The ‘E’ Connection
PF: Tell us about the similarities between the two. What does someone who knows direct mail need to know about e-mail to be successful?
JJ: If you’re already doing direct mail successfully, you need to learn just a few new tricks. As with direct mail, successful e-mail marketing uses relevant content and a strong call to action to engage the reader and generate response.
And as with direct mail, you need a strong list. List testing is as important with e-mail as it is with direct mail. I always recommend testing lists before rolling out. Unfortunately, this is one area where e-mail marketers who don’t have direct mail experience don’t always understand the importance and value of testing, and they skip it. That’s a big mistake! Keep in mind, all the rules you learned about testing in direct mail apply to e-mail.
PF: What are the biggest differences between direct mail and e-mail?
JJ: The No. 1 difference is the concept of “opting in,” also called “affirmative consent.” This means you should have permission to communicate with your recipient via e-mail before sending anything via this channel. E-mail has a long history of opt-in.
Although it’s not required—the Can Spam Act of 2003 mentions affirmative consent but does not mandate it—this rule is backed and enforced by the organizations that manage e-mail, such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo and others. Without an opt-in, you risk being blacklisted, meaning that all mail from your servers will be blocked and not delivered. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the lists you rent and/or build in-house are opt-in lists. If you’re going to do e-mail campaigns, you’ve got to accept the opt-in requirement and work within the structure that’s been set up to monitor it.
Here’s another major difference between direct mail and e-mail: In direct mail, your lettershop gets the list on labels or a data file and handles the mailing mechanics. With e-mail, the list owner never lets the list out of its possession. The list owner does the send for you.