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Looking ahead: E-mail marketing in 2008

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could figure out today what your marketing plan should look like in six months? Crystal balls don’t exactly grow on trees, so we’ve asked two industry experts—Jordan Ayan, president of SubscriberMail, and Joel Book, director of eMarketing Education at ExactTarget—to weigh in on what’s coming in 2008. Here’s what they said.

1) More CRM integration, especially with software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. B-to-b marketers say their single greatest problem is finding a way to leverage e-mail campaign data, Book said. They want salespeople to know when someone has registered for a seminar or expressed interest in a product. And they want that information to be disseminated almost instantly, when the prospect is hot. “E-mail can play a vital role in lead nurturing if you can track the many data points that can serve as triggers,” he said. Having e-mail functionality built into CRM solutions such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics CRM makes this possible.

2) Increased use of automated tools. Triggered messages, rendering tools and segmentation tools should be on your radar once the New Year kicks in—if they aren’t already, Ayan said. “You need the ability to preview messages across multiple clients, [see] how that message is going to look in the in-box,” he said. “These are not new technologies, but people are finally starting to use them, making e-mail a true marketing tool, not just an afterthought.”

3) Closer alignment of marketing elements. E-mail can’t stand alone anymore, which is why we’re seeing e-mail move up the chain of command from a “siloed” departmental view into the hands of CMOs or directors of marketing. The reason, Ayan said: e-mail supports every other interactive marketing tactic.

For example, people use search engines to identify suppliers with whom they are most likely to do business. Savvy e-mailers, Book said, are using landing pages that link from search engines to invite those prospects to opt in to additional communications. “Most marketers invite signup on the main home page, but the smartest ones figure out which pages are most heavily trafficked and invite opt in there as well,” he said.

Ayan agreed. “It’s about moving e-mail out of the tactical world and into the strategic world,” he said. “Integrate e-mail into a marketing plan as a strategic element.”

4) Using rich video with e-mail marketing. Although marketers learned that embedding video in e-mail can present difficulties, video does work—especially in the b-to-b market, Book said. The trick is to use e-mail to bring readers to a special landing page where they can view video on their own terms. “The viral effect of video also drives adoption of your e-mail and builds an audience,” he said. Another option is to provide links to forms or instant chat clients so people can ask questions of salespeople or customer service agents.

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