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"I believe we'll see email grow, now that people have figured out how to make it work," says Shannon Aronson, VP, List Services, at VentureDirect. "Targeted email response rates are creeping up, inching closer to postal response rates. We're seeing higher open rates, higher click-through rates and higher overall acquisition rates. So if you're sending a relevant message to the right audience, email can be extremely successful."
She cautions that email is a constantly changing medium, which makes success more elusive than tried-and-true direct mail. "Just when you think you have an effective subject line, a perfect 'from' entry and your text is on point, some spammer comes along and copies it," she says. "Then it's back to the drawing board. You have to keep your pulse on what other people are doing, what's working, what the spammers are doing;and continue to be creative."
Working with an email specialist is extremely beneficial for understanding what's working and what kind of response rates to expect. "E-media is a subspecialty of the list industry," she says, "a different ball game altogether. You need someone who speaks the language and can massage the promotion to get the best possible results."
Many list companies have specialized e-media programs or divisions. VentureDirect has offered XactMail for the last six or seven years. "We can help clients through the direct-mail process," she says, "but they usually know exactly what they're going to mail by the time they get to the list stage. Email is still evolving, and the picture can change on the fly, so there's more room for consultation."
Sometimes an email promotion, or even the thought process and the list selection behind it, is rushed, because email is relatively inexpensive and quick to accomplish. "You see many more mistakes in email promotions," says Aronson. "We see spelling errors, border tags that are stripped out in half the browsers, and other things the mailer might not catch. We check the content, the links, the subject lines and run the emails through a spam check, then make suggestions based on the results. Mailers have only a few seconds to get their contact's attention."
Aronson definitely sees the email list universe expanding. When the "Can Spam" law went into effect, list owners were reluctant to make their email lists available. They were also using their lists internally to a great degree and were concerned about oversaturation and upsetting their customer base. Today, relevant email messages are more likely to be considered an added service to the customer.
"The quality of online lists used to be a little worrisome, but now, online niche communities and online publishers are becoming extremely intelligent about how to collect information. They're realizing the value of their lists and tracking much more behavioral data on their users."
The good thing about email is that it's quick and very trackable;you know what type of promotion works. Then, it's easy and inexpensive to make adjustments.
"I definitely think you're going to see a large increase in the number of email lists," says Aronson, "so mailers must navigate the landscape more carefully than ever. Use a broker and list manager who really know the industry, will ask the right questions and do the necessary due diligence to make sure the lists are effective with no spam in the background."
VentureDirect's clients include GlobalSpec, BtoB Magazine, The Education Center, and iParenting.