Question: What matters most in e-mail marketing?

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Answer: Of course the subject line should be short and the content relevant, but what matters most in e-mail marketing? Think back to the basics. The 40/40/20 rule says the bulk of response opportunity in any direct marketing campaign—including e-mail—comes from the list (40%) and the offer (40%), with only 20 % attributed to creative. Here’s how it breaks out:

  • The list: A solid list of prospects that have opted to receive offers from your organization is the foundation of a viable e-mail campaign. You can build lists using your own sources—which I highly recommend—such as Web sites, point-of-sale terminals and direct mail responses. Consider partnering with affiliate businesses that can host your subscribe page on their Web sites or just be sure the opt-in is highly visible on yourcompany’s Web site.
  • The offer: Use analytics to weed out offers that don’t apply to certain customers and be sure to set a campaign schedule. If your customers come to expect e-mails from your company at a specific time of day, they are less likely to delete the e-mail without ever reading it.
  • The creative: Tempting as it may be, spending more than 20% of your resources on creative for e-mail marketing will not generate the return you need. This does not mean you should ignore your creative, but be sure to use best practices when designing e-mail campaigns for the most pervasive b-to-b e-mail clients such as Outlook and Lotus Notes.

Most of us have active b-to-b e-mail programs in progress today. Evaluate your current program against the 40/40/20 rule and determine if you’re using your resources in the best place to generate the highest response.

Tricia Robinson is VP-marketing and strategy at Premiere Global Services (, an outsource provider of business process solutions.

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