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Best ways to use video in e-mail; increase list relevance with segmentation

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Question: What are the benefits and drawbacks of using video in e-mails?

Answer: Including video in e-mail can yield several key benefits, such as higher response rates, longer interaction times, lower distribution costs and more engaging presentations. The ultimate advantage is to determine if there are more "actions"-registrations, sales, log-ins, etc.-than nonvideo e-mail within a given list.

While the advantages are great, viewing multimedia e-mail can be complicated. Some e-mail clients support multimedia while others do not. Plus, even if the e-mail software supports it, variations in settings may prevent multimedia from playing. For example, browser-based e-mail services should support multimedia because the e-mail client is the browser; however, most services remove the multimedia before the e-mail is delivered with no recipient notice that the e-mail has been altered.

Similar to the transition from text e-mail to HTML e-mail in the 1990s, there are delivery issues that will prevent some users from seeing the video while enhancing the presentation for those that can. Creating a series of "step-down" methods increases the number of people who can see the best presentation:

1) Always have an image behind the video presentation indicating there is supposed to be video.

2) Use granular tracking to build a solid understanding of who can and who cannot receive video in their e-mail. Most people will not know their own capabilities, so user surveys are not much help.

3) Surround the video with links to view the content in a browser and use full text links instead of "Click here" or image links.

Finally, with many people viewing e-mail with images off, the delivery gap between users with HTML but without multimedia is shrinking. To the extent that the gap still exists, these step-down strategies are good advice for all HTML campaigns.

Scott Madlener is exec VP-interactive strategy for Performance Communications Group (www.performcom.com), a developer of rich media sales and marketing solutions.

Question: How can I further segment my e-mail list to increase relevance?

Answer: Maybe you've given list segmentation a thought or have done it on a very general level. But have you considered looking beyond the typical segmentation fields, such as geography and type of user?

Let's take the example of a list of people who are interested in your products or services. You have no idea what stage of the buying process they may be in, what specific product or service they might buy, or what products or services you offer that may complement others they have bought from you. One first and very simple approach might be to group the recipients on your list by their job titles. You know that the CEO is going to have a different need for buying your product or service than an office manager; one is more concerned with overall cost and the other with how you can make his or her job easier.

For example, a rental car company that is segmenting by job title may deliver one message focused on reliability and convenience to the people that actually pick up and drive the rental car and a different message focused on customer service, ease of booking or cost to that person's assistant.

You could then take this a step further and look at how those people have interacted with your e-mail campaigns in the past. Did they click on a link in the e-mail that offered a new product? Did they buy something that will require an accessory or complementary product in the future? Use that information to continue to make your e-mails more relevant.

By looking at your recipients as small groups of people with like preferences, needs and buying patterns, you will be able to take a more advanced approach to segmentation. It's about taking all the data you have and considering the many different ways you could use them to make your e-mail message more appealing on an individual basis.

Last, don't forget to consider the data you haven't collected about your recipients and how you might start to gather that information for more advanced segmentation. Most companies don't approach the information-gathering process strategically-they ask for the same data that the competitors ask their customers for. Think about your business goals, what you have to offer and what information would best serve both your recipients and your business.

Ryan Tuttle is VP-client services for Spunlogic (www.spunlogic.com), an interactive marketing agency.

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