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Conquer The Day With E-Mail Marketing

by Alf Nucifora

The tekkies call it a killer app. Marketers see it as an irresistible communications tool. It's definitely a juggernaut in the making. E-mail marketing is taking over because it makes sense. Printed newsletters are dying for the obvious reasons (cost, development time, disinterested readers). Printed direct mail more often than not goes directly from postman to waste bin unopened. In the meantime, the e-mail versions can be produced more quickly and distributed in a more timely fashion. This means that frequency is easy to maintain. Putting out regular monthly newsletters no longer has to involve pain, suffering and delay. E-newsletters cost less to develop (no printing or postage). They can be passed on virally with an instantaneous click (hit the forward button); and they're easy to respond to (just hit the reply button).

Program vs. Campaign Marketing

There are two main types of e-mail marketing execution... program marketing and campaign marketing, both equally effective but each with a different objective.

Program marketing represents an ongoing effort, a recognized deliverable (normally an e-newsletter) distributed with habitual frequency. Delta's "Weekly Web Fares" or my own monthly "The Alf Report" are classic examples. Each issue is recognizable for its similar timing and graphic footprint. Traditionally, program marketing serves a brand awareness building function, although there is no reason that it can't be used to push product and drive sales. According to Michael Pridemore, CEO of Socketware, a leading online marketing software provider, "relevancy and consistency must be established with the reader." Where does the problem lie... in getting them to open the newsletter and read it. Even subscribers who have opted in will delete rather than read if they are under time pressure or they have forgotten that they subscribed.

Campaign marketing is represented by the "one off," normally an issue-specific communication or an individual mailing delivered as a one-time event. All those spam e-mails you currently receive each day for Viagra substitutes and mortgage rate reduction define the breed.

What The Pros Do

What are the important elements for successful program marketing? According to Pridemore, it's 40% having the correct list, 40% having the correct content and 20% style. He suggests keeping a single focus in communication strategy as well as overall tonality and look. Don't be too salesy. Be informational, educational and entertaining, e.g., best practices, important links. The tone should be conversational, a difficult deliverable for most companies. Name and subject line should be compelling. It's the top two or three inches that get the attention and help determine the decision between reading and deleting. Personalization is always preferable.

It is imperative that the e-mail marketing effort be integrated into the overall marketing strategy. It's very much an essential element of integrated marketing communication (IMC). Every element of the marketing communications mix, both offline and online, e.g., advertising, PR, telemarketing, e-mail newsletter, etc., must work together to produce a consistent message and a synergistic result.

Where Is The Vulnerability?

The ease of e-mail marketing is also its greatest weakness. It can be too easy to do. Therefore, think about it first. Follow a strategy; don't rush in. There is already too much clutter infecting our e-mail boxes. Today more than 50% of all Americans use e-mail for an average of half an hour each day. By 2006, consumers are expected to receive an average of 1,400 pieces of junk mail in their boxes each year. What we will see is cyber Darwinism... only the best will survive to be read.

In-House vs. Outsourcing

You've decided to develop an e-mail marketing effort. Should you do it in-house or outsource it to professionals? Keeping it in-house will provide greater security and control by integrating the newsletter with applicable internal functions, e.g., call center and CRM. A sophisticated in-house system for larger companies can cost in the range of $50,000 - $250,000 for acquisition and installation. Outsourcing lessens the control but costs less. You send the raw content to an ASP and they do the rest. For a small company with a distribution list of 2,000-3,000 names be prepared to spend $1,000 - $2,000 per month.

Special Request

I'm currently writing a column that discusses marketing on the cheap. If you know of a legitimate example of someone who has employed unique, effective and inexpensive marketing strategies, please . I need some good case studies to feature.

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