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E-mail marketing top trends for 2006

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Personalization, analytics, deliverability and building customer relationships are some of the top e-mail trends for 2006, according to Top 10 lists recently released by e-mail marketing companies EmailLabs and ExactTarget.

“The most important thing is to get relevant,” said Loren McDonald, VP-marketing at EmailLabs, an e-mail marketing technology company that is a subsidiary of J.L. Halsey Corp., pointing to the No. 1 item on EmailLabs’ “must-do” list for 2006.

He said b-to-b marketers can make e-mails more relevant to recipients through personalized subject lines, offers, articles, products and follow-up e-mails based on recipient activity.

More personalized e-mail is also one of the top 10 trends on a list by ExactTarget, an on-demand e-mail software company.

The No. 1 item on ExactTarget’s list, and the No. 2 item on EmailLabs’ list, is e-mail deliverability.

“Marketers must send precampaign test messages to uncover delivery problems before sending their actual message to recipients and monitor results after each message to spot ISP blocking, filtering and being on anti-spam blacklists,” McDonald said.

Another must-do on EmailLab’s list is to redesign e-mail messages so they can be easily viewed and acted on in a world of preview panes and blocked images. EmailLabs notes that in 2006, both Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail will add preview panes to their Web-based clients.

“Marketers should redesign e-mail message templates to deliver maximum information in the top two to four inches [and] increase their creative use of HTML fonts and colors while relying less on the use of images that may be blocked by ISPs or the recipient’s e-mail client,” EmailLabs advises in its report.

Improved e-mail metrics also showed up on both lists.

ExactTarget said one of the top trends this year will be the integration of e-mail metrics with Web analytics. It also pointed to a new metric: return on subscriber.

EmailLabs, meanwhile, said marketers should measure conversion rates, revenue per e-mail and whether specific desired actions were taken.

McDonald said another trend this year, particularly for b-to-b marketers, will be increased use of e-mail to build relationships with customers. “Early on, a lot of people were looking at e-mail as an acquisition medium, but most marketers are realizing it is best at relationship management,” he said.

Rounding out EmailLabs’ must do list for 2006 are the following strategies: Optimize the beginning of an e-mail relationship; get on the permission train; maximize search with e-mail; test and improve; and develop an e-mail marketing plan and allocate resources.

Other e-mail trends on ExactTarget’s list include: multichannel marketing, rich media, RSS and e-mail as a carrier for third-party advertising.

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