Sunday, October 10, 2010

E-Mail proves its worth

Relevancy, frequency are key to reaching targets in timely, cost-effective manner

Mary E. Morrison

With years of practice now under their belts, many companies have hit their stride using email marketing to connect with customers and prospects. Still, continuing to reach the right person with the right message at the right time takes constant vigilance—no small feat, given the rapidly evolving media landscape and the ubiquitous post-recession mandate to do more with less. “The No. 1 pain point among marketers is anything having to do with resources, whether it's time, staff or dollars,” said Andrea Scarnecchia, VP-marketing at email solutions provider Lyris Inc. As a result, she said, many marketers are choosing email over other channels. “If you previously had 10 tools available to you in the marketing mix but you had to cut down to seven because three of them cost too much, well, email is always in what's left because it's not very expensive,” she said. “You end up relying on it a little bit more and sending more emails.” Kent Tibbils, VP-marketing at ASI Corp., a distributor of IT hardware and software, considers email marketing an effective tool but struggles with the challenge of breaking through to recipients whose inboxes are overloaded. “The challenge is how to get people to pay attention to your email when they're getting so many,” he said. “We're trying to identify different ways that we can continue to use email because it's such an easy way to communicate to a large audience, but it's overused.” Emails must be relevant and of an appropriate frequency to rise above the noise, said Dan Smith, senior VP-marketing at ClickSquared, a provider of cross-channel and email marketing services. “If you don't have something to talk about, or if it's not appropriate to talk to [customers or prospects] now, wait until they're ready to engage rather than bombarding them early in their product research process.” One positive outcome of marketers' increased use of email is that companies are focusing more on list maintenance, Scarnecchia said. “We're seeing a lot more care and feeding of people's lists, because it doesn't take long before you realize that if you start blasting your list—and not sending relevant emails and not watching for churn—that list will start dwindling pretty quickly,” she said. The difficult economy also has forced marketers to become more efficient and find automated methods to send email and grow their lists, Scarnecchia said. For instance, she said, they are relying more on triggered messages to keep lists growing.

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