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E-mail campaign management: Three rules of engagement

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While many e-mail marketers focus solely on issues of deliverability, sophisticated companies know they need to understand the customer to bring their promotions to the next level. With Internet service providers cracking down on bulk mailers and the need for CAN-SPAM compliance, relevant and engaging messaging are necessary to drive results.

Here are three rules for e-mail marketing engagement to drive consistent profit when targeting a prospect over the lifetime of that relationship.

• Know who they are, not just where they are. Geographical targeting is the first and most common form of campaign audience engagement. Typically, geographical targeting is determined by such data as address and ZIP code to tailor information crucial for promoting local events or services that take place in certain areas.

It's important to send potential customers promotions they can take advantage of, not ones out of geographic reach. Let's say you're promoting workshops in 13 states. Based on research, you know that the average distance someone will travel to a workshop is 20 miles. If you neglected to implement this data into your geo-targeting, a potential customer 100 miles out of range might sign up only to find out the workshop is too far away to attend. This disappointment can result in negative feedback, adversely affecting your company's reputation and deliverability objectives.

Demographical targeting has been used for many years to personalize the marketing message to customers, but it's surprising that e-mail marketers rarely combine more than a few demographical attributes when planning a campaign. Most reputable list-owners have dozens of data points on given customers, and there is real value in merging as many as possible.

Chaining data attributes can only help create and maintain a relationship with your customers. It can also enable your promotion to stand out from the crowd.

• Know what they want and what they don't. Behavioral targeting is quite common in display and search advertising, less so in e-mail marketing. But by using an aggregated database of customer buying habits, you can target those who will be interested in your material and exclude those who would either ignore your products or provide negative feedback.

Utilizing buyer history, and conducting database searches to find products that are typically purchased together, is nothing new to direct mail, retail and retention campaigns. With acquisition e-mail campaigns, however, prior purchases often go unexamined when discussing strategies for crafting a campaign.

Though the benefits of applying a relevant purchase history to customer targeting are well-known, many e-mail marketers still don't exclude those who have already purchased the same or similar products. Ineffective targeting equates to inefficient marketing. It can also drive more negative feedback.

While chaining companion products is frequently discussed in e-mail campaigns, it is rarely acted upon. Follow-up must be timely, as you have a limited window of opportunity to take advantage of an opportunity.

• Know when they want it and when they don't. Situational targeting, also known as just-in-time targeting, is the most underutilized form of focusing your message; it may also be the most promising. This form of targeting is based on the premise that events such as time, day of week, holidays, weather, etc. can trump normal customer behavior.

Customizing your campaign based on whether it's a weekday or weekend can be important as well. Some companies do 80% of their business on Saturday. If this sounds like you, why would you promote your wares on a Monday?

The real value proposition of effective e-mail marketing engagement is found when these three rules are incorporated into campaigns as a whole instead of individually.

Carl Soderstrom is general manager of performance marketing agency MediaWhiz (www.mediawhiz.com). He can be reached at csoderstrom@mediawhiz.com.

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