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Using e-mail to build your brand

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Content and search provider KnowledgeStorm sends out e-mail marketing on behalf of itself and its customers, so branding is important. “The bulk of our e-mails are brand focused,” said Laurie Hood, the Atlanta-based company’s VP-marketing. “We’re still selling people conceptually on KnowledgeStorm. We tried to go out with an educational approach but, at this point, it’s really about working the brand.”

Though a brand can be a tougher sell than concrete products or services, Hood, along with executives from e-mail marketing companies Silverpop and Email Appeal, said it can be done with your most inexpensive marketing tool—your e-mail server. Here’s how:

1) Brand everything. Obviously, you’re going to brand e-mail marketing and newsletters, but Jason DeVelvis, founder of Holland, Ohio-based Email Appeal, said even everyday messages can help promote your brand. “E-mail branding should be for everyday use,” he said. “You wouldn’t send a business letter out on a plain piece of paper; you’d use letterhead.” DeVelvis suggested including your logo and contact information within every e-mail you send out—even the personal ones. “You never know who’s looking at that message,” he said.

2) Use a real address. Companies are still using made-up “from” addresses, said Elaine O’Gorman, VP-strategy at Silverpop. This really hurts the prospect’s perception of you because it keeps them from associating human characteristics with the brand. “ ‘From’ addresses should never be something unreadable or weird,” she said. “Use real names, and use the same one for every communication.”

3) Keep it consistent. If you use a 20-point red logo in your print ad campaigns, you should have the same logo embedded in any e-mailed collateral you send out, Hood said. “It makes everything look like it’s coming from the same family,” she said.

4) Frame your message. Enclose content within a banner or frame to make your content memorable. “I encourage our customers to develop a visual frame around e-mail creative. Studies show you have seven to 14 seconds to capture someone’s attention,” O’Gorman said. “By creating a frame, people will associate it with your brand, and [it] helps increase recognition and ensure you make it over the seven-second hurdle.”

5) Link to your crown jewels. If your expertise is making widgets, provide a tagline that explains exactly what you do as well as a link that takes customers directly to a page where they can see and read what you do, DeVelvis said.

6) Align yourself carefully. You can piggyback on another company’s brand equity by cross-branding and promoting via e-mail, Hood said. But choose your partners carefully because their missteps can quickly become yours.

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