Marketers still keen on e-mail

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Marketers remain bullish on e-mail marketing. Seventy-two percent of marketers said they will use e-mail more this year compared with 2006, according to results from a survey of 1,500 marketing executives conducted online by Datran Media, a performance marketing company.

In addition, 71% of marketers plan to increase spending on e-mail acquisition campaigns this year, and 63% plan to increase spending on e-mail retention efforts.

Marketer respondents ranked e-mail optimization techniques, including landing pages, subject line testing and triggered messaging, as "very important."

Another survey found the majority of marketers plan to increase e-mail marketing spending this year. According to Alterian, a marketing analytics software company, 81% of marketers surveyed planned to increase e-mail spending.

Despite that healthy picture of the medium, it is not without challenges. Open rates are declining, new media such as blogs and podcasts are competing with e-mail, and more corporate e-mail is being filtered, according to industry surveys.

Tara Lamberson, VP-marketing at interactive agency MindComet, said e-mail marketers need to "deal with the decline of open rates."

In addition to that, she cited several tips for marketers to help them make the most of their e-mail marketing programs. (See Need To Know)

She also said marketers need to "consider other media that will help supplement your e-mail programs."

More and more, marketers are being encouraged to marry e-mail marketing programs with other media channels. Podcasts, for example, need not compete with e-mail. E-mail can amplify the message.

Lisa Wehr, CEO of OneUpWeb, an online marketing company, said marketers can use e-mail as a teaser campaign for podcasts.

"Any good marketer knows that teasing the audience a bit with information that is in the podcast is a good idea," Wehr said. "You can pull out quotes or information that's contained in the podcast and put it into your normal e-mail communications."

Another executive agreed that integrated marketing is the way to go to make the most of e-mail campaigns.

"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," said Mark Organ, CEO of Eloqua Corp., an automated demand generation software company for b-to-b marketers.

Spam continues to plague marketers as a serious issue. Last year, there was a 147% increase in spam rates, according to Postini Inc., an e-mail security company, and now image spam has become a big problem as well.

Industry efforts to combat spam continue alongside new and emerging technologies created to keep fighting the good fight. Additionally, companies like Habeas, IronPort Systems, and Return Path are kicking it up a notch by further refining e-mail reputation systems that go beyond the simple spam filtering processes to distinguish legitimate e-mail marketers so that their mail is delivered rather than filtered.

Major ISPs—the AOLs, Microsofts, and Yahoos of the world—have been working with these third-party reputation providers to separate legitimate e-mail from spam.

Another company, Goodmail Systems, says its product goes beyond establishing reputation to certifying e-mail, which, the company said, improves deliverability.

"Goodmail's [CertifiedEmail] is a class of e-mail based on trust and reputation, said David Atlas, VP-marketing for Goodmail. "If you think of reputation as a database engine, Goodmail is an application on top of it." The company accredits senders by looking at their reputation, and then imprints the e-mail message with "an encrypted token" that is recognized by ISPs. Like the reputation providers, it has agreements with several ISPs, including AOL and Yahoo.

"When the ISP sees that, it can bypass spam and content filters because [the e-mail] is certified," he said.

Goodmail is confident enough in its certified e-mail service that it announced earlier this month (4/10) that it would offer e-mail marketers who enroll in its program a risk-free trial of its product and guarantee a 300% ROI.

"We've been running tests for several months," Atlas said. "Most senders are getting terrific results. We charge a quarter penny per message, and we've seen returns on investment in the triple digits consistently."

Forrester Research Senior Analyst Shar VanBoskirk said a collection of solutions may work best for marketers.

"I think there will always be movement around new technologies that protect the in-box," she said. "There's not one single solution that will protect everyone from the volumes of spam coming in." However, she said marketers also need to be on top of best practices and do their best to communicate effectively with their customers.

"Marketers need to understand it is their responsibility to educate their recipients and maintain good practices [such as] Can Spam compliance and e-mail list cleansing." M

Additional reporting by Senior Reporter Kate Maddox and Karen J. Bannan

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