Why E-mail Matters More Than Ever

Times are tough. Companies are cutting marketing budgets and staff; organizations are looking to do more sales with less upfront investment and fewer people.

Recent statistics show that developing an effective e-mail marketing program is more important than ever. There are ways to make your e-mail marketing efforts a key part of weathering this storm.

Why e-mail? On the business side, a recent study done by Econsultancy and R.O.EYE finds that 51 percent of marketers deemed e-mail “very cost effective.” It leads all other channels, including affiliate marketing and paid search. Another 33 percent of respondents in this study stated that e-mail marketing was “quite effective.”

On the recipient side, a study done by Epsilon and ROI Research finds that 40 percent of consumers said they were more likely to make a future purchase from a company that sent them e-mail. Also interesting: receiving e-mail from a company they did business with gave them a more positive impression of the organization, said 57 percent of respondents.

E-mail is a win-win. It’s good for those who receive it and good for the companies that send it. In light of that, here are some tips for making the most of your e-mail marketing efforts in this down economy.

Be Strategic

Batch-and-blast isn’t an effective e-mail marketing strategy. Creating a sound plan for the channel is what will deliver results. Sending relevant e-mail missives, which requires segmenting your list and targeting content, is a key to success. Create relevance and readers will engage with you and be more likely to buy from you.

Be Tactical

Once your strategy is in place, you need to focus on the tactical. This includes frequency and creative execution (copy, design, layout, etc.). Key elements are the sender address, subject line, and snippet copy, along with the preview pane view of the e-mail. I’ve had some great results with clients, including significant lifts in conversions (leads or sales) as well as opens and clicks, from optimizing the tactical aspects of an e-mail.

Be Smart

Don’t delegate your e-mail marketing efforts to a junior person with no e-mail experience and expect great results. Developing an effective e-mail marketing program requires specialized knowledge and skills. If you have time, lots of good information is available online for free to get up to speed (ClickZ is a great start!).

If you don’t have time, you can bring in consultants to help you quickly progress along the learning curve. With most of my engagements, my mission is twofold: to jumpstart the e-mail marketing program and increase performance in the short term while teaching the internal marketing team what they need to know to continue optimizing efforts in the long term (after my engagement is finished).

Make Sure Your E-mail Is Delivered to the Inbox

Deliverability is critical to success in e-mail marketing. If some or all of your e-mail fails to reach the inbox, there’s little chance those recipients will act on it.

Working with a legitimate e-mail service provider (ESP) is one of the best ways to get good deliverability. It has relationships with the ISPs to help you get your mail to the inbox. Check out JupiterResearch’s “E-mail Marketing Buyer’s Guide” for reviews of top ESPs in all price ranges.

If you’re using an in-house system to send your e-mail, it’s possible to get deliverability services à la carte from a number of vendors, including Pivotal Veracity.

Assuming your e-mail is making it to the inbox is a mistake. Being proactive will require some budget outlay, but it’s well worth the cost.

Test, Test, Test

Designate between 10 and 20 percent of your overall marketing budget to testing. E-mail marketing lends itself to testing, because you can get good results in 24 to 72 hours. If your list is large enough, you can even do a pre-rollout send of test and control versions of your e-mail to a small portion of your list, then rollout to the entire list a few days later with the winner.

Not every test will result in a lift in response. But even if you can improve performance only 1 or 2 percent with each test, you’ll see your results gradually increase over time. Continually testing increases your odds of hitting the jackpot with a lift of 20 percent, 50 percent, or more.

E-mail is cost-effective and can return great results, but it takes some investment in time, money, and resources to get there. It’s your best bet right now.

Until next time,

Jeanne

Does your company or client offer one of the best online marketing products or services? Nominate it now for one of the 2009 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards!

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