Secrets and lies about international e-mail marketing

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E-mail marketing in Europe is poised for significant growth. According to an online assessment by enterprise marketing software provider Alterian of more than 700 e-mail marketers, agencies and marketing service providers in the U.K., only 5% were classified as experts in using the e-mail marketing channel, with 59% falling into the intermediate category, which was defined as having some room for improvement. Couple these facts with a recent Forrester Research study that estimated the European e-mail market will increase from e5 billion in 2007 to e2.3 billion in 2012, and you’ll see why e-mail service providers such as Silverpop are gearing up to offer their services outside North America.

EMI spoke to Mike Fisher, Alterian’s senior VP-commercial operations, North America, and Will Schnabel, e-mail marketing services provider Silverpop’s VP-general manager, international markets, to discuss one of the biggest secrets and one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to international e-mail marketing. Here are their answers.

Secret: Creating a local version of your marketing message requires more than just translation.

If you’re targeting, say, Spanish-speaking countries, you probably realize that your message should be translated into that language. But most marketers forget that it takes more than a translator to create a strong marketing message, Fisher said. For one thing, the Spanish spoken in Mexico is not the same Spanish spoken in Venezuela—or Spain. This is why you need someone on the ground in each target country who can help you tweak your copy with the correct wording. Another big problem, Fisher said, is marketing collateral. In the States, b-to-b marketers send out white papers, case studies and webinars to bolster their sales pitches. They also direct prospects to special landing pages with forms and information. Unless all these elements are given an international flair, they can work against you, Schnabel said.

“It’s got to be really specific and relevant, so statistics have to apply, and forms and currency amounts have to match,” he said.

Companies must also make sure their fulfillment engine is up to the task if they do snag an international customer, he said. “It’s easier to expand your marketing than it is to expand your business,” Schnabel said. “Make sure you’re not wasting leads by entering a new market.”

Lie: Because CAN-SPAM doesn’t apply overseas, there’s easier access to entry for e-mail marketers targeting audiences outside the U.S.

In reality, Schnabel said, it can be much more difficult. “There is uniqueness in individual countries all over, especially in Europe and Asia,” he said. “Germany, for example, requires a double opt-in. You need to go out and be completely aware of the regulations of each country.”

How can you do this? Start with your ESP, if you use one. A good ESP should be aware of the nuances of every target country and, if your ESP contact isn’t, he or she should be willing to do the legwork for you.

If you’re on your own, try starting with some of the e-mail organizations here in the States that work closely with their counterparts overseas. Try the Interactive Advertising Bureau (, the Email Experience Council (, or the Direct Marketing Association (

As for building your list from scratch: The standards still apply. Purchased lists are a no-no. Instead, try partnering with other related companies or taking your regular online campaigns up a notch, doing local paid search placement and banner ads that will spur people to sign up for your marketing messages, Fisher said. “It’s going to happen with a combination of affiliates, partnering, local-language Web site feedback, banner campaigns, search,” he said. “It’s like starting from scratch.”

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