The Email Marketing Year in Review

Over the past year, I’ve tried to help you learn about email marketing through a wide variety of case studies. Now it’s time for me to share with you some of the things I’ve learned while writing this column.

1. Innovation abounds. Lots of great email marketing ideas are in place, and I tip my baseball cap to all you innovators. Back in October, I wrote a column detailing the efforts of Logos Research Systems Inc. The article described how the company used email marketing to assess interest in a new product and then actually raise the revenue needed to create that product — without investing a dime until the executives knew they would cover their costs and then some. The enthusiasm of the mail I received regarding this case study is so far unsurpassed.

2. Untargeted lists can be productive. Conventional wisdom holds that since the Internet allows you to target consumers in ways unthought of offline, you should take advantage of this all the time. But President Louis Silberman disagrees, and he makes a compelling case why in some situations the bottom line means you’re better off advertising to an untargeted audience.

3. I’d like to hear more about survey tactics for building up email databases. In the 2000 ClickZ MessageMedia Email Excellence Awards, the category of Best Online Survey Program was woefully underrepresented. Either marketers are creating great online surveys and not telling anyone about them or we still have a lot to discover here.

4. The rich media versus HTML versus plain-text debate continues to rage. “E-mail messages should be kept simple. Forget the HTML, flash, and fancy formats. Too many people are unable to open complex messages and/or get distracted by colors and animations, etc.,” one reader wrote me, adding that his newsletter goes out to 12,000 engineers. But the flip side of the coin is that some rich media campaigns are geared toward audiences who have fast connections overall and like to be on the cutting edge of technology. These campaigns generate enviable results. The resolution seems to be that knowing your audience is key.

5. No consensus exists on many definitions. Another reader wrote to ask about my perception of click-through as a metric. He noted that he was trying to compare his internal averages for click-through with industry benchmarks from Forrester, Jupiter, and others but that they may be measuring clicks as a percent of total sent, not opened, reasoning that you can’t measure opens for text email clients. The reader was concerned that this reasoning leads to skewed numbers; for instance, you could have a really bad click-through on a very well targeted list look like a better campaign than a really good click-through on a poorly targeted list. So one of my New Year’s resolutions is to answer his questions.

6. I get too much feedback to answer everyone’s questions individually. I promise I read everything and consider your input incredibly important, but I don’t have the ability to respond to each individual message. Please keep the feedback flowing, though; it helps me determine what to cover. Plus, no matter how complete I think a case study, someone is bound to email me with a follow-up question that takes my thoughts in new directions.

7. It’s not always easy to write clearly! Sometimes I think I’ve sent the most clear-cut piece to the editors at ClickZ, and they point out ways in which statements are ambiguous or misleading. So here’s a public thank-you to all the staff at ClickZ.

Happy holidays, and I’ll be back with your regularly scheduled programming next week.

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