March 26, 2009

An Email Marketing "Best Practices" Checklist E-mail is the go-to device for everyone attempting to deal with these tough economic times. For retailers, each e-mail blast is a predictable ka-ching; one that gets addictive quickly when sales at the cash-wrap desk, the 800 number or through the catalog fall off. E-mail response, like postal mail, degrades with repetitive re-mails which also prompt predictable numbers of opt-outs and complaints. To use e-mail for optimum effect, marketers need to factor in strategic and tactical considerations and link these directly to the business objectives of each campaign. Strategic Elements Scope the Program. Everything starts with the end result. What do you want the recipients of your e-mail to feel, think or do? If this is a one-off effort it will need to work differently than if its part of a newsletter, club or continuity program. If this is going to a specific segment or a house list, it will be received differently than if it’s a wide scale mass acquisition effort. If it’s a new product or service launch versus a special offer on a well known brand, response will vary greatly. The scope will reflect the goals – who, what, when, how often and what needs to be accomplished and measured. Clarity on the front end will make measurement and analysis much easier on the back end. Build/Align the Channels. An e-mail is the front end of a multi-dimensional response system. Before you blast out e-mails you must decide where you will direct the response, usually expressed as clicks or calls, and what experience the responder will have immediately after making a click or a call. This involves designing landing pages, embedding additional links, video, audio, PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, 800 numbers and measurement tools. It also demands that you anticipate the most likely emotional and rational responses to your message and prepare the requisite answers and materials. An e-mail starts a hoped-for chain reaction. At the outset of a program, you must anticipate each step in that chain and marshal the creative, technical and analytic resources necessary to capitalize on those clicks. If you mail before these are in-place and tested you squander the effort. If you do this smartly, you are rewarded with the results you desire. Work on the List. Who you address directly influences what happens. Every list is flawed. Assume that 20-30 percent of the names on any list you buy will bounce. And assume that most house lists, even those carefully maintained, will lose 3-5 percent of address after each mailing. The provenance of the lists is also a key indicator for response. Names carefully opted-in by brand loyalists will perform much better than random names gathered by lead generation sites or list compilers. Smart players, and virtually all bulk e-mail programs and services, offer list cleaning, merge/purge and integrity tools that everybody should use. In this market, negotiate a “net name” deal which will give you credit for the names you buy that can’t be delivered. Craft a Compelling Offer. We have trained everyone to expect a deal in an e-mail. Your offer has to speak directly to your target audience and present something that they have to do right now. Limited quantities, discount prices or time limitations drive some urgency but most of us can discern a real value from a passing promo offer in a nanosecond. So think long and hard about what you are offering. How sensible is it your customers and how can you make it feel like something they must have right away? Also think about how the offer will impact subsequent brand perceptions. Will the offer cement your relationship with customers or could it signal that the brand is slipping in quality or customer focus? Embed Tests. There are no fixed success formulas for e-mail marketing. We test everything by splitting the list and trying different tactics against different customer or prospect sets. Ideally we test one element at a time so that we can get a clean read on the relationship between any single element and response. The e-mail game rests on getting the e-mail delivered to a valid inbox and getting it opened If its not opened and read … game over … you tilt out the campaign. Three key factors determine open rates. First is the technical dimension. Is your e-mail sufficiently short, formatted properly, free of words, images or embedded elements that will trigger spam filters or send the e-mail immediately to the “junk” box? The second key dimension is the “To”...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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