Tips on how to differentiate your e-mail, use data and improve response

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Question: How can I differentiate my e-mail newsletter from my competitors? Answer: Most e-mail newsletters today look pretty much the same, so how can you distinguish yours from your competitors'? By using behavioral targeting to learn more about what customers want and giving it to them. B-to-b e-mailers work with shorter customer lists and often longer sales cycles than their b-to-c counterparts, but that doesn't mean they should be tempted to oversaturate their most valuable customers with a deluge of nontargeted email. Behaviorally targeted messages provide better response and can even be credited with shortening sales cycles. The easiest way to obtain behavioral targeting data is through the reporting capabilities of your e-mail marketing campaign tool: what customers open and what exactly they click on. Targeting messages based on open or click-through activity allows you to communicate with your most engaged audience on topics they've already indicated are important. A more sophisticated way to get behavioral targeting data is to integrate your e-mail program with a Web analytics application. Besides providing revenue data on an e-mail campaign, Web analytics give you postclick data and site abandonment numbers you can tie back to e-mail targeting. The easiest behavioral targeting technique to implement involves all the data you have at your disposal. Categorize the different article types in your newsletter. Then for recipients who've clicked on a particular type, use the dynamic content feature in your e-mail campaign management tool to deliver another article of the same type at the top of the next newsletter. This way, they'll see the topic of greatest interest to them in the inbox preview pane. Once you've attempted this easy behavioral targeting technique in your b-to-b newsletter, experiment with open and postclick data. And remember, dynamic content isn't reserved only for text. It can also be images and links. Tricia Robinson-Pridemore is VP-market and product strategy for StrongMail Systems, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions. Question: I am unsure of how best to use data for e-mail and Web marketing? Answer: Web sites are sticky and e-mail is elastic. In order to enhance the power of e-mail elasticity and keep users coming back to your site—as well as buying and interacting—you need to understand the kind of data that will make this interaction useful. This is where the situation becomes complex, as there is an immense amount of data available online. There are two main types of data that help drive meaningful interaction: profile data and aggregate data. Profile data include basic information such as name, e-mail address and preferences for receiving promotional e-mails. Aggregate data go a bit further and include click-through rates on embedded URLs, site page views, total number of messages deployed and open rates. Updating profile data on a regular basis enables tighter targeting of e-mail messages based on previous buying behavior and user-expressed interest. Once the right message is targeted and the user has landed from a specially tagged URL in your targeted message, the ability to harness aggregated data and craft specialized landing pages, offers and microsites will enable your campaign to meet your needs. To tie in your e-mail programs to the overall Web initiatives, you need to capture various data touch points such as self-reporting, subscription information, purchase and response history, Web site activity, external service bureau overlays and predictive modeled information. Based on these rich touch points, you can create targeted e-mail messages, creative, personalization and timed messages based on events and triggers to better meet your e-mail marketing goals. Jay Kulkarni is CEO and founder of Theorem (, a provider of technical and analytical services to digital marketers. Question: What's the most important deliverability statistic? Answer: Is there just one statistic that can truly tell you what you need to know about your e-mail marketing program success? There are several numbers that are important in judging overall deliverability health, but if you told me that I could only choose one number, I would take complaint rate. Complaint rate is the ratio of e-mail complaints received per 1,000 e-mails sent. E-mail complaints happen when users click the spam button in their e-mail client and report you to their provider as having sent unsolicited e-mail. The number you want to try and achieve is less than a 0.2% rate. So you get only two complaints per thousand messages. That's a pretty small number to achieve, but every complaint that you go over that threshold causes incremental damage to your e-mail reputation. A high complaint rate shows ISPs that your users do not wish to receive your communications. If you are getting complaints, it means you have room for improvement. Take the feedback positively and try to improve. Look at your subject line, mailing frequency, content and the relevance of your messages. Consider sending a survey to determine recipients' likes and dislikes. Kevin Senne is director, global production and deliverability services for Premiere Global Services (
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