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How to get your e-mail noticed

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As more marketers use e-mail as an integral part of their campaigns, users are getting as adept at hitting the "delete" button as they are at weeding credit card applications from their postal mail. To ensure that your message is getting through, every aspect of your e-mail campaign needs to be of high quality. BtoB talked with Jason McNamara, chief technology officer of Dynamics Direct, West Hills, Calif., to get some tips.

The list is paramount. Whether it is self-generated or a rental, the better the targeting, the better your open rate will be. E-mail that seems like a personal offer and not random spam will spark greater interest. McNamara adds one caveat to the e-mail-outsourcing equation. Some list vendors are more or less flexible in terms of what they allow in the "from" and "subject" fields of e-mail sent to their lists. For instance, lists rented from some companies must be sent out from those companies.

Wrap up the basics. The best creative in the world won’t matter if you get a low open rate for the message. Often overlooked is the importance of the message headers. Test different subject lines for effectiveness. McNamara suggests subjects that are personalized and generate curiosity while still making clear what the offer is. For the "from" line, he recommends a trusted company spokesperson. If that’s not applicable, at least make it clear what company the e-mail is from.

Think about your message. "Relevance is the key word," McNamara said. "Relevance drives response." Keep the message simple and direct. The call to action is more important in some campaigns than others, but even in branding executions focusing on one point helps you capitalize on the 10 to 15 seconds the average user spends with the e-mail. Using various forms of rich media, Dynamics Direct likes to pound the message in with text, graphics and audio—and ideally—personalization.

What's the frequency? Less is often more. Just because users get more e-mail from marketers doesn’t mean that they’re going to spend more time reading it. McNamara said b-to-b marketers should communicate via e-mail with customers only a handful of times—even as infrequently as once per month.

Track responses. By using HTML and rich-media e-mail rather than plain text, many tracking and reporting options are possible. Open rates, click-throughs and other metrics can be tracked down to the individual recipient and cross-referenced by the subject line. This kind of data can be invaluable for marketers in terms of managing their lists and fine-tuning future e-mails.
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