2006: The Year E-Mail Marketing Comes of Age

By now, you’ve probably gotten your fill of email-related blogs and columns predicting what 2006 holds for email marketers. Many of these predictions tell us how smart email marketing is linked to the latest advancements in optimization technologies, widespread RSS usage, blog-mania, the search craze, and continuously declining direct mail response rates.

These predictions all seem to add up to one key question: is 2006 the year email marketing comes of age?

My answer: Yes.

In 2006, marketers will finally realize email marketing can be used to drive success in every type of effort you have planned in a powerful way. This opportunity is best demonstrated through the following case study.

Recently I received a viral email from a friend about The Ryan Andrew Kaiser Memorial Foundation (RAKMF). I was immediately affected upon visiting the site. I was also quite impressed with the sophistication this organization has demonstrated in utilizing email as a cornerstone for communication in almost everything it does.

Four unique qualities and elements of email marketing helped bring the RAKMF’s dreams closer to reality.

E-Mail as an Awareness Vehicle

When the RAKMF was officially formed, spreading awareness of the cause and site was key. “We used every channel we could to get the word out,” said Andy Kaiser, the foundation’s president. “We relied on both traditional media, like the press [and” search, as well as friends, family, and those affected by our story to spread the word.” But it was the power of a personal (viral) email that offered the biggest impact.

Soon, the site saw unexpected positive traffic volumes and supporting activity that helped turn this genuine effort into a reality that would touch many lives. “We are located in New Jersey, and, to our astonishment, we received emails from people as far south as Florida and west as California,” explained Kaiser.

E-Mail as a Sponsorship Tool

The primary goal of the RAKMF is to acquire charitable funds and disperse them according to the charter. Financial support from corporations and businesses is crucial. In most cases, email is used to initiate a dialogue, followed by a phone call to interested sponsors. In other cases, email is used throughout the information-gathering and support-validation process. It’s also used as an effective means to distribute the official documents surrounding the sponsorships.

E-Mail as a Donation Management Component

Though many corporations and local businesses quickly jumped to support the RAKMF, many families, friends, and strangers extended their support as well by donating money and time and participating in events.

Like its role in corporate sponsorships, email supports this process in a variety of ways, including awareness and information provider. But email’s most important role is seen both during and after donations. Many people email personal stories of hope, compassion, and love. Others lead the organization to families in needed help.

After each donation, Andy and Lauren Kaiser send a personal thank-you email back to the donor, telling the donor how her thoughtfulness has touched their family and how the donation will help the RAKMF’s cause. This very personal email accomplishes much more than a simple service email. It builds a relationship, which is critical to the organization’s success, philosophically and financially. This personal relationship is leveraged for future events and communications.

E-Mail as an Event Coordinator

The RAKMF coordinates and manages an annual 5K run in Middletown, NJ. With over 400 runners participating in 2005, the RAKMF couldn’t logistically coordinate this event without email as a key element. E-mail was used to advertise the event, coordinate volunteer communications, establish community support, and communicate with the runners.

“Across the board, these emails have response rates that are through the roof,” said Mario Gagliano, Ryan’s Run race director. “People really feel emotionally connected to this run, and their advocacy shows through their avid participation.”

Multifaceted email elements, like those leveraged by the RAKMF, are the future standard for effective email marketers. Parallel-path email initiatives that converge at key points in a relationship will power the effectiveness of email in 2006. Now is the time to make sure your efforts are aligned to take advantage of the future.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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