If your audience is large but your budget is small, permission-based e-mail is your best marketing option. "The most cost-effective way to target a message to a desired demographic is through permission-based e-mail," says Brady Brewer, group product manager for e-mail and wireless messaging services at Seattle-based Avenue A, a digital marketing agency. "The average cost per e-mail is around 1 cent, while traditional direct mail costs an average of $1 to $2 per piece."
Before starting your campaign, you must decide whether to run operations internally or outsource them to an agency. Outsourcing generally produces higher conversion rates and is a better long-term investment, according to a 2000 study by Forrester Research. Companies like Digital Impact and FloNetwork manage your mailing lists and track the number of customers clicking and buying.
If you're handling operations internally, you need to buy a mailing list (which costs around $200 per 1,000 addresses) or create house lists, which are usually more effective. To generate a house mailing list, place a sign-up form on your Web site asking prospects' permission to receive e-mail from you. There are three ways to get permission:
1. Single opt-in: Customers
check a sign-up box.
2. Confirmed opt-in: Customers check a box and receive e-mail confirming their opt-in status.
3. Double opt-in: Customers can take further action by clicking on a link in the confirmation e-mail.
Once you have a mailing list, start constructing your messages. Make them jump out of the inbox with creative, succinct subject lines and tight copy. Emphasize benefits and offer incentives. Avoid sales jargon and needless exclamation points. Research your prospects, and send personalized messages that address specific business needs. For higher response rates, link your messages to banner ads, wireless messaging devices or rich media.
According to Brewer, going cross-media is the best way to get your message across: "By leveraging the strength of each medium, marketers can achieve higher customer acquisition at lower costs." Brewer also recommends viral, or "refer-a-friend," marketing because it can double or triple response rates (provided prospects forward your messages). And don't forget to include an unsubscribe option in all correspondence.