Questions and Answers With the Email Expert

Occasionally, in response to our columns, we’re asked questions that fall outside of our area of expertise. Not wanting to leave our readers in the lurch, we’ve passed these inquiries on to Sean Meehan, general manager and VP of email development at Grey Direct. Here are Sean’s responses to some recent — and oft-asked — questions.

Email Profiling

Vanessa Carrington of Tourism Whistler, the official site of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, a popular ski resort, writes:

One of the questions I have involves email profiling. I would like to know if anyone is successfully profiling their consumers to the extent that they only receive email campaigns based on previous reactions to campaigns. For example, if Mary receives an email campaign for a wine and food event (she has opted in, selecting “festivals and events” as a preference), and she clicks on the “Other Packages” link in the email, can we capture this information in her profile so the next time we send her an email campaign — which is not necessarily food and wine specific — Mary is included?

Sean answers, “Email profiling can be described as the ’Holy Grail’ of email marketing. The goal is to be able to track — unbeknownst to the recipients — every action they take as they click on links, so future messages can be customized based on their previous behavior. Here’s what to look for in a company offering email profiling:

  • Expertise in data. The clicks, opens, and other information you collect will be stored in your database. Therefore, companies that are experienced with growing databases have the advantage.
  • Advanced features. Since this is considered an advanced feature, look for companies with a history in email deployment, a sound understanding of direct marketing, and a vision of the future of email marketing.
  • Buzz words. Be aware not every company uses the word ’profiling.’ Some call it ’action tracking,’ ’behavior tracking,’ or ’clickstream tracking.’
  • Case studies. Most email marketing companies originally develop their profiling tool for a specific client — so they should be able to share real-world experiences with you to give you an idea of results you can expect.

Message Deployment and Tracking

Mark Armamentos of Panduit, the Illinois-based manufacturer of wiring and communications applications, writes:

I am trying to sell upper management on the benefits of investing more in email by showing productivity gains and improved ROI [return on investment”. One specific example is this: We use our salespeople in the field to send or forward emails on new product introductions, etc. My feeling is that this is a waste of their time, which could be better spent in the later stages of the sales cycle, where face-to-face meetings and closing the sale are all-important. Can you recommend email software programs that can identify the email addresses of exactly who clicks through our redirects and allow me to add a “forward to a friend” to any email?

Sean answers, “I would agree with you that deploying messages on new product introductions is something that should be done corporately, rather than by the sales reps in the field. This will allow you to better brand your company and better ensure the quality of messages your clients receive.

“I would suggest the email contain clickable URL links that drive customers to your Web site, where they can download new information and materials. Sending attachments is not a generally accepted email practice, for no other reason than that attachments are one of the leading means of spreading Internet viruses.

“As for identifying software companies, I recommend you look at companies that have developed ASP platforms specializing in email marketing. The ASP platform will give your company flexibility as you get started. In addition, most ASPs are designed to allow features to be enhanced regularly, as compared to the yearly new release schedule of software products.

HTML in Outlook

Nona Lehman of Teldata Control, which specializes in cost control solutions for voice, data, and information, services writes:

I am in charge of starting up email campaigns for my company next year. I am also tasked with creating all of the content/HTML formats in house. The problem is that I do not know how to place the HTML in email format. How can I send email blasts that allow my prospects to view an HTML document in the body of the email in MS Outlook?

Sean answers, “MS Outlook has various versions, and anything before Outlook 2000 could cause you problems when you’re working with HTML. Generally, you must first set your Outlook to view the HTML. To do this, click ’Format’ on the top navigation bar, then select the HTML prompt. If you don’t see the HTML prompt, click the Plain prompt, which will trigger Outlook to display the HTML one as well — then click the HTML prompt. Now you are set up to place the HTML in your email format by simply dragging and dropping the images.”

Thanks, Sean, for all your good advice. Everyone else, keep those questions coming. We’re also looking to interview savvy e-marketers to learn their ingenious techniques for building a responsive opt-in list.

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