Answer: In the early years of e-mail marketing, standardized codes labeled bounced e-mails as either hard or soft and provided valuable information as to why the e-mails bounced. Today, the line between hard and soft bounces is fuzzy, blurred by coding that is often unclear or void of explanation. As a result, determining how to best resolicit bounced e-mail addresses becomes more of an assessment of a customer's value to your bottom line, and less-at least initially-about why the e-mail bounced.
High-value customers may merit more costly resoliciting means, such as appends, direct mail or even well-placed phone calls by customer relationship managers. Moderate-value customers may necessitate more passive, less-expensive methods, such as account flagging for information updates in your CRM database. Low-value customers may be removed from your e-mail list altogether to reduce costs and maintain list hygiene.
Once you've determined the customers' value and identified the methods you'll use to contact them, there are three key messages you'll need to convey to your customers in any resolicit for bounced e-mails:
Thank them for their business. Tell them you value them as a customer, and inform them that their e-mails are being bounced. They may not be aware of any problems.
Remind them of the value they receive from being on your e-mail lists and highlight the benefits of opting in again.
Tell them how they can continue to receive e-mails from you. Be prepared to offer diagnostics as to what may be causing "correct e-mail address bounces," such as personal filter settings or IT department configurations, and educate them on how to correct these problems.
Timing is of the essence. You need to resolicit promptly-the longer you wait, the more you risk permanent loss. Time your resolicit with promotions, announcements or other events to enhance the value to your customers of being on your e-mail lists.
Elaine O'Gorman is the VP-strategy at Silverpop (www.silverpop.com), a permission-based e-mail marketing solutions provider .
Question: What kind of newsletter content works best?
Answer: Best practices continue to evolve for developing effective content in a lead-generating e-newsletter. Here are five tips for 2005:
Keep it short-500 words or less.
Build each issue around one article. That's right-just one article. I used to recommend that a content formula contain three to five "features" for each issue. No more. Readers are so time-strapped it's harder than ever to get their attention. Stick to one editorial item and you're much more likely to get a response.
Refer readers back to your blog for between-issues news. Blogs are fast becoming a must-have communications tool for savvy companies. They enable you to respond to and comment on news related to your industry niche in a more timely manner than a monthly e-newsletter.
Consider creating an RSS feed for your e-newsletter. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a highly effective way to distribute different kinds of news to precisely targeted audiences. Put this capability on your To Do list for third or fourth quarter 2005 and you'll still be ahead of the curve. Learn more about RSS at www.Bloglines.com and www.Feedburner.com.
Finally, e-mail isn't dead. Of course, you knew that. But it's a good thing to keep in mind with all the buzz about blogs. The most effective e-newsletters will be ones that are tightly integrated with every channel of online and offline marketing.
Debbie Weil is an online marketing and corporate blogging consultant. Visit her main site at www.wordbiz.com.