E-mail marketing gains ground with integration

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Integration of e-mail marketing messages with other media channels has become a top priority for b-to-b marketers this year because it has the potential to dramatically increase response rates.

Brian Price, executive director, online marketing at Verizon, said the telecommunications giant is employing an integrated mix of paid search and e-mail marketing in its b-to-b campaigns.

"Verizon uses a combination of search banners and e-mail in their b-to-b international marketing strategy," Price said, adding that the telecommunications company also supplements these online efforts with offline advertising, including direct mail, TV, print and free-standing inserts.

Pitney Bowes said its strategy begins with an idea. "We start with the idea, and then we look at all the ways to deliver it," said Matthew Sawyer, VP-corporate marketing at Pitney Bowes. For example, Pitney Bowes uses e-mail, direct mail and search engine marketing to promote to clients and prospects its Thought Leadership series, which addresses various business topics.

"We put out a 26-page publication through direct mail to some of our top customers and prospects, as well as investors," Sawyer said. "Once we have the content, we then deliver that through other components of the mailstream, like e-newsletters and e-mail marketing. We'll take some of the key articles and use them electronically," he said. That content is also posted at its Web site.

Ernst & Young is another marketer that is taking a decidedly integrated approach with its online and e-mail marketing. Its e-mail efforts are integrated with other media, including direct mail, and those in turn are tightly woven into interactive elements on the company's site, said Michelle Lee Puleio, assistant director, national marketing at Ernst & Young.

Both Price and Puleio were panelists at BtoB's NetMarketing Breakfast last month in New York.

In one example of e-mail marketing integration, Puleio said promotions for an annual conference it hosts in October for energy executives began much earlier in the year with a "save the date" e-mail to clients and prospects. That was followed up by a rich media e-mail.

"We created these flash movies that we e-mailed them, and the call to action was embedded there," she said. "There was a link built in that brought them to the Web site to find out details about the conference." Direct mail invitations, which included a registration form as well as the Web address for those who chose to register online, were sent out to reinforce the message.

Shar VanBoskirk, senior analyst at Forrester Research, agreed integration of messaging is a top priority. "This is the year of e-mail integration with other channels, and the companies that can do that successfully will differentiate [themselves] from competitors," she said.

Integrating campaigns successfully requires, among other things, a dogged approach and an open mind to discover what works and what doesn't. Despite the current wisdom that marketing should have a cohesive look and voice across channels, marketers have discovered they need to speak in a different voice to customers depending on where dialogue takes place.

Price said that what works offline does not necessarily work well online. "We found offline creative is sometimes stodgy, and online engagement needs to be fun and engaging," he said. One example he cited was use of the term "small business." Offline, use of the term in marketing materials is "verboten," Price said, because it does not test well. But he said the term works extremely well in Verizon's online marketing.

The move toward e-mail integration with other media channels means measurement must begin to integrate as well.

Chris Baggott, co-founder and CMO of ExactTarget, an e-mail marketing provider, said that among the top trends this year will be marketers' attempt to integrate results from e-mail marketing campaigns with Web analytics. That, according to ExactTarget, will give companies a new metric: return on subscriber.

Sawyer said Pitney Bowes has a "dashboard" for all the components of a marketing campaign so that response rates can be measured. "We do some comparisons of one vehicle versus another, but we're also looking at performance within each vehicle versus past performance," Sawyer said. "That's often a better way to look at it."

Hewlett-Packard Co. is another marketer with a sophisticated approach to integrated measurement. It uses Web site data and e-mail response data, as well as surveys and call center data, to track sales that occur in e-mail as well as those that are influenced by e-mail.

At Ernst & Young, representatives from each marketing discipline meet on a regular basis. "We all sit around the table and talk about what we've done, what's in process and what we're planning, " Puleio said.

"The results rely on `the whole thing, "' Puleio said. Otherwise, "it's like making a cake without putting in the flour."

Karen J. Bannan contributed to this story.

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