Buying Email Advertising

Who remembers the early days of Internet advertising, when banners used to click through at rates much higher than 0.5 percent? If you’re nostalgic for those days, you may want to consider an email campaign.

Email advertising, if executed properly, can yield very high response rates, both on the click and on the back end. Notice how I say “if executed properly…”

Just like banner advertising, email advertising can have its pitfalls. The first step in conducting an email campaign is to secure proper email lists. Assuming you’re interested in launching an external campaign (and not using your own internal email marketing lists), you will need to find a reputable list broker that can provide you with targeted email lists. PostmasterDirect.com and 24/7 Media are two good ones.

Typically, email is targeted by interest. Consumers who are interested in receiving targeted offers will opt in for certain types of content. For instance, a member of an email list targeting those with an interest in health and fitness may opt to receive offers from companies that have health-related products. If your company sells vitamins, this is a no-brainer the prospect has requested information on products like yours.

However, to take full advantage of this type of targeting, you will have to have a grasp of your target audience’s behavior and psychographics. For instance, if you’re trying to reach business travelers, you may cover travel-related lists, but you may want to also try a list for golf enthusiasts, there being a strong positive correlation between business travelers and people who play golf.

When purchasing email advertising, buyers usually must decide whether to have the message stand alone or appear within the list’s content. Typically, stand-alone mailings are more expensive, as the marketing message will appear in its own email.

And it’s worth noting that list sponsorships, in which ads appear within the content of a list, can be very effective. Be sure that you know which kind of messaging you are purchasing. While stand-alone messages can be priced in the $100 to $250 CPM range, list sponsorships are typically a lot cheaper, running in the $30 to $80 range.

You might be surprised by these CPMs. After all, many of us are used to paying $10 CPMs for banners. Why so expensive? Simple: You’re paying for the effectiveness.

In putting together an email campaign, you may think you’re in for an easier time as far as the management of creative is concerned. That’s not necessarily the case.

Email users make use of many different email clients to manage their mail. Some of these clients may be able to handle HTML email, in which case you can deliver complex creative executions with graphics and even forms. Some email clients, however, may display HTML as plain text.

To further confuse the issue, some plain-text clients will automatically hyperlink URLs that you place in your message; others will not. Thus, it is important to ask your list broker if they can segment the addresses for you by type of email client. This will allow you to take advantage of HTML’s capabilities while keeping your plain-text recipients from getting ticked off.

Here’s a tip from the you-didn’t-ask-but-I’m-telling-you-anyway department: Sometimes we media planners get a little overzealous in passing information through clickable URLs. Watch the length of your link URLs when conducting an email campaign. Some email clients will truncate the link URL if it happens to be long enough to wrap to the next line in the display. Just to be safe, I’d keep link URLs to 50 characters or less.

Another important safety tip: Pay very close attention to where your email lists are coming from. The last thing you want to do is provide a negative brand experience to some poor consumer who considers your message to be spam. Ask to see how the email addresses are collected for the lists you’ve selected. Maybe you want to go through the process of signing up for the list personally, not only for the purposes of auditing your campaign, but also for determining yourself whether users are truly opting in.

If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend at least testing out email against your other online media in order to gauge its effectiveness. Despite the high CPMs, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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