Email’s Opportunity to Shine

We are living in a different world. Post offices are closing for anthrax analysis, their workers are being tested in the thousands, and their processes are being re-evaluated to ensure better protection.

With the U.S. mail at center stage in the war against terrorism, the impact on direct marketing is tremendous. Marketers are still mailing, although even before this scare quantities were being adjusted, and list performance was off. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) issued a press release on Friday stating that “direct mail is the safest of all mail,” just after bulk business mail processing centers in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey were found to be contaminated.

The experts are recommending, “If you don’t know who the mail is from, don’t open it.” The postal service now phones people to request permission to open and inspect suspicious packages — about 50,000 times each day. This week, a publisher told me her company is testing nonenvelope packages. They’re reformatting mail pieces to overcome some of the fear associated with the way biological weapons are transported. This addresses concerns. It’s also still mail.

Marketing publications such as this one were the first to discuss the fact that email marketing is about to take a giant leap forward, a concept now embraced by the mass media. Those of you already working in the email space should be thinking about ways to gear up.

If management has been reluctant to embrace email marketing, now is the time to readdress the issue. Consider how to execute change in your company’s (or your client’s company’s) marketing approach. Email reduces marketing costs and, in the current economy, can keep revenue flowing. Here are some simple but effective ways email works as a marketing tool; most are one-to-one communications:

  • Send email with a call to action; encourage recipients to respond by email, phone, or fax.
  • Send electronic invoices as a back-up to mailed pieces. Ask customers if they want to opt in to email billing only.
  • If your mail delivery is slowing down and response time will be affected, use email to effectively and rapidly communicate with customers. They may have sent you mail — or you may have sent them mail — but with slow delivery times and anxiety, who knows what was delivered… or opened?
  • Make email an option for your customers. If you are a publisher, let people receive their subscriptions online. Give customers options; don’t lose them while they are distracted.
  • Send simple email notifications and reminders to customers explaining ways they can communicate with you other than by postal service.

There are services that allow you to append email addresses to your existing list (I’ll dedicate my next article to that topic). You can achieve up to 25 percent opt-in on the appended names you run. Consider how many mailings you’d have to do to acquire that volume!

Of course, there are still rental opt-in email lists. They are not as effective as they were a year or more ago, but that can work to your advantage. Many lists that were strictly cost-per-thousand (CPM) rentals are now available as cost-per-action (CPA) deals. If you know the cost of acquiring your customers, this can be a worthwhile way to market to new ones.

Try to look at the opportunities in this situation. Email marketing can be used to affect change that may allow businesses to survive in these very troubled times. Put on your thinking caps.

Take care, stay alert, and remember to tell your loved ones that you love them!

Happy Halloween!

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