The Economic Challenge: E-mail success in a tough economy

While times are tight for marketers and consumers alike, now is as good a time as ever to use e-mail marketing. E-mail is cheap, measurable and affords marketers the ability to test, target and measure in ways that more traditional channels such as direct mail and print cannot. Companies looking to weather these tough times should take advantage of the channel and refine their e-mail programs.

“Since e-mail is quick to set up, design and deploy, marketers can expand or contract their campaigns as necessary to accommodate budget changes,” says Chip House, VP of industry and relationship marketing at ExactTarget.

Here are four ways experts recommend tackling the tough economy using e-mail:

Segment, test and be relevant

Know your audiences and segment them accordingly, says Kelly Dedman, VP of client services at CheetahMail. “Test and optimize creative approaches, types of offers and offer thresholds to get a sense of what might drive response. Consumer behavior this year may be quite different than in years past.”

Become more social and mobile with e-mail

“E-mail, or messaging in general, is taking on new forms via a variety of inboxes across channels including traditional e-mail, social and mobile marketing,” says Erick Mott, communications director at Lyris. “That said, marketers need to remember that their campaigns and content can get more mileage across channels – which can lead to better engagement with audiences at lower costs to marketers. Call it repurposing or just better orchestration, marketers can save money and improve campaign results by thinking in terms of ‘tri-messaging’ via e-mail, social and mobile.”

Choose quality over quantity

“When it comes to e-mail marketing, quality beats quantity by a long shot. Marketers shouldn’t try to go for a short-term bang via e-mail by purchasing a list, or appending e-mail addresses to their postal file,” House says. “Those activities will just kill their deliverability, brand, and potential for success. An e-mail strategy should be continuous, consistent and focused on long-term value rather than the typical blast approach. Marketers should build their lists through a clear opt-in strategy and leverage personalization and behavioral targeting capabilities to deliver relevant communications.”

Maintain frequency until requested otherwise

“When the going gets tough, it’s human nature to do more of something to increase your odds of success. But in e-mail, sending more campaigns with reminder messages, offers and requests to respond, will likely backfire and alienate opt-in prospects, customers and advocates,” Mott says. “It’s important to remember that your target audiences have many other marketers sending them messages that may not be as valuable as yours – but it can all become a blur when e-mail volumes increase in the PC, social or mobile inbox. Stick to the game plan that audiences agreed to unless they tell you different. Maintain a rhythm to help ensure your messages are anticipated, welcomed, responded to and shared, instead of ignored or shut down with other spam.”

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