The Best Email Campaigns of 2001

Hi all,

With the end of the year approaching, I thought I’d take a break from routine and look back at some case studies and events from the last 12 months.

I was thinking back to some of my favorite articles. Back in February, I featured what our friends at the University of Dayton were up to. They’ve done some great work that proves it’s possible to run successful campaigns on a shoestring budget. In this particular case study, the marketing department put together a publicity campaign for the university’s annual Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Thanks in large part to email marketing, the number of entries nearly doubled in one year.

In April, I showed how tweaking an already solid newsletter could bring a great program up a notch. A major media company streamlined its sign-in process, came up with a more appropriate subject line, and highlighted the viral marketing component of its newsletter. As a result, the company saw a net gain of over 300 subscriptions per day, the open rate for the HTML version went up about 10 percent on average, and the forwarding rate jumped a whopping 170 percent.

A few weeks later, I wrote about, an online jewelry retailer. It created a special commerce-enabled email message. Within the message were two “Buy Now” buttons. Recipients could conduct transactions without ever going to the Web site. saw an almost 550 percent increase in conversion rate over its standard message.

In a study that generated one of the highest volumes of your mail (excepting articles where I specifically asked for input), I discussed how the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas put together a campaign so successful that the booking agents had to call in extra employees to answer phones the day after the mailing. A glitzy message combined with a fantastic offer led to an overwhelming response.

By the way, a reader had asked me how the conversion rate was arrived at in that study. The company that ran the campaign, H2F Media, says the conversion was based on unique room reservations (not nights) as a percentage of total unique opens.

What’s Next?

This also seems like a good time to mention to you that I’d love some feedback on the types of case studies you’d like to see covered here. Some readers come from one-person operations; others work for enormous corporations. Some have budgets below shoestring level, while others’ budgets could feed a small nation for a week. It’s difficult to come up with a column that interests every one of you every issue, but over time I hope you find the majority helpful.

Please send me your ideas. If I receive enough, I’ll write an article that lays out your suggestions. Perhaps that will spark some of you to share your solutions.

We have some cultural differences out there. When I write about a U.S. holiday — Valentine’s Day, for example — I need to keep in mind that not everyone is familiar with it. Thanks for all the nice mail you’ve sent that enlightens me about what it’s like where you live. Learning about the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” was, well, fun.

Speaking of nice mail, I’d like to share this message I received a couple weeks ago: I always read through your column and wanted to let you know that when you mentioned that you were going to be a marrow donor, it inspired me.

I’ve always donated blood but had never gotten on the marrow donor registry because in Texas, where I’m from, they charge you something like $60 to get on it. I always assumed the price might be daunting here, but thanks to your column I checked with the Bonfils center. Since it was only $25, I did it the last time a gave blood. Kudos to you for spreading the word!

Thanks, Lori. For those of you who are curious, I donated back in May for a 17-year-old girl overseas. I know the transplant occurred, but I have yet to hear how she’s doing.

Finally, I have to say that I felt like I finally hit the big time when this column appeared as a parody in AdBumb, a newsletter for “the sales people, the media buyers and even the poor guy stuck in the basement running the advertising server.” There’s nothing quite like seeing your picture in someone else’s newsletter with text that says, “You’ve never heard of me and more than likely the company I work for will go bust in 60 days. But still, I have advice.”

Since I’m a freelance writer and have owned my business for nearly eight years now, I’m not likely to fold. I’m certain I’ll continue to find interesting stories to write about in the coming year.

Happy New Year!


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