The ‘E’ Connection
This month’s column is an interview with e-mail marketing consultant and expert Jeanne Jennings.
Jennings is an 18-year veteran of interactive marketing and product development, and she is a staunch direct marketer. Her area of expertise is permission-based e-mail marketing, and she works with medium- to enterprise-sized organizations, helping them become more profitable and productive with their online marketing initiatives.
During her interactive marketing career, Jennings has helped organizations such as Hasbro Toys, the Mayo Clinic, Siemens AG, Verizon, Boston’s Museum of Science and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She is also the author of “The Email Marketing Kit: The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Bible.”
Jennings and I first worked together launching a CRM e-mail initiative for Hasbro. What I learned is that we are both dyed-in-the-wool direct marketers, and that core direct marketing principles apply to both direct mail and e-mail.
Here she shares with Target Marketing readers her insights on what direct mail marketing can teach you about initiating effective interactive marketing campaigns; rules of the road for permission-based e-mailing; how to gather names for your campaigns; successful applications of this marketing medium; and more.
Pat Friesen: What are some of the major benefits of e-mail campaigns?
Jeanne Jennings: Because e-mail is much less expensive to produce and deliver than traditional direct mail, you have the potential for an extremely strong ROI. However, just because it’s “cheap” doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for all audiences. It also doesn’t mean you can get away with [not] doing your homework. As with direct mail, you should test lists, offers, copy and creative.
Another e-mail benefit is that it helps you reach audiences you may be missing. There are those who trust and respond to direct mail, and others who use the Internet as their primary source of information and for making purchases. As a marketer, I want to be every place my customer may be looking for me—both online and off. Neither e-mail nor direct mail is going away. You need to create synergy to have them both work for you.
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.
If you find a list owner that lets you do your own send, be alert. Because the company is not protecting its list, it probably means it isn’t good quality. Plus, when you do the send, you’re putting yourself at risk for taking responsibility for Can Spam-related issues.
One other difference between e-mail and direct mail is that since the list owner does the send, you can’t do a merge/purge. If a name/e-mail address is on multiple lists, that person will get multiple e-mails from you.
PF: If lists are as important to e-mail as direct mail, how do you find lists to rent, especially since e-mail is permission-based?
JJ: Most traditional direct mail list brokers also handle opt-in e-mail lists. As with direct mail, it’s good to work with brokers who are experienced and understand e-mail. Here are some e-mail list suggestions: Third-party lists will never outperform your housefile, so start by e-mailing to those on the list you already own. Also, avoid compiled lists; I have found results to be disappointing. Ask your broker to verify that the lists you are renting are indeed opt-in.
PF: What are the most appropriate and successful applications for e-mail marketing?
JJ: It all starts with answering the question: “What’s the goal?” Do you want to generate renewals, cross-sell related products and services, build your business with referrals, or upsell to increase revenues with minimal cost? Start by setting your goals. And I’d start by doing stand-alone or e-mail newsletters targeted at your own customers. This is the lowest-hanging fruit.
Something else to keep in mind: It’s easier to do B-to-B prospecting than B-to-C because there aren’t as many good consumer lists.
It also can get expensive. For example, an e-mail newsletter is an effective soft offer for getting qualified prospects to register online and be added to your housefile. But it’s going to be a multistep process to transform that prospect who responded to a soft offer into a profitable customer. It’s an investment in time and resources, so you want to measure and weigh results carefully.
PF: What tips can you share for maximizing the synergy between e-mail and direct mail?
JJ: My most valuable tip is actually just a reminder for direct marketers: Test and track results. That’s how you’ll know, for example, if you should send the e-mail first or drop your mail piece and follow up with e-mail. Just because it’s worked one way for someone else doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll work for you.
Also, when you’re doing a multichannel campaign. have similarities in the look and feel of your messaging at every touchpoint. It reinforces your brand, strengthens customer relationships and adds value to every contact you make. The end result is more sales because your customer recognizes you, values what you offer, and trusts what you say and do.
For readers who want to learn more, Jennings answers questions in eM+C magazine’s “eAnswer” feature http://www.emarketingandcommerce.com/story/2008-03-04-eanswers and her ClickZ column http://clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3622788 includes an interview with yours truly, discussing why and how to add direct mail to an existing e-mail program.