What do I need to know to take advantage of transactional e-mail for marketing purposes?

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Answer: Transactional e-mails are generated each time someone buys something online, downloads a white paper or initiates another interaction. But these important messages are often sent in plain text without any relevant content reinforcing customer loyalty or generating incremental revenue.

Leveraging transactional e-mails as a supplemental marketing channel and brand-building vehicle requires a responsible, deliberate approach. The following tips will help you develop a marketing program to take advantage of transactional e-mail:

  • Compliance. While marketing messages are allowed in transactional e-mails, you do need to follow the provisions set out in CAN-SPAM. It comes down to keeping the focus on the transaction in your subject line and placement of content. Of course, you’ll want to consult with your legal adviser for the exact parameters before implementing your program.
  • Relevancy. Any messages or offers inserted into a transactional e-mail need to be relevant. Relevancy is even more important with transactional e-mail, as you risk losing an active customer with indiscriminate marketing offers that don’t reflect previously established interests and preferences. Helpful information related to the transaction can go a long way in establishing brand loyalty and inducing follow-up sales.
  • Branding. Take full advantage of HTML to reinforce your brand. Without taking focus away from the transaction itself, HTML also allows you to insert marketing messages and offers in a much more prominent, visually appealing way. Text-based offers too easily get lost at the bottom of a transactional e-mail.
  • Technology. Sending out relevant, highly branded e-mails requires the right technology to enable HTML and integrate with your customer databases. As a supplemental marketing channel, you'll also want to make sure that you have the e-mail management systems in place to properly track delivery, open and conversion rates. Whether you use an in-house solution or outsource to an ESP, make sure it provides the required integration and management capabilities.

Dave Lewis is VP-market development at StrongMail Systems (, an e-mail infrastructure software provider.

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