E-commerce Link: Reaching Out
As digital marketing continues to grow, it's important to use a variety of online channels to your advantage for maximum outreach. But for this column, let's focus on email and its usefulness in prospecting. As a caveat, this doesn't work for every marketer, but there are ways to improve your odds for success. Specifically, I'll examine the components that are important to any email acquisition campaign.
Let's start with the key components for success—the lists, offer and creative as they contribute to motivating response. In direct mail, there is debate about the successful mix of these three components, and you'll find many mailers use the 40/40/20 rule, while some will use the 70/20/10 rule. The rules really aren't that much different for email.
1. Email Lists
Most good lists are available on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis. There are some lists available on a cost-per-lead or cost-per-click basis, but, generally, the quality of those names will be inferior. The average email CPM for business lists is $279 and $112 for consumer lists.
That may sound expensive, but it's important to actually increase your costs and select within the overall list. This allows you to be more targeted; the more you can focus your marketing message on the right audience, the better your results will be. Primary considerations:
• Find a good email list broker. This is not an easy task, but one consideration might be that the broker is a member of the Direct Marketing Association. The DMA operates with rules and ethical principles, and membership provides at least some pre-screening. If you already have a relationship with a list brokerage company, ask to contact its email experts.
• Brief your broker well. The more you can share—such as demographic and firmagraphic information—the more your broker will be able to provide more targeted recommendations. View this as a partnership. Where possible, you shouldn't just select a list that seems appealing; you want to target selections such as recency, gender, income, business sector, ZIP code and more.
• Ask for competitive intelligence. Ask for information on what other companies are using the list—this information is freely available. Most reputable list owners will provide this information. You may not receive intelligence that is directly comparable to your business, but if you see recognizable names and services using a list, it should give you a comfort level in making your decision.
• Expectations. A good broker will provide you with a spreadsheet containing the lists, available names and selects he thinks are important. The broker will also back up the spreadsheet with individual datacards that contain additional information about the list. Ultimately, the decision is yours—but be sure to examine the datacards carefully to get a good feel for the list.
• Payment. Be aware that most new list orders require pre-payment before their use.
• Compliance with CAN-SPAM. CAN-SPAM has many provisions. But one that is particularly important for marketers who want to use email for prospecting purposes is that the law states you may not mail to any individual who has opted out of receiving communications from your company. This means marketers are required to provide all prior opt-outs to each list you plan to mail. If you are not asked for opt-outs by a list manager or list owner, beware.
This is a generalization, but don't expect to sell goods and services from an initial email. It's likely most of the targeted recipients may not be aware of your brand, how superior your products are or your stellar customer service.
Instead of simply selling, ask prospects to register for a whitepaper, participate in a contest or sign up for your email program. Remember, if you collect their information, you have the opportunity to continually nurture the lead. Primary considerations:
• From line. Do you control your email "from" line? There are pros and cons to this. In some circumstances, the list owner controls the from line, which can be a good thing for mailers because the owner introduces you by saying something like "You signed up to receive emails from [XYX.com] and here is an offer you may be interested in. If you do have the ability to define your own email from line, then you need to think about whether your company name will be recognizable.
• Subject line. Because you may not control the from line, it's a good idea to include your company name in the subject line. Aim for a subject line that's fewer than 45 characters, and include action words and verbs. Relate to your audience and immediately give them a reason to read your email.
Creative is the last element in importance, because a superior targeted list and offer that resonates with the target audience will work even if the creative is not exceptional. However, a marketer should still strive for solid creative to increase the odds for success. Primary considerations:
• Copy. Keep copy short and focused.Your primary offer should be both above and below the fold.
• HTML and text. Most list owners will ask you to provide both HTML and text versions of your message. Format your text version to 65 characters wide with hard line breaks and use inline HTML where every element is pre-defined for the best viewable experience.
• Bullets, headlines and subheads. Make it easy to understand the key points of your message. Most readers skim—so organizing content for an easy read is important.
• Use action words in your calls-to-action. Unfortunately, your wonderful creative may not be delivered in the pristine state you expected. And, given image blocking, it's important that your primary links are expressed as both buttons and text links. Tip: Buttons should be implemented as HTML text "floating" over the background graphic. This allows recipients to see the call-to-action when images are disabled.