Campaign checklist

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Before you integrate an e-mail campaign into a marketing communications plan, b-to-b integrated marketing agency Slack Barshinger & Partners Inc., Chicago, suggests asking the following questions:

Who are you trying to reach? Is your audience computer savvy? Research the demographics of your audience and understand their e-mail behavior. If your recipients receive hundreds of e-mail messages daily, they may not be as likely to respond as someone who receives only a handful of messages a week.

Do you have the right database? The most reliable database usually is one you compile yourself. But if purchasing or renting a database, make sure to ask: When was the database last verified? Have all the people in the database agreed to receive messages?

How much does it cost? As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Typically, a more expensive price reflects more research, accuracy and a more comprehensive database.

Whether you compile the database or purchase it from a third party, it is crucial to cleanse the database to make sure it is accurate. Call and confirm information and test e-mail addresses by sending test messages to every tenth person.

Who should write the e-mail? An e-mail message is an art form and should be handled by a professional copywriter. The message is critical to the response. A good copywriter can portray your message in a most compelling way, using few words.

How do I get recipients to read the e-mail? A powerful subject line is the most important part of your e-mail. Not unlike traditional direct mailing, the first challenge is getting people to open your message. The subject line should be limited to three or four words and should engage the recipient to open your message to learn more.

How long should the e-mail be? As short as possible. Your e-mail should hook potential customers and motivate them to want more information. Keep the copy limited to one page.

What should the e-mail say? E-mail marketing rarely generates a sale. Rather, it's a tool that moves customers through the sales process. The e-mail is an enabler, so provide the recipient with the most important and basic information. Grab their attention and provide an incentive or a call to action with a link to a micro site or to additional information. And, always include an option to stop receiving e-mail.

What should the e-mail look like? An e-mail marketing campaign is a creative process, not unlike a print ad, which is why working with a creative team is crucial to the success of e-mail marketing. The e-mail should be interesting, even entertaining.

Is there a way to know the likelihood that my e-mail will be effective? Focus groups and one-on-one interviews are useful for determining tactics that are effective within your target market. You can provide sample subject lines and body copy to measure what motivates this group. You can also identify current customers, alert them about the mailing and test your e-mail on them, measuring their response.

While there's no way to guarantee whether a campaign will succeed, research is often an early indicator of your final results.

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