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Bigger spotlight on e-mail marketing emphasizes better subscriber lists

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As companies cut budgets to streamline operations in these tough economic times, e-mail marketing managers are feeling the heat to deliver stronger results. In many instances, direct mail budgets are being slashed, with some of those funds diverted to e-mail as a potentially more cost-effective use of marketing dollars, said Jeanne S. Jennings, an e-mail marketing strategy consultant and owner of the eponymous JeanneJennings.com.

“The people making those budget decisions are also transferring high expectations that the e-mail channel will make up for lost sales they once expected from direct marketing,” Jennings said.

Sharpening your company’s e-mail subscriber list is a key factor in improving results of online marketing campaigns, she said, offering these tips to help make that happen:

  1. Relevance is more critical than ever before. Put yourself inside the readers’ mind and make sure you really understand the people you’re sending e-mails to, Jennings said. In some cases, you may need greater segmentation of your list. “What you send a junior-level or a senior-level IT person on your list may be very different,” she said.
  2. Build relationships. Spend time understanding what information is critical to readers on your e-mail list, Jennings said. It’s imperative to know what subscribers need to do their job better in their markets. “The more you can do to show them you understand their needs, the more likely they will buy from you down the road,” she said.
  3. Eliminate the dead wood. It’s worthwhile to comb through your e-mail list and eliminate those who aren’t responding at all, Jennings said. If you’re sending e-mails monthly and someone hasn’t opened a single one in a year, chances are they’re not going to open any going forward, either, she said. “People don’t really unsubscribe anymore; they just ignore you,” she added. What’s more, some of those unresponsive individuals may have been laid off by their companies and the IT departments may not have gotten around to returning the bounce to let you know they’re gone, she said.
  4. Test to optimize performance. If you’re getting a little more money in your e-mail budget, spend 10% to 20% of it on testing to learn more about what will trigger people on your subscriber list to respond to your e-mails, Jennings said. What you learn may result in a 1% lift in your conversion rate. “That doesn’t seem like much but, if you can do that consistently, it adds up over time,” she said. Plus, “you’ll never improve your effort if you’re not testing it,” Jennings added.
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