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AD:TECH presenter Kilby on the role of e-mail

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This week, CMOs, marketing managers and interactive agency professionals, among others, descended on Chicago. The reason? AD:TECH, a conference covering all aspects of the interactive advertising business. Gina Kilby, director-interactive marketing for e-mail service provider Constant Contact, was a panelist at the show. Karen J. Bannan spoke to her about her presentation: "E-mail Marketing Tuned for Brand Managers."

EMI:  What was the biggest take-away from your session?

Kilby: That there’s an e-mail marketing solution for everyone. It’s truly about finding the right solution for your company—finding the right features. Once you find that solution, you’re going to need executive buy-in.

EMI:  But should every company have an e-mail marketing strategy?

Kilby: Absolutely, but they don’t. Businesses spend hundreds of thousands or millions on the cost of traditional advertising like Yellow Pages, trade magazines and radio but they don’t realize that for a fraction of that cost they get a mechanism that lets them keep in closer contact with their prospects and improve existing customer relations.

They should start with ROI—how much is each of their customers valued at. Guaranteed, the return on investment of an e-mail campaign is going to be so monumental, the return is going to come quickly. Even those who are doing it on their own already should re-examine that strategy. It might take them a few hours to do on their own, but they don’t have good list management, they probably aren’t CAN-SPAM compliant.

The key to getting that executive buy-in is convincing [executives] that time is money and, if you’re not doing an e-mail campaign, you’re probably spending a lot of time marketing elsewhere.

And as was mentioned in the presentation, they don’t realize the value of their existing e-mail opt-in list. Active opt-in e-mails are valued by many companies at $5 to more than $50. That means your 100,000 e-mail address database is worth $500,000 to $5 million.

EMI:  At the conference, you spoke about sharing lists across different brands. Is this something that most people are missing out on?

Kilby: Sharing lists can be an effective strategy as long as you take permission into consideration. There’s really a fine line between sharing across brands and spamming your customers. The big thing: Make sure you have permission. If your customers have asked for product news you can send out information about a different product or brand as an opt-out—sending customers a one-time-only announcement. What might be a better strategy is making that announcement as part of a monthly newsletter. You can put the ownership on the person to decide if he or she wants to opt in.

EMI:  You spoke a lot about loyalty and how valuable e-mail was in building brand loyalty. How can readers do the same?

Kilby: About 80% of the unique visitors who come to your site will never return. Yet if you get them to opt in to marketing, you’re capturing those visitors. Building loyalty and adding opt-in readers comes down to sending relevant messages. [Panelist] Jim Butler, [manager of publishing & content for AA.com and American Airlines] told us that the volume of his e-mail has only increased slightly but frequency has gone up.

It’s OK to send one or two e-mails a day as long as it’s relevant. The key to making sure your message is relevant is creating a preference center so people can sign up in great detail for exactly what they want to receive. We know that e-mail marketing budgets are increasing; 51% of marketers have increased their budgets in 2005. That means that more mail is being sent.

Does that mean there’s more relevance? No, it means that your mail has to stand above every competitor.

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