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How to Create an E-Mail Marketing Campaign

At a fraction of the cost of direct mail, e-mail marketing is one of the best ways to reach your best prospects.

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Q: What does it cost to rent a targeted e-mail list, and what are the typical response rates?

A: E-mail marketing may be taking the place of traditional direct mail as more entrepreneurs find they can save money, get quicker responses and increase their overall response rates with e-mail. It can take a month or two to execute a direct-mail effort, but an e-mail campaign can be completed from concept to mailing in under two weeks. And while typical response rates for direct mail and e-mail are both about 1 percent, permission-based e-mails (those using opt-in lists) fare much better. The average click-through rate on mailings to opt-in lists is between 6 and 8 percent, according to the research and advisory firm Gartner G2.

Marketing via e-mail is also considerably less expensive than going postal. The cost to rent an opt-in list will range from under $100 to about $350 per thousand. And because it eliminates printing, postage and other costs, e-mail marketing is one of the most affordable ways to reach targeted groups of prospects.

Here are some helpful tips to guide you through the four stages of e-mail list rental:

  1. Find the right lists. With your specific target audience in mind, begin with Web searches on "e-mail list management" or "e-mail list brokers." List management companies, such as, offer opt-in e-mail lists from a wide range of vendors, while brokers will make recommendations regarding the best lists to meet your needs and execute the buys for you. If you need very small quantities of e-mail addresses in a variety of categories, you may want to assemble your own consumer or B2B lists with the help of sites such as
  2. Make your selection. When evaluating a specific list, ask the sales rep for the data card. That's a single sheet describing the list and its source, selections available, counts for categories, costs and rules concerning list use. Then begin asking questions. It's important to know how the list was assembled. E-mail lists of individuals who have purchased a product like yours or subscribe to a certain publication typically outperform lists that are simply compiled from directories, for example. Also, find out how recently the list has been cleaned and who else has been using it. It may be helpful to know whether one of your chief competitors has recently mailed to the same list.
  3. Submit your creative. Most list vendors will require approval of your creative content prior to final purchase. This helps ensure that the content is consistent with the information their list members have agreed to receive and filters out any objectionable material. During this approval stage, you should also secure a transmission date.
  4. Finalize the layout. Once your payment has been received, the list vendor will take your text word processing file and put it into an e-mail format. Bear in mind, your mailing will look different in various e-mail programs. So prior to your mailing, be certain to send a test e-mail to select addresses to make sure the layout is what you expect it to be.

And here is a final important tip: To evaluate your response rate efficiently, request tracking services from your e-mail list manager. They'll monitor click-throughs by redirecting your hyperlinks through their server and back to you. That way you'll always have reliable information on the results of your e-mail efforts.

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