Ready To Cross Over to E-mail?

Over the years, this column has focused exclusively on print personalization, but in the world of direct marketing, print increasingly does not work alone. In the direct marketing world, the operative word has become “multi-channel,” with marketers using multiple channels to complement and amplify the message.

At minimum, this means combining print with e-mail. Look at the Print on Demand Initiative case study archives. What percentage of these campaigns contain some kind of e-mail component, whether to prime the pump for direct mail, as a follow-up to direct mail, or as some other component in the campaign?

This leads to the question: If you were to include e-mail in one of your campaigns, would you know the best practices to optimize success? It’s more than pretty graphics, good subject lines, and avoiding spam filters.

Let’s look at a case study just released from Silverpop, a “marketing engagement” company that offers a variety of solutions for B2B and B2C multi-channel marketing. We’ll identify four components to the campaign that are critical to e-mail and require a new way of new way of looking at your marketing.

Doubling and Tripling Open Rates

SkyEurope, a low-cost airline operating in Central and Eastern Europe, wanted to improve its customer engagement. It had a strong e-mail strategy, but it wanted to do better. It wanted to increase targeting, maximize the information drawn from Web analytics, and improve reporting so it could learn and feed information back into its programs.

Working with Silverpop’s Engage solution, the airline began partitioning its customer list and sending personalized e-mails using dynamic content based on gender and to meet customers’ preferences on such things as language and preferred airport for special offers. Over time, it was able to further segment by behavior and more detailed attributes.

SkyEurope also began delivering, not just timed campaigns, but triggered communications within seconds of a user action, such as a purchase. It also uses Silverpop’s “share to social” feature to insert special links into e-mails that allow recipients to easily share the airline’s offers on social networks.

The results? E-mail open rates doubled and tripled. SkyEurope is also seeing thousands of additional clicks on social network links and seeing its offers posted on social networks such as Facebook, Digg and MySpace. Essentially, its customers are advertising for the company for free!

Special Considerations for E-mail

By now, we all know the power of personalization in marketing communications, so what I really want to highlight here are some key elements to e-mail’s success that can be entirely different from print. In Silverpop’s two-page case study alone, I circled four of these elements:

  1. Deliverability. Unlike print, just having the correct address isn’t sufficient to be certain that your e-mails will get delivered. Different ISPs have different requirements—for example, limiting the number of e-mails or hyperlinks within e-mails you can send.

    For this reason, the major e-mail service providers have deliverability departments devoted to working with clients to help them improve their lists and e-mail practices to maximize the number of e-mails that actually reach their target inboxes.

  2. Use of Web analytics to optimize targeting. Once a visitor has registered with the marketer’s Web site, these details can be used to target future communications. In fact, any movement on the site—purchases the visitor makes, links they click on, how long they spend on each page—can be used for targeted marketing.

  3. Incorporation of “dynamic content.” This is what we would call “variable fields” in personalized print. This might include text or offers relevant to each recipient, such as the details of flights out of their local airports. The difference is that, while this is a best practice in print, as well, it’s even more expected in e-mail.

  4. Inclusion of live hyperlinks and special links optimized to enable recipients to quickly share offers and information through social networks.

This is an increasingly important best practice for e-mail. Sharing within social networks is a growing trend, and strategies are being put into place to make it as easy as possible for people to include links to videos, audio, graphics, offers, and more.

Although the best practices for e-mail go much further, these four elements do illustrate just how different from print e-mail marketing can be. If you’re using to working largely with print, it requires a shift in thinking that goes beyond the medium used to communicate the message and requires a whole new way of understanding the way that message is delivered

Heidi Tolliver-Nigro is an industry writer, an analyst specializing in digital workflow and technologies. Her e-mail address is