Seven Takeaways for Marketers

After a wonderful year behind the ol’ typewriter, I’m leaving the Intellectual Capital column. I’ve truly enjoyed the feedback and email I’ve received from readers, including the thoughtful gentleman who flamed me with 150 email messages after he disagreed with a spam-related column. I appreciate the effort.

Before I go, I wanted to share a few themes from the past year in marketing to serve as a reminder: A handful of ideas can go a long way toward moving a marketing program to the next level of success.

Test. I’ve probably allude to testing in every column (and every piece of research and every telephone conversation with clients). For many, the idea of testing conjures up images of a vast number of cells, with hundreds of thousands of email addresses. For some marketers, that’s the best way to test.

Yet you have to learn to walk before you can run. Please, I beg you, test two different subject lines in your next email campaign. Maybe the soft-sell approach works better than “BUY IT NOW!!!!” You won’t know until you test. The Internet is a direct marketing medium. Treat it that way.

CTRs. Only you know what your CTRs should be. If you’re very concerned with other people’s CTRs, DoubleClick publishes a great report every quarter on different industries’ CTRs. And the best part is, it’s free. Wait, that’s not the best part. The best part is that since DoubleClick starting releasing the report, I don’t have to answer the average CTR question anymore.

Frequency. How often you send email is as much a branding issue as it is a direct marketing issue. Yes, you can send every day. You can send twice a day. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Each email you send diminishes the value of the list. As consumers become accustomed to seeing your messages, they become less effective. We tell clients: Mail as infrequently as possible.

Measurement. Jupiter executive surveys find marketers are overwhelmed by the amount of data they collect. Rather than becoming empowered by the vast piles of data marketers may access online, many are paralyzed by the sheer volume of information at their fingertips. (Jupiter Research is a unit of this site’s parent corporation.)

The key is start somewhere. Measure open rates, number of bouncebacks, or CTRs. Then work up from there. Simply because you have access to incredibly complex information doesn’t mean simple data aren’t effective.

Spam laws. The CAN-SPAM Act has been enacted with President Bush’s signature. Much has been made in the press (including in this column) about the limited effect the law will have on the volume of spam in people’s inboxes. But this misses the point. The law was created to outlaw pornography entering children’s inboxes and ban misleading email headers and subject lines.

Few would argue with the necessity of these regulations. Though this law will hardly stop unsolicited email, it’s necessary. Laws against speeding don’t stop people from driving 90 mph on the highway, but we certainly need something on the books to stop egregious violations.

Moreover, legitimate marketers have nothing to fear from this law. Marketers using questionable tactics, including deceptive headers, even with opt-in lists, need to reconsider their marketing practices. The government will go after legitimate businesses with poor email strategies. It’s much easier for Uncle Sam to track down a legitimate company than an overseas spammer.

Paid search. The paid-search marketplace has exploded over the past two years, and Jupiter’s forecasts predict strong growth moving forward. As marketers, it’s imperative you not get caught up in frenzied bidding and overspending for keywords.

A recent Jupiter survey shows marketers at smaller companies are remiss in tracking keyword buys through to conversion. If you don’t know a keyword’s profitability, you likely also don’t know how much to bid for it. Take a step back and examine the profitability, not simply the CTR, of your search terms.

Blogs. Weblogs are popular among the hipster set but in their infancy as a business tool. A well-written blog can not only demonstrate you’re an expert in your particular industry but also allow some of your own personality to come through in your work.

Jupitermedia’s CEO Alan Meckler publishes a blog, generating both media attention and buzz among employees. I share my take on the daily news in the travel industry with my own clients with a Weblog, too.

(One further tip: Write for industry publications. You can plug your own marketing successes!)

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