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Centralizing your e-mail marketing efforts

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Many companies aren’t coordinating their various departments’ e-mail efforts, according to a StrongMail Systems and Jupiter Research report released last month, “Maturation of E-mail: Controlling Messaging Chaos Through Centralization.”

Some 24% of executives surveyed said six or more departments manage their e-mail messaging activities separately. Almost half the executives questioned (44%) said they believed their e-mail would be more effective if it were managed from a central platform.

A company that doesn’t have a centralized e-mail marketing effort runs the risk of diluting its brand or losing subscribers if the proverbial left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, said Russell McDonald, CEO of e-mail service provider iPost.

“In an age of branding, one image conveys so much,” McDonald said. “Think of Nike—companies shouldn’t lose an opportunity to capture that mind share through consistent branding.”

McDonald offered these tips for centralizing your e-mail marketing program:

1) Establish a corporate style guide. Companies can set up a formal library with fonts and colors that are controlled by a central e-commerce marketing manager. Any department that sends e-mails should use logos and fonts only from that library so all outgoing mail has uniform branding that will become recognizable over time, McDonald said. “That quick association has powerful value for your marketing effort because you start to occupy mind share,” he said.

2) Know your customer, by preference and observation. Marketers should survey subscribers about what kinds of e-mail they’d like to receive to avoid bombarding them with information they don’t want. Perhaps more important is to observe their responses to your e-mail campaigns, McDonald said.

For example, if someone tells you she is interested in a particular product category but she opens e-mails about other products, you could customize e-mails sent to that individual based on the patterns you observe, he said. Additionally, all survey and observation data should be aggregated in a centralized place so you can sift through them and look for business growth opportunities that you wouldn’t see if the data were segmented in different silos, McDonald said.

3) Implement e-mail frequency controls from a centralized point. Companies should set thresholds from a centralized point for the number of messages sent out to someone within a defined time, McDonald said. When that threshold is reached, the program can start suppressing future messages. Logical algorithms can be applied to customize the kinds of messages that have priority to get through, such as mailings tagged as transactional rather than marketing, McDonald said.

“Even if you’re hitting the right person with the right content, they will get tired of your content if you’re hitting them too often, and they may unsubscribe,” he said.

4) Consider your inventory before sending. Control the amount of mail you send out if you are trying to push products within a certain time period or if inventory is limited. A centralized program can tie the mailings to the inventory control system, for example, and stop outgoing e-mails when most of the inventory runs out, he said. “You don’t want to make the mistake of sending unactionable content because you’ll anger people and they will leave you in droves,” McDonald said.

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