Opt In Spam Out
Useful Tips About Permission-based E-mail
By Tim Suther
Our inboxes get filled with unsolicited commercial e-mails that we delete without reading. So how can marketers use e-mail to build solid customer relationships while avoiding the stigma attached to spam? Enabling the customer to decide what, where, when and how they receive the information is the answer.
According to research conducted by sales and marketing advisory firm IMT Strategies, based in Stamford, CT, more than 80 percent of e-mail users have given marketers permission to send them e-mail promotions, and 70 percent of customers respond to these offers more than once. In less than two years, most companies will compete based on their relationships with customers and methods of personalized marketing. IMT Strategies further predicts that if marketers refrain from saturating customers with e-mail, response rates to permission-based marketing will remain high for the next two to three years.
Attention Without Alienation
How can companies get their personalized messages across without overwhelming or alienating potential customers? Choose the right tool for the job. The most effective permission-based e-mail implementation will offer:
• Easily created, yet highly targeted e-mail messages that communicate with prospective customers in a personal, relevant way—an offer written specifically for the recipient is far more effective than a generic salutation.
• The ability to pinpoint, cross-sell and upsell incentives to the segments most likely to respond. Customer attentiveness to your e-mail will wane if your communications continually miss the mark—they'll simply hit delete without ever reading the message.
• The functionality to test everything. Finding the most effective combination of message, offer, timing and audience is the holy grail of marketing: it will dramatically improve response rates as well as improve margins on successful conversions.
• A response manager to monitor audience response in real time, that can then be routed to appropriate departments based on predefined rules. An e-mail campaign is more than just sending e-mails—it's ensuring your responses are efficiently followed up on in a personalized way.
• Tight integration between a company's e-mail and traditional campaigns. This strengthens brand and overall campaign effectiveness.
The success of e-mail marketing is not just about getting permission; it's also about learning from the dialogue—or lack of it. Timely analysis of campaign performance enables firms to adjust messages and volumes. Implementing and analyzing a "corporate memory" of campaign performance makes the difference between lumbering blindly between messages and getting the insights you need to succeed. Analyze intelligently as you build competitive advantage for your firm.
Sending and tracking truly personalized e-mails in a timely manner can be a daunting task without the appropriate technology. Companies that try to deliver a personal experience using general purpose Web authoring or programming languages are courting expensive and complex programming and system administration. Fortunately, today's software technology can mask this complexity from the marketer, ensuring not only faster implementation of your campaigns, but also dramatically lower maintenance and administrative costs.
Privacy and Preparation
When properly executed, a permission-based e-mail campaign is very cost-effective, resulting in a significantly greater return on investment and stronger, more personal customer relationships. No system is perfect, however, and companies must keep the following in mind:
• Privacy is king. If you don't have permission, don't mail it.
• Permission is a precious asset. Don't waste it on messages that fail the personal and relevant test.
• Prepare for success. Make sure your processes for dealing with responses are identified prior to campaign launch. Like the messages themselves, these processes need to be personalized.
• Test and track everything. This provides the necessary foundation for determining the success or failure of future campaigns.
• Implement and leverage "corporate memory." Proper analysis is the key to tuning your marketing initiatives.
What began as a quick and easy method of communication has rapidly become a powerful marketing tool. According to IMT Strategies, permission-based e-mail marketing can be 10 times more efficient than direct mail, 20 times more effective than banner advertising and cost significantly less than either to deliver. With the ability to tailor content, personalized e-mail will very likely remain one of the most efficient, popular and cost-effective marketing tools used to connect with customers.
Tim Suther is president of Protagona Worldwide, North America. Suther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.