What can we do about declining e-mail marketing response rates?

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Answer: Many factors affect response rates; however, there are a few techniques for improving them that are often overlooked:

  1. Success begins with the subject line. Keep your subject line succinct, around five or six words. Stay away from personalization—such as using the prospect’s first name—in the subject line. The golden rule is to make sure that your subject line is something you would feel comfortable sending to an existing prospect.
  2. They’re in ... now what? Your prospect must be able to quickly determine the benefits of the e-mail. Integration with Web marketing tools such as forms and landing pages can impel a prospect to explore these benefits. Include many clear links to click on high up in the e-mail, “above the scroll.” Make sure that hyperlink words conjure up a benefit in the reader’s mind—such as “Learn more”—and avoid using passive words.
  3. Lead them to a landing page. Drive prospects to a campaign-specific landing page, not your company’s home page. Your e-mail and landing page should be designed with the same look to smooth the transition. Within the e-mail, include a link that offers an immediate call to action. On landing pages, be sure to minimize required information on initial registration forms; prefilling registration forms with known contact information can increase response rates. Creative imagery at the top of the landing page can show the prospect what he or she will get for moving forward. Last, an auto-response e-mail should always be sent when a form is submitted.
  4. Hone in with dynamic, personalized microsites. Include links to microsites that have personalized URLs and messaging. Dynamic content can be triggered by the prospect’s region, language and industry. Both the personal URL and targeted experience can dramatically increase response and conversion on the site (a 200% to 300% increase from initial rates).

Ultimately, the best response rates will come by integrating e-mail marketing with the Web and other marketing channels, including direct mail, telemarketing, advertising and chat.

Mark Organ is CEO of Eloqua Corp. (, a provider of automated demand generation software for b-to-b marketers.

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