Using the 4 Ps of E-Mail Marketing

Anyone who has studied marketing is aware of the four Ps. But did you know e-mail marketing has its own four Ps: permission, privacy, profiling and personalization?

E-mail is arguably the fastest-growing tool available to marketers. More than two-thirds of them use e-mail in some form. And though many marketers concede that their budgets are dwindling, they plan to spend more on e-mail in the coming year.

The reasons for its rising popularity are varied. Many see it as an efficient, cost-effective tool in an era of tight budgets. Overall, it costs less than traditional methods while consistently generating better response rates. Furthermore, e-mail can be tracked at every stage of a marketing campaign. Research also indicates that recipients prefer it over direct mail and other marketing vehicles when it is permission-based.

Permission. Permission is the key to e-mail marketing. What I mean by permission is receiving permission from the end user and keeping it. If you don’t have explicit permission from recipients, you are spamming them. Most e-mail marketers do not spam.

But is e-mail permission what you are really looking for? Some lawmakers are considering permission and privacy laws that include all forms of marketing from direct mail to telemarketing.

In Ontario, for example, the government is proposing detailed privacy and personal-information legislation that would require all marketers to get permission before they collect personal information. Marketers would have to indicate to the consumer how they plan to use this personal information and what mechanism they have in place for consumers to reject this request if they wish. In effect, marketers would be required to receive “marketing permission.” Fines could run as high as $100,000 per violation.

So what is likely to happen when dozens, perhaps hundreds, of marketers converge on the same consumer for marketing permission? My guess is that e-mail marketing fatigue will set in, leading to mass consumer rejection. So why wait for the legislators? Those who take the high road and get permission now will reap financial rewards later.

Privacy. Many e-mail marketers previously bundled the privacy issue with permission. Though both are related, they are very different. Permission, as we have noted, is a request to receive personal information and an invitation to market products or services to individual consumers. Privacy is what e-mail marketers do with the personal information once they receive it and how they keep it private from prying eyes. With identity theft rising and the average person more concerned about privacy issues, organizations that consistently take the privacy high road will endear themselves to customers.

Every company that markets products and services should develop a clear, concise and easy-to-read privacy policy and then implement it. As an example, a national airline company recently contradicted its own privacy policy in the midst of a campaign to communicate that same privacy policy to its customers and other consumers. Not taking your privacy policy seriously can damage brands and corporate reputations.

Profiling. One reason e-mail is an effective marketing tool is its ability to collect data (demographic, psychographic, historical, etc.) and then implement programs to accommodate this information. In its simplest form, profiling is asking recipients about their preferences so marketers can provide them with relevant information and offers on products and services.

Keeping profiles simple is often the best rule of thumb. Essentially, marketers want to know who they are, what they want, how they want to be contacted and how often. It’s also prudent to provide users with access to view and freely update their profile. Giving the end users control is far better than having them unsubscribe from your e-mails because you sent them something they did not want.

Use contests, questionnaires and polls to collect information, then aggregate the data with other sources including point-of-sale, order history, Web logs and e-mail metrics to create powerful customer and prospect profiles. Once assembled, analysis and computer modeling can help better understand the end user and create specific profiles such as most valuable customers or most active customers.

Personalization. This is where e-mail marketing really sparkles. You have permission. You have developed a best-of-class privacy policy. Your recipients like it and are comfortable with it. You have data and have profiled your customers and prospects.

Using your profile information and collected data, you know what each recipient wants, how they want it and when they want it. Through a properly orchestrated e-mail campaign, you can cost-effectively leverage this customer information with appropriate content that has the right message and the right offer to the right person at the right time.

Personalization doesn’t mean sending the same message to your entire database and changing the opening line with “Dear .” In e-mail marketing there is no “one size fits all.” E-mail gives you the capability to ensure that each person gets the personal treatment from your organization.

Experience has shown that e-mail marketers using personalization tend to have better open and response rates. They also have an easier time keeping the end user’s permission.

The combination of permission, privacy, profiling and personalization will keep end users hooked on your company, your products and services, your messages and your success.

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