Email: Remove the Stumbling Blocks

Email is a killer application: faster, better, and cheaper than nearly any other form of marketing or advertising. So why isn’t every business using it?

There’s still a lack of understanding of the priorities, budgets, people, and tools needed to make campaigns happen. Many executives lack the orientation to make a safe “go” decision. Others bravely moved forward and achieved early success but lack the resources and expertise to advance to the next level. A few were let down by service providers who failed to produce results.

Let’s set the record straight so you can overcome the barriers to entry or optimization. There’s no reason why your organization shouldn’t reap the outstanding benefits of email.

Email Is Top Priority

Your audience is online and using email. If you’re not using email now, your competitors are — or soon will. The need for email marketing is immediate.

Why aren’t you in a meeting mapping out an email channel strategy? Because your organization hasn’t made it a priority. Many remain ignorant of the numbers and haven’t won decision-maker support due to an inability to quantitatively illustrate breakeven and return on investment (ROI) estimates.

Good news. There’s no longer any question if permission-based (100 percent opt-in) direct email marketing works. Five years of research and testing have proven it’s the most cost-effective mass media channel any business can implement.

Stop delaying the inevitable and start putting this competitive advantage to work for your business. Change management is never easy. Plant the seeds.

Inexpensive — Not Free

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports smaller firms devote an average 21.4 percent of their marketing budgets to email, larger firms 13.7 percent, and medium-sized companies 6.2 percent. Though only a small percentage of marketing efforts are currently conducted via email, the trend is expected to rapidly change.

Last year, companies spent approximately $1.3 billon on email marketing services, according to Forrester. It says email spending will increase to over $6.8 billion by 2006, especially as U.S. marketers continue to outsource the delivery of increasingly complex email marketing campaigns.

Business executives approve email budgets to realize substantial savings, profits, and earnings results. They secure buy-in from key constituents and do the cost-benefit and risk-versus-reward analyses to pinpoint areas where they can outsource noncore functions because of cost savings, risk exposure, advanced capabilities, or speed to market.

The Right Resources

Running an email campaign is easy. Running it well is hard.

There are many issues to deal with. At the most basic level, they involve two questions: “What’s your strategy?” and “How will you accomplish it?”

Email is not designed to be the only channel when building a communication sequence to an audience. It’s best used as part of a balanced marketing program in which all messages work in concert, geared toward the overarching goal (whether that’s fundraising, sales, loyalty building, or new member acquisition).

The plan should be created by a cross-functional team. This ensures strategy is solid at every touch point. Players invited to provide input may include representatives from sales, customer service, production, merchandising, fulfillment, IT or Web services, and third-party providers. Topics considered may include goal definition, audience size, audience preferences, messaging strategy, media channel allocation, frequency of contact, cost per interaction, results of interaction, and overall ROI.

A broad range of technology and strategic expertise is needed in a rapidly changing business and regulatory environment. Evaluate whether to internally develop, maintain, and operate an email marketing system or to outsource.

Considerations include:

  • Talent. Your talent is a team of technology and marketing professionals to develop, maintain, enhance, operate, and optimize email campaigns and systems.

  • Depth. Targeted and personalized email can produce significant results but requires additional technology and resources.
  • Technology. Develop and maintain databases of accurate email addresses and appropriate demographic, transactional, and behavioral data. It’s the ability to deliver flawless messages to a variety of email clients and systems.
  • Scalability. Develop and manage an infrastructure that can accommodate potentially high email volume.
  • Reporting. Track and analyze campaign response data, probably in real time: successful delivery rates, open rates, and consumer response. Each campaign should report by recipient and specific offer.
  • Compliance. Comply with federal, state, and international rules and regulations governing email marketing and manage relationships with ISPs to prevent filtering and ensure delivery.
  • Flexibility. Expand an email system to incorporate new features as required by market factors and technology changes.

The good news is plenty of email vendors are competing for your business. The bad news is choosing the right one to address both your immediate and long-term needs can be challenging. Be wary of providers offering risky software or going-out-of-business rates. It’s a buyer’s market, so seek the best tools and pricing for the job. Features and services to look for include advanced personalization, dynamic content, multipart MIME delivery (AOL, text, HTML), bounce management, unsubscribe services, data warehousing, central campaign management, preview and extensive testing before sending, and real-time tracking and reporting.

For more information, questions, or comments, feel free to drop me a line. Cheers!

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