Email Marketing Dos and Don'ts
Yes, I'm aware of the grumbling. I, too, find up to 40 emails waiting for me when I come into work in the morning, some of them advertising the latest in digital cameras and the cheapest travel discounts. But I also know that I depend on many of those 40 emails to keep me informed of industry news and upcoming events, not to mention receiving important communications from clients. It's the joke emails from well-meaning friends and colleagues. While the jokes are often genuinely funny, I simply don't have time for them.
The fact is email marketing works, at least statistics prove it does in the B2C market. Its use in the B2B market, though, is a work-in-progress, so few studies have been done to test results. However, based on my experience with the medium, I believe email strategies can be a very effective marketing tool for graphic arts providers.
In previous columns, I've written about eMarketing, which also includes website marketing, so here I'll concentrate specifically on email strategies. BTW: If you're interested in receiving a PDF copy of our eMarketing Best Practices, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opt-in, Opt-out, and Privacy Issues
The explosion of email marketing has forced direct marketers, the government, and anti-spam groups to take a closer look at the legal implications of unsolicited direct mail and emails. The Mail Abuse Protection Service, or MAPS, is one of the more strident public watchdog groups. As e-marketing has reached critical mass, it has become increasingly clear that sending unwanted emails is not only unproductive, but can seriously damage a company's brand. Hence, there's a definite trend toward opt-in programs where the sender has received express permission from the customer/prospect to be placed on an email list.
Retailers tend to favor the opt-out method because it's a fast way to build a list. I've recently gotten several emails with the "subscribe" box already checked. I, as well as many others, find this practice annoying and sneaky. I'm usually in "delete mode" when I view these messages, which means I'm not reading down to the bottom to uncheck the "subscribe" box.
The double opt-in, or confirmed-loop opt-in method is reputed to be the most legally air-tight and most effective for list hygiene. After opting in, one is sent a confirmation email requiring a second action that confirms the email address. While a favorite of mail abuse foes, the double opt-in process can be a pain to set up and can be perceived as too time-consuming by recipients, lessening the response rate and taking longer to build a list.
What's the objective?
Keep in mind that your emails, like any marketing medium, must be consistent with your brand in both look and messaging. A strong brand platform and strategy are prerequisites, since visual consistency and message relevancy are critical elements in these campaigns.
Positioning. Typical B2C email programs are designed to drive recipients to the sender's website for more information about an offer or promotion, and, ideally, to order a product or service. However, there are many other types of email programs, such as eNewsletters, which are effective vehicles unto themselves for building customer relationships and loyalty.
My company's graphic arts eNewsletter, the Ti Monthly, might serve as an example. Our first issue went out in the Fall of 1999. Since then, our database has grown from almost 50 to hundreds of subscribers; a good example of viral marketing. Recipients forwarded the newsletter to colleagues, who in turn requested to be added to the list. In my view, the main ingredient to a successful email newsletter is content ... it must be of value to readers. In most cases, that means educational/informational subject matter not promotional hype.
Staying in touch. Providing a vehicle for systematic communications with customers is another important role email programs can play. The goal is to communicate via one "touchpoint" medium on a monthly basis, so you're top of mind when buyers are ready to buy. We've developed a variety of email programs for clients that enable the emails to be sent out monthly under sales reps' signatures. I'm a strong believer in going light on the FLASH! and Java bells and whistles, preferring html and JPEG formats for their fast download speeds, less time to set up, and lower cost to distribute.
Speaking of distribution ... there are several services that will perform this function for you. While some clients prefer to handle the entire process in-house, the advantages of having a service, such as Email Labs (www.emaillabs.com), include click-through tracking, so you can assess what sections of your email are of most interest. For instance, if you have links in each section of your email, a distribution service can track and give you regular, even real-time, reports on which links are most popular. Of course a big plus to using a service is the ability to personalize each email by sales rep regardless of the number in your force.
Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.
© 2001 Charlotte Mills Seligman
September 3, 2002