marketing database.

* Use your brand equity. Include your company name as the sender of the message. This distinguishes you from the anonymous spammers.

* Give a compelling reason to open or read the message in the header or subject line.

* Keep it simple. For now, you should deliver only text e-mail messages with embedded hotlinks because only about 30 percent of e-mail recipients can read HTML mail.

* Use the power of interactivity. Embed multiple calls to action in the e-mail message offering recipients several choices or hotlinks. Multiple offers increase the probability of a sale and generate valuable information that can then be appended back to the marketer's database.

The Web is an almost limitless new channel for reaching businesses and consumers. The future is here for interactive marketing, and the medium for capturing its opportunity is e-mail.

Regina Brady is the leader of interactive services at Acxiom/Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT.

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