Using transactional e-mails for marketing

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E-mail marketing provider JangoMail this week joined an ever-growing number of e-mail marketing companies incorporating transactional messaging into their capabilities. The company announced a new API (application programming interface) feature that will enable customers to deliver transactional messages with immediate delivery over SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) relay.

In the past, it would have been more difficult for users to send transactional e-mails via JangoMail—a Web-based e-mail service—because the system wasn’t originally designed to do so. The reason providers are adding such features is simple, and illuminated by a November 2008 study from Jupiter Research: Transactional e-mails are great vehicles for delivering marketing messages, too.

According to the Jupiter report, 60% of marketers that included offers or ads in their transactional e-mails reported increased sales. In addition, about half of the 200 marketer respondents reported increased brand recognition and company satisfaction when such messages were delivered.

Ajay Goel, president of Dayton, Ohio-based JangoMail, has these tips to help you harness the power of transactional messages for marketing:

  1. Go for the soft sell. Transactional e-mails, by definition, are one-to-one, personal communications about a specific transaction. Customers open them because they are relevant and expected. Don’t dilute the trust associated with that message and your company by minimizing the transactional information and maximizing your sell, Goel said. “If you’re Expedia, for example, and you’re sending a business traveler a flight confirmation, you’re going to want to say something like, ‘May we assist you with finding a hotel in the city you’re staying in,’ rather than, ‘Book a hotel today.’ You always want the primary purpose of a transactional e-mail to be that original transaction,” he said. You can put links and messaging about related services into your message, just make sure they are placed at the bottom of the message and are respectful, he said.
  2. Use plain text rather than HTML. “HTML messages still have a connotation of spam,” Goel said. “By using text-only, you’re giving anyone—no matter what device or e-mail client they have—a chance to read what you’re sending them.”
  3. Make sure your “From” field is a valid e-mail address. You’ve probably seen it yourself—a line at the end of the transactional message that says, “Do not reply to this e-mail. It is being sent from an unmonitored e-mail address.” This is a big mistake, Goel said. “Make sure your ‘From’ field is from your company as well as a person, and make it possible for a customer to reply to that e-mail with any questions or comments,” he said. “It’s far better customer service.” You should also include not only a customer service telephone number but also a number that people can use to make additional purchases. The number should be manned. If you can’t afford to have someone answering the phone 24/7, tell customers how long it will take before they get a call back, Goel said.
  4. Add a link to your preference center. For new customers especially, a transactional message may be the first communication they are receiving from your company. Make sure it’s not the last by providing a link where recipients can sign up for any newsletters or marketing messages and indicate other e-mail preferences.
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