What is the role of e-mail and who should own it?

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Answer: Organizations handle responsibility for e-mail marketing in a variety of ways. Some place it in the hands of the IT department because it's a technology-based medium. Others make it part of operations. And still others give it a separate silo within online marketing. But, media should be grouped by primary objective. Because e-mail is generally sent to elicit a response, it should be a part of the larger direct marketing program. When it's closely tied to the direct marketing arm of an organization, outgoing e-mail can be managed as one part of a fully integrated initiative, including direct mail, telemarketing and other efforts.
Putting e-mail marketing in the hands of the IT department is akin to making direct mail the responsibility of the mailroom. Rather than getting hung up on the method of delivery, we need to focus on the ultimate strategy and deliverable.
Bottom line? When you strip out the "e," you are left with mail. E-mail can be a powerful marketing tool, but it needs to be held to similar communication and analytics standards as direct mail. As one more tool in the one-to-one marketing arsenal, e-mail goals, timing and response data should be coordinated and aggregated with other parts of the plan. By applying sophisticated analytics across all media, marketers can create and learn from more effective multichannel campaigns. Segregating e-mail marketing from the direct marketing group can result in weaker campaign results, message inconsistency, lost time and the inability to maximize the overall budget.
Bob Hale is VP-business development at Alterian Inc. (, an integrated marketing software provider.
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