E-mail Evolution: Multiple channels effective for acquisition, retention

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Miami Beach, Fla.—E-mail marketing campaigns don't exist in a vacuum and depend increasingly on mobile, social and other marketing channels to acquire and retain potent lists of subscribers, according to session panelists earlier this week at the Direct Marketing Association's E-mail Evolution Conference.

“Those marketers who deploy the most digital tactics have the biggest and best lists,” said Jordan Cohen, VP-business development at digital marketing services company Pontiflex Inc. As a panelist in a session titled, “The Future of Digital Marketing: Integration and Beyond,” Cohen recommended using sign-up banner ads on complementary third-party sites, with payment based on actual e-mail opt-ins rather than cost-per-click or cost-per-thousand impressions.

He also said the mobile channel, and in particular the use of apps on smartphones, can be a key sign-up tool to build e-mail lists. But there are caveats, he said.

“Smartphone sales are projected to exceed feature phones this year and, as a result, marketers are increasingly incorporating e-mail opt-ins into their apps,” Cohen said. “But click fraud on mobile devices is worse than on computers, and 50% of users say they have accidentally clicked on an app ad.

“Make sure the opt in is a clean experience, that people can see clearly what they're signing up for and that they aren't distracted by the app itself,” Cohen cautioned.

Panelist Stephanie Jackson, VP-client services at digital magazine publishing company Zinio, said analyzing customer behavior is key to reactivating moribund e-mail recipients.

To re-engage inactive subscribers, she suggested sending out compelling offers (“the deal of a lifetime,” she called it), perhaps followed by “the personal love letter from a real person at the company, making a special offer or inviting them to join an advisory counsel.”

Jackson also said her company has had success with a preference letter, asking the recipient if alternate channels or different frequencies of communications would be more amenable.

While engaging customers is important, Cohen said marketers may have image problems within their own companies.

“There is little attention paid to e-mail by the C-suite because it is painted as part of the direct-marketing ghetto,” he said. “In the past, e-mail marketing has been all about response—about buy now, buy now—but the bigger-picture goals of e-mail are about getting people involved and excited.”

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