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The Media Planner's Guide to Email Planning

  |  September 6, 2011   |  Comments

How to target new audiences and email lists.

I've had the good fortune to work on acquisition campaigns for much of my digital career. This means a majority of my time is spent identifying the right channel to deliver a message that will resonate with the consumer, driving immediate action. For these efforts, email is always a top marketing channel because you have a group of folks who have opted in to receive a message; usually telling you exactly what they want (so much data to work with!).

Email can be a great marketing channel if planned right. It's important to keep in mind that media planning for email differs from display, search, and even social CRM. There are several types of email programs, but for the purposes of this discussion I am focusing on targeting new audiences/email lists.

Here is how you should get started:

The Partners

  • Full email solutions: Working as an agency in some ways, they manage all facets of email. They can plan, develop the email lists, manage the distribution, and house all data for future usage (opt-ins/opt-outs). Example: CheetahMail.
  • List brokers: Media partners who work as a network to rent lists from major brands and publishers. This approach allows the list broker to sell audiences in mass to advertisers. Example: Datran Media.
  • List sellers: Partners that own email data they have collected, and can sell it to advertisers. The consumer has requested offers from this entity, and as an advertiser you can provide an offer for them to distribute. Example: Steel Media.

There is also pay per lead, lead capture, and co-registration, which were not covered above but are worth reviewing.

The Evaluation

  • Pricing model: Identifying the costing model is important so there are no surprises after you launch. Given that impressions, sends, and delivers all differ, it's important to ensure the pricing matches what you are measuring to attain the most value from your program.
  • Usage: Is it a one-time usage of the names, is it unlimited, and do you own the data following the program? It's important to know what the relationship with the partner is prior to going live.
  • What do they guarantee the pricing on, sends or delivers? I would recommend guaranteeing the pricing on delivered emails to account for the average bounce-rate-per-email list. This way, you're not paying a partner for invalid email names.
  • Transparency: If they are a broker or selling lists, can they provide you data on which list or audience demographics performed best so you can focus your efforts further in the future?
  • Redeployment on non-opens/non-converters: I recommend always negotiating a redeployment on users who don't open the email or, in the instance of an acquisition effort, those who don't convert.

The Execution

  • Indentify lead times: Always bake in additional time; on average, you need seven to 10 days from creative delivery to deployment, given suppression, opt-language management, and testing.
  • Ask about suppression: If you have run a campaign before, or have your own database of current customers and/or a list of users who have opted out of receiving email/offers from you previously, you will need to suppress (see Can-Spam Act). Make sure you plan ahead for this; files can be large and not all partners have an easy delivery solution.
  • Understand privacy: I mentioned it above, but please know the laws. Privacy is a big discussion piece in digital right now, but has existed for years in email.
  • Can they take ad serving tags? How do they allow you to track? Most often, you will be able to supply standard click-tracking tags from your ad server.
  • Q/A and test: Once all other items have been finalized, leave time to test all components of the email in a live-test environment or test send to your inbox.

Then monitor, analyze, and optimize. Email may be different, but if you plan for it, you can structure a very successful campaign.


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Jessica Richards

As an account director for Media Contacts in New York, the interactive division of Havas Digital, Jessica is responsible for strategy development and media plan execution across a variety of clients and industries. Jessica has a wide range of digital experience, managing both brand initiatives and aggressive acquisition efforts. Her knowledge extends across many facets of digital marketing from traditional media and mobile to channel planning and social execution.

Prior to Media Contacts, Jessica was at One to One interactive in Boston, managing the B2C and B2B media campaigns for several clients. Jessica's work has won several industry awards for best use of sponsorship, mobile, and display strategy.

Jessica's career expertise started at Mullen, where she was a media planner on a broad range of traditional media.

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