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How to avoid getting stuck in an e-mail marketing rut

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Marketers that sent out e-mail on Fridays experienced the highest open rates, according to the 2005 Response Rate study released this week by Indianapolis-based e-mail service provider ExactTarget. Still, Morgan Stewart, the company’s director of strategic services, warns marketers against sticking with a single day for sending out e-mail marketing messages.

“We get into ruts and get comfortable, and let our e-mail programs be run by tactically oriented folks,” he said. “E-mail marketing is still a moving target, something that needs to be looked at and tested consistently.”

Day and time aren’t the only things that can become stale if left alone too long. Here are some of the variables that get marketers into ruts, according to Stewart, along with advice on how you can bust out of them.

--E-mail templates. It makes sense: You spend time, energy and money creating the perfect e-mail marketing template; why would you want to change it? Because change—especially with design—helps keep readers interested, Stewart said. “Think about moving around the locations of different elements in your e-mail,” he said. There are some exceptions: Opt-out information should stay put, as should company contact information.

--Who’s in charge. Experts suggest creating an e-mail marketing team for consistency, but that doesn’t mean you should keep everything about your program under the same small umbrella. “You do need a fresh set of eyeballs looking at your program at a minimum,” Stewart said. That could mean asking your sales team to go over your special offers or another internal group to give your message a read before it goes out.

--E-mail frequency. You probably have a set schedule for your e-mail newsletter, whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly. But it’s worth using your analytic programs to ferret out how often people are opening your message. Send infrequent but loyal readers messages when they want them—perhaps once a month instead of weekly. Also, as long as you have opt-in permission, shake things up occasionally with a one-off message or offer.

--Analytics. People tend to get into a dashboard mentality: They only look at statistics they’ve used before and don’t think about expanding their view of their data, Stewart said. “You should be trying new things all the time, and letting the data tell you what’s working and what’s not,” he said. “There’s no reason you shouldn’t be testing everything in an e-mail at some point, and looking at the data that come out of those tests.”

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