Join the email elite?
Email finally came of age last week when the Direct Marketing Association reported that email marketing volumes have overtaken direct mail for the first time.
Tink Taylor, dotMailer's Business Development Director and a member of the Direct Marketing Association's Email Marketing Council, asks what this means for the direct marketing industry.
Last week the Financial Times published a news story based on figures from the latest National Email Benchmarking report from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), showing that year on year email volumes have increased by 52%; it also revealed that in the final quarter of 2006 email marketing overtook print direct marketing for the first time.
The DMA also reported increased spend on direct mail in spite of falling volumes, suggesting that marketers are investing more in improving the quality and targeting of communication.
Shouldn't we be applying those same criteria to email marketing, given that it offers an incredibly refined targeting tool?
As email volumes - and spend - continue to rise, success rates are going to receive more scrutiny, with a much greater focus on deliverability, open rates and return on investment.
We are going to see a fast-growing email elite, who make full use of the technology and targeting tools available.
Deliverability will become more important as volumes rise
Obviously as email volumes increase, incremental improvements in deliverability can have a significant impact on the overall success of a campaign.
It requires continuous and dedicated effort to improve deliverability and prevent your email being blocked by the spam filters. ISPs delete billions of emails each day.
To achieve success in this area, you need to get to grips with email authentication issues, the role of reputation and the idiosyncrasies of different webmail services.
Each ISP handles email differently, so messages that get past the filters at one destination may be filtered or entirely blocked at another.
And the goalposts are constantly moving, which means constant monitoring to maintain deliverability rates over time.
Email Service Providers (ESPs) are making valiant efforts in this area and have succeeded in reducing hard bounce rates from 6% to 2% over the course of 2006, according to the latest DMA report.
There are some basic guidelines that you will want to adopt, if you want your deliverability rates to improve:
The reputation of the IP addresses of email senders is carefully monitored. ISPs for example may penalise email senders if their campaigns result in a high number of 'hard bounces' or permanently undeliverable email messages, so removing these addresses from your lists on a regular basis can help improve your reputation.
Make sure your emails are explicit about where they are from and what the subject matter is, with a clear and well-placed 'unsubscribe' link.
State somewhere how the recipient's address was obtained and include some form of non-electronic contact details in your email.
Always keep a log of how and when you obtained the emails you use - in case you are accused of spamming.
Take care with your email design: avoid large graphics, or a high proportion of graphics; don't use lots of different colours for text and links; use recognisable plain English text and avoid suspicious subjects.
Aside from the obvious, words such as 'free', 'special offer', etc should be avoided as much as possible, as should lots of exclamation marks - they're beloved of spammers.
To find out more download the DMA Email Marketing Best Practice Guidelines and deliverability white paper.
Marketers will focus on email display, alongside deliverability
As I pointed out in the first article of this series, the html code used to produce many emails means that they are either blocked by spam filters, or fail to render correctly so that they do not appear as they should.
To add to the problem some of the most widely used email clients have images "off" by default, so your email design needs to take that into account.
A report by The Email Experience Council showed that 21% of emails appeared completely blank when images were turned off by the email clients.
How can you find out if your emails will look as it should in every customer's inbox?
The only reliable method is to view your email in all of the different email clients used by your customers - an extremely time-consuming process if done manually.
However, there is an easier way.
Many leading ESPs such as dotMailer offer an inbox preview solution so you can view a message across all the most widely-used email clients.
If you are unsure as to whether your email will render correctly, view it using one of these solutions which will provide screenshots of what you email looks like with images turned on and off.
Then prepare yourself for a shock!
Marketers will use dynamic content to improve personalisation and targeting
It is becoming much easier to introduce dynamic content to your emails, allowing you to personalise the text, product offers, or call-to-actions based upon customer profile information such as gender, demographics, stated preferences, previous purchases or past campaign behaviour.
A growing number of ESPs now offer dynamic content tools. dotMailer for example will shortly be introducing a solution based on a simple rules-based wizard rather then complex manual scripting.
A Jupiter Research study reported results from dynamically personalised email messages were four to eight times better than those from static campaigns.
Dynamic content really is the future of targeted email marketing, allowing you to send the right message to the right people at the right time.
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