Marketers are fighting to find balance between their digital marketing campaigns, developing content and managing their customers. Richard Mullins, director at Acceleration, looks at some of the obstacles and opportunities that marketers face as well as looking at simple ways to ensure their emails and campaigns reach their customers.
Ever since email became a mainstream business and personal application, spammers have engaged in an arms race with end-users, software vendors and Internet service providers who want to keep inboxes clean of junk mail.
As legitimate marketers, we face an uphill struggle to make sure that we can reach the people that matter most to use - our potential customers.
We're often caught in the crossfire since Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and corporate firewalls terminate anything that looks like spam with extreme caution, including our permission-based messages.
Dealing with this challenge is vital for marketers considering that email is one of the best ways to tap into the growing opportunities that the Web 2.0 and social networking space offer us.
So what can you do to ensure email delivery and build exposure?
It is better to ask permission than forgiveness
There are a number of things that marketers can do to dramatically improve interaction and value from their campaigns.
The first thing to remember is that no marketer should send any messages to a user who hasn't signed up to receive them. The line between spam and legitimate email is clear: the former is an unwelcome and unsolicited communication, while a legitimate email is one that the user has asked to receive.
Given that a customer or prospect has asked to receive your messages, make sure that your emails are valuable to him or her. Content is king, so you need to ensure that the content is real, relevant and regular (the three Rs).
One way that you can source content is to partner with an online publisher or blogging site that will produce or already produces content applicable to your brand or product. Once you have the content, you will to able to not only enrich the lives of your current consumers, but use these existing customers to build your base.
Many people see email as a retention tool only, but it is also one of the most powerful acquisition tools available to you if you use it wisely. If your content and offers are of value, consumers will be more than happy to refer you to their friends through a simple click of the mouse.
Automated or triggered email programmes can help you to ensure that you remain relevant and interact regularly with your customers. These can also be set up as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) email feeds that provide headline and information updates as soon as they are loaded on the site.
These processes should be linked to consumer profiles that are updated and managed against the customer's interests and interactions with your company.
Grappling with social media
Marketers (and agencies) worldwide are grappling with the social media opportunities that they see, but not yet been able to fully realise.
Email can be used to help infiltrate this world by simply ensuring that your content can be added as a link to the person's Facebook, MySpace or Flickr pages. The benefits are that you now have a far greater reach and the benefit of your customer personally endorsing your brand and offer to their friends.
As the next step, you can use preference centres and list generators to allow new users to sign up for your email service and provide you with the information you need to engage with them.
You can also use vouchers and surveys to drive interaction and gather data for research. The better your data, measurement, customer tracking and understanding is, the easier it is to add value and build relationships with your customers, relationships that drive the brand, sales and return on investment.
Many marketers get lost trying in trying to keep up with the next big thing, forgetting about the current tools and simple basics that could deliver real value to their businesses.
Email is as an effective Web 2.0 arrow as any widget.
To succeed, however, you must work with reputable providers who know what they are doing and are able to control and track as much of the delivery process and interaction as possible. You must monitor and measure ruthlessly, segmenting your base to ensure that what you are sending is as relevant as possible.
Be safe, measure, work with thought leaders, and you'll find that your email will become a whole new digital world.
About the author
Richard Mullins opened Acceleration's Johannesburg office in 2000. Richard has played an instrumental role in the growth of Acceleration in South Africa, working with clients to identify their online marketing needs and establish effective online marketing strategies that deliver superior results. This is achieved through the implementation of technology services such as Advertiser and Publisher Ad Operations, Email, Paid Search and Site Analytics.