What trends do you see in commercial e-mail?

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Marketers likely will be relying on technology more than ever. Cross-media marketing—the combination of direct mail, e-mail and personal URLs (PURLs)—will demand familiarity with all the tools. But despite this increasing sophistication, don’t neglect plain text. Yes, HTML e-mails have higher response rates and are more measurable than plain text e-mail, but use plain text e-mails for those recipients who cannot open HTML-based messages.

Your most important content should be viewable without scrolling. You should consider this as the area beginning just below your subject line, and then continuing 400 pixels down. Here, your recipients see at a glance your content , offers, calls to action, urgency indicators and brand marks. In addition, when authoring e-mail, ask yourself: Who is your audience and what are their needs? Do you have content to fill these needs? And when you deliver that content, what do you expect to receive in return? When is it most relevant to provide the information and how does it fit into your overall communications strategy?

Among other provisions, federal CAN SPAM legislation segments transactional and relationship e-mail from commercial e-mail. In the U.S., you can legally send commercial e-mail to anyone, as often as you wish and without asking permission, provided that you offer the opportunity to opt out of future e-mail communications. This doesn't mean you should e-mail everyone, of course. After all, more than ever before, direct marketing is about building relationships. Further, after an opt-out message is received, legislation prohibits sending additional commercial e-mail after 10 business days from when that opt-out is received. Fines for violations can be substantial, so you must ensure that the design and maintenance of your e-mails and their attendant lists are properly performed.

Crystal Uppercue is marketing manager at EU Services (, a 400-employee direct marketing production facility in Rockville, Md.

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