Traditional List Principles Will Work With E-Mail

E-mail has recently become the most targeted form of direct marketing.

An online customer's willingness to receive marketing messages (opted-in) indicates that their response rates (click-throughs) will be higher than with traditional direct marketing methods. The immediacy of this medium's technology indicates that the customer's responses will be virtually instantaneous (80 percent of all responses occur within 72 hours). And with the absence of paper and postal costs, the expended investment of this medium is far lower than with traditional direct mail.

E-mail marketing, however, has not arrived for every marketer. For its newest recruits, the interactive community can be a confusing place riddled with new language and changing technology. For this reason, educational provisions should be implemented when delving into this dynamic medium. With targeted e-mail, the educational focus should include approved practices, current legislation, privacy standards as well as an in depth familiarity with the rapidly evolving technologies.

Unlike the traditional list business, only a few e-mail list owners have been traditional mailers or e-mailers themselves. This is interesting because many list owners are not familiar with many of the list prospects and some list owners lack an understanding about the underlying principals and procedures of the traditional direct marketing industry.

These two factors have created a marketplace of varied definitions of lead generation/customer acquisition and the corresponding metrics used to evaluate these concepts. Multiple theories about data rental and its application also have resulted in a diluted sense of a standard communication and process flow. In reaction to this climate, it is important to increase our emphasis upon the application of proven direct marketing principles and procedures to interactive direct marketing.

Adapting an acceptable set of e-mail standards under which to operate is vital. This can be achieved by interfacing with marketers, e-mail list brokers, e-mail list managers and e-mail list owners to arrive at a privacy constitution that falls well within any current local legislation, federal legislation and DMA privacy guidelines. The most important goal with respect to customer privacy is to only mail to customers who have opted to be part of the one-to-one marketing process.

Here are the easy steps to building an online customer file:

Build content with your Web site. The depth of your media content will contribute to the depth and reach of your customer database. This holds true for online marketing. In essence, the content of your Web site should contribute to the future responsiveness of the customer-base that it attracts. Content represents why customers have come to your site and why they will keep returning.

As with traditional direct marketing mediums, online customers come in many forms: buyers, readers, game-players, contest entrants and information gatherers. Their substantive interaction with your site will stimulate their propensity to respond to subsequent offers. The more tangible experiences that you can provide for your visitors, the more likely that they will react to additional online marketing efforts. It's the very content of the site that determine responsiveness of the acquired customer.

Collect data as Web-site collateral. If you're selling a service or a specific product line, survey your customers for pertinent personal information that might support your subsequent marketing efforts. This data is best collected after the customers have made a call to action, but before they actually finish with the actual action process. Once a customer desires content from your site, you are in the best position to ask for collateral in exchange for that content.

In the case of noncommerce sites, information often is the only collateral that you require thus, it's usually simple to collect. In the case of commerce sites, the depth of your survey should not interfere with the completion of an online sale. No matter what type of site that you have, this data should pertain to the goals of your business and/or have list rental applications.

Opt in your customers to receiving e-mail messages. Customer privacy is the most prevalent concern on the Internet and traditional direct marketing communities. Increased personalization of customer information within the online community has pushed consumer uneasiness to even greater levels. Likewise, it's essential to allow customers and potential customers a quick and easy way to control their option to receive e-mail marketing messages.

E-mail service bureau: your data pipeline. The Internet is the perfect electronic venue in order to establish a live data pipeline to your data warehouse. The immediacy of live data creates the possibility to pollinate your customer database as it evolves. You should work with your e-mail service bureau in order to create a process flow where your customer base is always live. Thus, you are able to immediately react to the customer's changing needs by modifying your marketing message as well as your product/service offering.

The ideal e-mail service bureau builds and maintains databases and performs merge-purge services. It also will deliver the mail, track the success of your campaigns and filter customer responses. There are a few e-mail hosting and delivery services that can merge large-scale, reliable e-mail delivery technology with the creative, management and reporting expertise. Do not settle for a simple e-mail delivery pipeline. Also look for a fully integrated e-mail campaign management system. Regardless of the complexity of your e-mail program, your e-mail service bureau should help you to make the process more efficient and profitable.

Maximize the benefits of live customer data. The e-mail message is the single most important medium that you can use to build a one-to-one relationship with your customers. The availability of live data indicates that you, as an online marketer, can cater to your customers needs as their needs evolve.

E-mail marketing is a different medium than traditional direct mail because of technology, immediacy and the heightened attention to privacy. It's similar to direct mail because it encompasses the same measurement methodologies but more efficient in affording access to and utilization of rapidly evolving data. This immediacy ensures that you address your customers needs, in theory, as soon as they arise. But it also brings in the issue of privacy. A person receives an e-mail and it is assumed that a code of privacy has been violated unless it's clearly stated where the message came from and where the name was rented. In brief, we believe that if you follow a few basic standards, your e-mail list will be responsive and your customers will be satisfied and appreciative!

Todd Love is the director of new business development/e-mail list management at ALC of New England, Stamford, CT.

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