Question: How can I increase the bottom-line effectiveness of my e-mail campaigns?

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Answer: Most e-mail marketers continue to examine only a few limited variables in their attempts to maximize the effectiveness of their e-mail campaigns. They look at e-mail frequency, length, subject lines, and so on. While important, these variables ignore a whole dimension of boosting campaign results: building better relationships with the people receiving your e-mail.

How do you build better relationships? First, you ask questions, and the most important question is why. Why are they subscribed? Why do they buy from you? Why do they bother to keep reading your e-mail? Once you start learning these answers from subscribers, you can evolve your campaigns to better speak to their individual interests.

For example, suppose you run an online shoe retailer. Instead of asking your subscribers what they want (wide shoes, cheap shoes, dress shoes, etc.), ask them why they are interested in your shoes in the first place. Maybe they're buying running shoes for a personal fitness program, or they want super-comfortable shoes for work because their feet hurt. Perhaps they're shopping for shoes as gifts, or maybe they just really like your company's attitude and site design. Until you know the why, you can tweak all the traditional e-mail marketing variables you want and still fail to really reach your subscribers.

So start asking questions, and do it on an individual basis. You want to know each person's reasons for showing interest in your company. And then you want to segment your e-mail campaigns to speak to the common "why" groups. Typically, you'll want to group all the "whys" into three to five segments, and then design e-mail marketing campaigns for each of those segments.

That's the way to take your permission e-mail marketing to the next level: Develop relationships with your subscribers.

Mike Adams is president-CEO of Arial Software (, a developer e-mail marketing software solutions. He's also the author of a new book for e-mail marketers called "Permission Wave" (Truth Publishing, 2005).

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