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eLearning Series


During recent Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Assoication events, I’ve noticed two common, interwoven trends discussed among members and attendees. One is a near-religious defense that paper-based direct marketing is not dead, and that it is stronger than ever. The second is that anything ‘e’ just isn’t working or generating results. To many people’s surprise, I often agree.

A paper-based direct mail piece won’t generate a return for a client, either, if you don’t focus on the fundamentals (i.e. personalized message, strong offer, clear call to action). A well constructed e-campaign requires the same amount of design time and creative energy as any other successful marketing campaign, the variable cost of sending a permission-based email message to a list of past customers or prospects is a fraction of the cost of postage, not to mention the printing. So how can you make sure that your messages get results? Before you focus on acquiring new customers with list rentals, leverage your house list of existing prospects and past customers, with relevant and timely information.

Time is a Limited Resource. Make sure that your messages add value to a relationship. There’s a reason that it costs $2 million for a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl. It’s because people’s time is a limited resource. Today everyone is doing more with less. And each and every communication that you have with people takes them away from something else. So before you hit that ‘send’ button,’ make sure that your message adds value to the relationship. You might get away with a non-value added communication the first time. But the next message that you send will likely end up in the ‘deleted items’ folder.

Relevance. If a message comes into your inbox from your brother-in-law, chances are good that you’ll either (a) open it up because you still like him, or (b) delete it and curse for the next half hour. Likewise, if your company has a good relationship with someone – a relationship that is built on trust – your message will be opened and perceived as valuable. But if you treat your email database as something that you just ‘blast’ messages to whenever you have an item that drops a penny or two in price, the recipient is much less likely to open and read your next message.

Anticipated. If we meet at a networking event, and I tell you that I’ll send that very valuable article on email marketing that will make your career blossom, when you see the message from me arrive in your inbox, you’re excited to open it. I set an expectation and the message was anticipated.

Permission. Sometimes it’s wonderful when an old high school friend just drops in from out of town and asks to sleep on your couch for the next couple of months. But most of the time, surprises aren’t that much fun. If you don’t have a prior business relationship with someone, ‘surprising’ them with an email newsletter is not a very effective way to build trust. And as Dan Goldstein, President of the Boulder-based Privacy and Research Consulting, wrote last month in the RMDMA bulletin, unsolicited email is not just a bad marketing practice, you can get into a lot of legal trouble, too.

Personalized. Remember when you first received a direct mail piece, personalized with your name? You actually read it. On the web, the TO: line of a message is very important. I’m much more likely to open a message if it is sent to “Jeff Finkelstein” vs. just to my plain email address. Why? Perhaps it’s because I’m narcissistic – I like to see my own name. And when I open the message, it’s wonderful to see “Dear Jeff”. Email is a personal medium – and people like to feel that someone is talking directly to them. Personalization works – and consistently delivers higher results.

Conclusion. Earlier in the year, I was called to testify as an expert on pending anti-spam legistation at Colorado’s state capitol (a rare occasion to see me wearing a full suit and tie). After the testimony, I was chatting with one of the state senators who was terrified to let her grandchild use the Internet because of all of the pornographic spam she received. It’s likely she receives a lot of unsolicted email because her email address is listed on the state government’s web site.

Spammers play the numbers game – hoping that just 10 people out of two million will click through and make a purchase – so they ‘grabbed’ her email address and added it to their list. If it takes people a mere three seconds to look a subject line, decide that the message isn’t for them, and then hit the delete button, the 1,999,990 other people who don’t make a purchase spend a cumulative 70 days hitting the ‘delete’ button. That’s a lot time wasted. And a lot of impatient people who try to hit delete even faster.

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