Plan for the Fourth Quarter (783 words)
Fourth quarter numbers can make or break most direct marketers. Indeed, performance in this last stretch may well determine the outcome of their year-end profitability.
Done properly, e-mail marketing can be a low-cost prospecting tool that can boost sales. E-mail lists have come a long way in a short period of time and now are of better quality, more plentiful and less expensive than a few years ago. Now is the time to test this medium so you can reap the economic reward during the fourth quarter, holiday-shopping season.
Too often, e-mail acquisition is done only on an as-needed basis, with little time to test, says Tony Priore, CEO, MarketsOnDemand, a Chicago-based provider of Internet-derived, permission-based, direct marketing data solutions. "Plan now so you can take advantage of that knowledge in quarter four," he advises.
For marketers interested in adding e-mail marketing to their acquisition efforts, "the summer months are the best time to get a toe in the water," says Priore. This gives you several months to test acquisition lists and creative. "By September you are in a good position to know what works," he reasons.
Previously dominated by dot-coms, e-mail marketing is now getting strong use by catalogers and financial services marketers for prospecting.
The benefits of prospecting via e-mail are many, including the ability to determine detailed analytics and conduct considerable testing—quickly and efficiently. "You can use e-mail for everything you would in postal mail acquisition," asserts Priore.
Many permission-based consumer and business-to-business (b-to-b) e-mail lists currently are available from a variety of sources, including traditional publishers and Web sites. And they offer plenty of attributes and selects.
"Typically, consumers sign up for a product, service or newsletter at a registration page and grant permission to receive third-party offers," explains Al DiGuido, CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, a New York-based e-mail communications solutions provider.
"There is an increasing amount of information available on outside lists to help marketers do a better job in terms of defining and building selects," DiGuido says.
Indeed, the detail on these rented lists has come a long way. The data on consumer lists vary by source, but generally include demographic information such as age, gender and income. Additional information such as interests and hobbies, intent to purchase and Internet connection speed, among others, also may be included.
Likewise, b-to-b lists may include SIC code, job title, company, industry, company size and purchasing authority information. In addition, lists often include recency selects.
Whether compiled or developed by a company for the purpose of remarketing, more e-mail lists now are becoming available, observes Priore.
The supply of e-mail lists available for rent also has driven down list prices. Indeed, rental costs have greatly decreased during the past few years. Most lists now cost approximately $100/M (down from $200/M to $300/M in the late 1990s), reports Michael Mayor, CEO, NetCreations, an opt-in e-mail marketing firm based in New York City. And like their terrestrial counterparts, many such lists are negotiated off the rate card.
Any e-mail list you rent should have three common denominators, says Mayor, including the following:
1. Permission: Make sure consent has been given to receive third-party offers.
2. Relevance: The interests of the individuals on the list must be relevant to your offer.
3. Recency: E-mail addresses have a life span, and the clock starts ticking once the address is added to the file.
Most list rental is done through permission, although the level of permission may vary depending on the source, points out DiGuido. Marketers, however, generally prefer lists collected using affirmative consent.
This means a consumer has taken some form of action, such as checking a box, indicating his or her willingness to receive third-party offers.
Affirmative consent, explains DiGuido, can be broken into several levels, including:
Double Opt-in: Users check a box then receive an e-mail verifying they want to receive future communications. Once they reply to the e-mail, they're added to the database.
Confirmed Opt-in: After checking a box and/or completing a registration page, the individual receives an e-mail that verifies the e-mail address and the information submitted.
Single Opt-in: Users check a box that gives permission to receive offers from third-party marketing partners.
"A list should always have some element or level of permission," cautions Priore. If it doesn't, "the marketer renting the file runs the risk of becoming a spammer."
Now is the time to plan ahead for your holiday season and begin testing e-mail acquisition.
"Get seeded and understand the permission quality of those lists," recommends Priore. "Develop a list matrix and determine important criteria."
This will help you roll out to larger volumes in the all-important fourth quarter.