Email marketing success factors

Effective e-mail marketing shares much in common with effective direct e-mail copy. Chaffey (2006) uses the mnemonic CRITICAL as a checklist of questions to use to improve the response of e-mail campaigns. It stands for:

• Creative - This assesses the design of the e-mail including its layout, use of colour and image and the copy (see below).

• Relevance - Does the offer and creative of the e-mail meet the needs of the recipients?

• Incentive (or offer) - The WIFM factor or 'What's in it for me?' for the recipient. What benefit does the recipient gain from clicking on the hyperlink(s) in the e-mail? For example, a prize draw is a common offer for B2C brands.

• Targeting and Timing - Targeting is related to the relevance. Is a single message sent to all prospects or customers on the list or are e-mails with tailored creative, incentive and copy sent to the different segments on the list? Timing refers to when the e-mail is received: the time of day, day of the week, point in the month and even the year; does it relate to any particular events? There is also the relative timing - when it is received compared to other marketing communications - this depends on the integration.

• Integration - Are the e-mail campaigns part of your integrated marketing communications? Questions to ask include: are the creative and copy consistent with my brand? Does the message reinforce other communications? Does the timing of the e-mail campaign fit with offline communications?

• Copy - This is part of the creative and refers to the structure, style and explanation of the offer together with the location of hyperlinks in the e-mail.

• Attributes (of the e-mail) - Assess the message characteristics such as the subject line, from address, to address, date/time of receipt and format (HTML or text). Send out Multipart/MIME messages which can display HTML or text according to the capability of the e-mail reader. Offer choice of HTML or text to match users' preferences.

• Landing page (or microsite) - These are terms given for the page(s) reached after the recipient clicks on a link in the e-mail. Typically, on clickthrough, the recipient will be presented with an online form to profile or learn more about them. Designing the page so the form is easy to complete can effect the overall success of the campaign.

A relevant incentive, such as free information or a discount, is offered in exchange for a prospect providing their e-mail address by filling in an online form. Careful management of e-mail lists is required since, as the list ages, the addresses of customers and their profiles will change, resulting in many bounced messages and lower response rates. Data protection law also requires the facility for customers to update their details.

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