You’ve got mail. Lots of it. It’s hard enough being a consumer and wading through the daily gauntlet of new e-mails. But if you’re an e-marketer, you’ve got an even more daunting task—turning that e-mail into a relationship.

E-mail is the first part of the “hot” tri-messaging approach, says Access Intelligence’s Sylvia Sierra, senior  vice president of corporate audience development, which also includes social media and mobile delivery. Sierra says e-mail marketing has replaced many of the company’s print marketing efforts. Her staff spends 20 to 30 percent of its time planning and analyzing e-mail marketing campaigns, with four full-timers on e-mail deployment.

E-mail is cost-effective and easily executable—both important factors in a down economy with smaller staffs. About 87 percent of males between the ages of 18 and 34 were influenced to make a purchase by an e-mail, and about 53 percent of women in this age group did the same, according to a study conducted last year by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design.

Getting It Right

So, how do you get it right? Start with the messaging. “If you have a relationship and are targeting the e-mail recipient properly, then the message will resonate,” says Jeffrey Pedone, director of e-mail marketing for the Audience Development Group of Incisive Media.

“The only way to continuously improve is to test, establish some benchmark and then try to figure out how to change the offer or the creative in a way to improve it by controlling everything except for one element of the message,” says Jordan Ayan, founder and CEO of SubscriberMail LLC, an electronic solutions provider. “In this way, if you test three or four items each mailing, you can constantly move toward a better message.”

As content providers, publishers have the advantage of delivering content sought-after by customers without overtly marketing to their audiences, according to Palmer Houchins, Paste’s manager of marketing and new media. He adds: “We’re simply providing them with the news, reviews and other information that they expect when they sign up for our weekly newsletter. The key is to deliver what you promise.”


“E-mail marketing is a combination of quality content and superb technical implementation. Without both, you can’t have an effective e-mail marketing platform,” Houchins says. And it would be impossible to track results if you’re not sure that messages are reaching a live, working e-mail address. Many publishers rely on Electronic Solutions Providers (ESPs) for the back-end programming and management.  

Since using ESP, Houchins realizes how many messages “were never making it to their intended recipients, either because of spam settings or some other discrepancy.” Paste uses only opt-in e-mail lists, and doesn’t “send to junk lists because most of those addresses will inevitably bounce back.”

Access Intelligence, with tech partner HQ Lyris, has a system for bounced-back and unopened e-mails. All hard bounces (invalid addresses) are removed from its lists, and for those recipients who have not opened an e-mail, a text message is sent alerting them they must reply to the publisher or else be removed from the list. “We do not assume that if they have not opened the message that they should be removed,” stresses Sierra. “We also monitor our senderbase rating to ensure we are white listed as ISPs.”


While permissioning, segmentation and behavioral targeting are all buzzwords right now, publishers must work to avoid things like list fatigue and ensure welcomed e-mail gets past firewalls and filters, Pedone adds. He thinks setting up preference centers and online tools to help recipients manage communications will be critical in the future.

Sierra sees the industry moving away from quantity to quality. “E-mail deployment is inexpensive, but we should always ask, ‘would I do this campaign if it were print and carry all the costs of print marketing?’ If the answer is no, you should not send the message.”


By the Numbers
E-mail marketing far outpaces other channels in terms of ROI, but its cost-effective deployment cuts way down on marketers’ out-of-pocket expense.

- E-mail marketing’s ROI in 2008 was projected to be about $45.06 for every dollar spent on it. In 2009, the ROI is forecast to be $43.52.

- That compares to an ROI of $19.97 for non-e-mail Internet marketing and $7.25 for catalog marketing as forecast in 2009.

- E-mail marketers spent about $600 million in 2008 and are expected to spend about $700 million on the channel in 2009.

Source: DMA