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Smart practices as the medium evolves

2006 gave consumers control of media and saw the rise of social commerce. With 2007 upon us, DM News spoke with several e-mail vendors to give readers tips and tricks to guide New Year’s resolutions.

Jere Doyle, president/CEO at Prospectiv, Woburn, MA, said that building a house file is the most important thing to focus on in 2007 because it’s vital to know who your customers are.

“Today’s customer is in control of all types of media, and getting consumers to tell you what they think and what they want is the key to giving them what they want,” he said.

Mr. Doyle suggested sending surveys, polls and questions to create a dialogue with customers. Collecting this data and keeping track of customer responses are the best way to know customers and yield valuable information for segmenting lists for future mailings, he said.

To Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact, Waltham, MA, making mailings more informational rather than promotional will help grab consumer attention in 2007.

“Adding value to the audience is a good way to create a relationship and let your customer know that you’re not just asking for orders all the time,” she said.

Ms. Goodman also noted the importance of e-mail reporting, as one benefit of e-mail is that you can track opens and click-throughs, giving marketers pertinent information on what works and what doesn’t in specific mailings.

As more consumers check e-mail on PDAs and 2007 brings further advances in mobile technologies, Ms. Goodman suggested designing e-mails with multiple devices in mind. Less is more, she said. Ensure that e-mails are shorter and cleaner and will appear in the window of a BlackBerry.

Matt Seeley, CEO at Experian CheetahMail, New York, considers proactive actions and follow-through techniques as the secrets to a successful e-mail plan in 2007.

E-mail collection is a good starting point, he said. Customers should be able to give their addresses on every page of a firm’s Web site as well as in locations like affiliate sites, retail point-of-sale systems and call centers.

A good opt-out strategy also is crucial, Mr. Seeley said, because this is the last chance to communicate with a customer. He suggested surveys and the option to lessen the frequency and change address, as well as using transactional e-mails as a place for marketing content.

“Consider your brand and make use of cross-sell and upsell opportunities,” he said. “Make sure that the e-mail is delivered and that the results are tracked.”

Tracking is key, as Mr. Seeley said that by following up on shopping cart abandonment and customer browsing history with e-mail, marketers can proactively re-engage consumers with the brand.

This relevancy should be the goal of e-mail, said Dave Lewis, vice president of market development at StrongMail, Redwood Shores, CA.

“Just because e-mail is cheap and easy to deploy, you still have to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time to maximize results,” he said. “The economics of the medium aren’t an excuse for not applying good direct marketing practices, such as proper targeting and message relevancy.”

Mr. Lewis suggested continually analyzing results and A-B testing to keep messaging relevant. And just as you manage brand perception offline, online brand management is critical, he said.

“The first step is to ensure that your e-mail (identities) like Internet provider addresses and domains are consistent and properly authenticated,” he said, then manage your reputation by regularly assessing your marketing practices and customer satisfaction.

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