Sending Email to Best Advantage

Variety may be the spice of life, but for email marketers sometimes it can be overwhelming. Like biting into a habanero pepper, it’s simply too much at one time.

Text or HTML? Mac or PC? Eudora, Netscape, Microsoft, AOL, or a Web browser? Dial-up connection or broadband? National or local Internet service provider (ISP)? Flash enabled or no? When considering sending out email messages to customers and prospects, marketers must consider how best to design them for a wide range of systems and then how best to deliver them.

But hold on a minute. That isn’t always the case, according to the folks at Dynamics Direct, an individualized rich media marketing company. Dynamics Direct offers a product called Surefire Delivery, and its use by MCI WorldCom generated more than a 300 percent increase in response rates as measured against more traditional delivery methods.

Smart Decisions

Surefire Delivery is a technology that detects the recipient’s mail client and multimedia capabilities, then sends out a tailored email message. Some messages are sent as plain text, some as HTML mail, and others in Flash-based rich media format — directly into the client’s email reader, where it plays automatically without the recipient’s having to click on a link.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your audience is 80 percent rich-media capable and 20 percent not and that rich media typically gets a higher response rate of… Hmm, pick your favorite industry average number. (It’s widely understood that rich media response rates these days are better than those generated by use of HTML or text, but if I pick a number here, I’m sure to get heated email arguing it’s too high or too low.)

The major benefit of Surefire Delivery, says Jason McNamara of Dynamics Direct, is that the marketer doesn’t need to choose between two options, both of which have distinct drawbacks:

  1. Sending a message that will wow 80 percent of the audience and garner a relatively strong response rate from them — but in the process write off the other 20 percent, who won’t even be able to open the message.

  2. Sending out a “lowest common denominator” message to everyone and see lower response rates for the rich-media capable recipients, lowering the average as a whole.

With Surefire Delivery, you create a set of messages and the technology delivers the optimal message to each recipient.

Putting the Technology to the Test

MCI WorldCom decided to put the technology to the test. In December it used Surefire Delivery to send out an offer to opt-in lists of about 50,000 small-business owners. The message announced a limited-time special rate of $0.07 a minute plus a $150 gift certificate to for new customers who agreed to “sign up now.” (The personalized, Flash-based rich media version of this message is available here.) The message was tested against an opt-in control group of about 177,000 recipients who simultaneously received text-only and HTML messages. (No breakdown figures are available for the text/HTML percentages.)

The result was that the Surefire Delivery group, most of whom as it turned out could see the rich-media messages, generated more than three times the amount of new customer sign-ups than the text-only/HTML group did.

Now that’s the sort of spice that’s nice.

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