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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 22, 2007 • Issue 07:10:02

Using e-mail effectively: Managing lists

By Nancy Drexler
Marketing Moguls

E-mail is a communication tool many of us rely upon in our need for speed. Accessible and affordable, e-mail is a reliable way to get our messages out quickly and easily, as well as get invaluable feedback just as speedily. All from anywhere, any time.

That's the good news. And you already know the bad news: So many people are using e-mail to promote products and services that mailboxes are inundated with unimportant, unnecessary and unpleasant communications.

Fortunately, e-mail has now been used widely enough and long enough that we have been able to measure what works and what doesn't.

Talk to me

The most important advice I can offer e-mailers is the same advice I offer all marketers: Know your market, and address your messages directly to the individuals who comprise it.

And I do mean "individuals." Each of your readers should feel that you are addressing him or her personally.

They should never feel that they are part of a massive, homogenous audience receiving every message you create.

Unfortunately, accomplishing that is not nearly as simple as using the reader's name in the subject line, or inserting it into the body of the message. In fact, it begins even before a message is crafted.

Segment your lists

Any marketer knows how important it is to target communications to select audiences. And today's technology makes that task faster and simpler than ever before.

Unfortunately, too many people try to build big lists. They know they can expect a 2% return, and they figure 2% of 10,000 is better than 2% of 500.

Furthermore, it costs about the same to send 500 e-mails as it does to send 10,000. So why not?

Here is why: Sending relevant, targeted messages to segmented audiences will boost your return on investment. Smaller lists are easier to manage.

Additionally, working with smaller lists helps you understand your market and tweak your messages to better reach its constituents.

Fewer people opt out when they receive selective messages than they do when they receive general blasts.

In short, you'll be much more effective with several smaller, hard-working lists than with one large one.

Establish parameters

Marketers use a number of variables to segment lists:

  • Demographics, such as age, sex, income and education
  • Geographics
  • Business type or standard industrial classification (SIC) code
  • Customer status, including whether a prospect is, or has ever been, your customer, and whether the individual is currently using the products and services you offer
  • Online history, such as whether this prospect has requested your information, prefers to get information online, has read your materials and so forth

Segmenting lists typically begins with a consideration of these variables. Let's see how they may relate to your list.

Prioritize variables

In payments, demographics usually don't matter, particularly when it comes to e-mailing. Men and women, regardless of age and income, will be interested in similar products and services and respond similarly to the same e-mail messages.

So dividing lists according to demographic criteria is probably not a worthwhile endeavor for those of us in payments.

Geographics, however, can be. Ask yourself the following questions, and you'll see what I mean.

  • Are you better able to sell and service customers who are closer to home?
  • Are there areas of the country that are saturated with companies similar to yours, but other areas where you could really make a "splash"?
  • Are there places where unique variables exist, such as tourist areas where businesses might be more inclined to need a cash advance or areas with a high concentration of immigrants who might need help sending money back home?

    If this is the case, segment your list geographically, and tailor specific product offerings to specific areas.

Dig a little

You may, then, want to drill down even deeper. Let's say you are looking to do a lead-generating e-mail campaign for your cash advance product.

You compile a list of businesses in geographic areas known for attracting tourists.

Next, you may want to divide this list into two: one for those who attract tourists in the summer, and the other for areas that are more populated in the winter.

Why? Because the greatest interest in and need for cash will be a couple of months before the season begins, when income has been lower and cash is needed to get ready for the coming business surge.

So the timing of your campaign would be very different for each of these two lists.

Categorize prospects

Drill down even further to business type. Put restaurants, for instance, in one list and retail in another.

Because these businesses might be interested in cash for slightly different reasons, you can target their unique needs in the content of your e-mail.

Listen to feedback

Your e-mail campaign will undoubtedly generate some interest, and responses will become fodder for further segmenting your lists.

Clear out addresses that bounce back or delete without reading. Note which prospects open your e-mail, for these individuals have demonstrated a reason to remain on your e-mail marketing lists, though perhaps not this specific one.

Those who actively engage in dialogue should be tagged for cross-selling, and those who buy should move from prospect list to client list and be tagged for up-selling, as well as more ongoing communication.

Make the message matter

Segmenting lists is a process. The more you know about a prospect, the more you can tailor appropriate messages that will generate greater response rates. Here are some e-mails you might consider sending:

  • For new customers, prepare a "welcome" series of e-mails that welcomes, reinforces brand, stays in touch and cross sells.
  • The first e-mail might simply thank them for their business, welcome them to your company and introduce a "relationship" feeling.
  • The second e-mail might simply be a "touching base to make sure you are satisfied and inviting you to tell us if you aren't" type of e-mail.
  • The third might say, "As our customer, we invite you to take advantage of some of the other products and services we offer," and continue from there.
  • For those who in some way replied or interacted with your "offer" but did not close, you might send an e-mail that says, "Sorry we couldn't help you with that, but how about this?"

    Not in those words, of course. These prospects can then be moved to different lists, depending on behavior.

  • If your lists were segmented by business type or SIC code, or geography or other variables, you can also use this information to readily send e-mail updates.

    Using geography, for instance, you can send an update that says, "We are so sorry to hear about the terrible weather in (area), and want to show our support by offering you a cash advance at the lowest rates." You get the idea.

Segmenting lists is the hardest part of creative, effective e-mail campaigns. But it pays off.

So start getting your lists in order. Next month, I'll tell you what to put in your subject line and how to craft your message. end of article

Nancy Drexler is the President of Marketing Moguls and its division, PIMPS (Processing Industry Marketing and Promotion Services). She can be reached at drexler@marketingmoguls.com.

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