Tactics for Structuring an Effective Email Offer

As a direct response medium, email is maturing at a very rapid pace. As such, the rules applying to how we offer our products and services via email are changing also.

In the early days of email, you might have been successful with just a hard offer (an offer where you provide a brief overview of your product and service, and then direct the email recipient to your web page to place a prepaid order), but not anymore. While hard offers may still work for low-priced “impulse type” items, it is not today’s popular type of email offer.

What we’ve seen in both the B2B and consumer space are soft offers that pique interest and generate leads. They are offers that initiate the raising of one’s hand, perhaps via a free white-paper download, a 30-day product trial period, or an entry in a drawing to win a Palm VII.

By structuring your email offer in this fashion, you will build a qualified and targeted prospecting database that can then be sent subsequent email offers for the purpose of converting recipients into customers.

Below are several suggestions to consider when structuring your offer:

  • Make sure your landing page is not just a form. Include your company’s logo for branding purposes and a benefit sell on your products and/or services.

  • Include a privacy policy statement. It should be a simple hyperlink to a document that details how you will use the information being collected. This adds a degree of comfort for the individual providing you with information. If you don’t have a formal privacy policy, the Direct Marketing Association has a service that will help you build an industry-compliant privacy policy, which can be accessed at http://www.the-dma.org/library/privacy/creating.shtml.
  • Offer additional ideas. In a B2B environment, pertinent information in the form of a downloadable white paper or a subscription to a free topic-specific newsletter is something you may want to consider. Handheld PDAs from Palm Computing are also very popular. Consumers get excited about free products and services. Consider a drawing for a free DVD player or a complete travel package. Free software downloads are also another consideration.

So now that you’ve created a prospect base, what is the next step? Continuity mailings are key. This is how you will build an ongoing relationship with your prospects in an effort to convert them into customers.

Short messages that are sent on a scheduled basis are also important. Invite prospects back to your web site. Provide them with special offers and promotions. By encouraging prospects to forward your offer to others, this will maximize your use of email as a viral marketing medium. Of course, always give the recipient of your continuity mailings the opportunity to opt out at any time.

If you are currently deploying an email campaign that is based on a hard offer, consider trying a prospecting piece as a test. Build a prospect base, and track the conversions into paying customers. You may find that a multistaged approach delivers a better return on investment, while at the same time enhancing your branding and overall web site traffic.

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