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Mid-Year Update of Ten Top Email Marketing Trends

ExactTarget released its mid-year revised forecast of the top email marketing trends for 2005. The predictions first made at the start of this year are adjusted to reflect current market adoption, common practices and new theories on email marketing.

1. Relevance is King.
The number one email trend for 2005 continues to be relevance, defined as delivering messages that contain specific value to an individual subscriber. "For too long marketers have been focused on marketing as a campaign," says Chris Baggott, chief marketing officer and co-founder of ExactTarget. "Customers no longer accept that. The value is in the individual and in driving lifetime customer value."

2. Email is a Retention Tool.
"Email is not an acquisition tool; it is a retention tool," says Baggott. Some 90 percent of marketing dollars are invested in acquisition programs, including keywords, banner ads, direct mail, etc. He recommends those tactics should be leveraged to acquire permission to continue the relationship through email.

3. Data Appends Can be Used to Enrich Customer Data.
"Appending email addresses to existing customer data and assuming that you have permission to email is a bad email practice," says Baggott. However, with data appending, marketers can ask a minimum number of questions on a registration form and let the appending process fill in the gaps with address and even demographic information.

4. Test and Optimize Your Emails. The success gap is widening in email marketing and it is defined by a line drawn between marketers who test emails and those who do not. "Even yesterday's A/B type testing is being replaced by more advanced multi-variant and Taguchi testing," says Baggott. "Before dynamic content, advanced testing was virtually impossible. Now it's easy, and the results are dramatic."

5. Control Corporate Spamming.
Organizations are responsible for every communication that originates from any one of its employees. "How does a marketer know that someone in the company is spamming or engaging in other practices that could result in the company being blacklisted or even fined?" asks Baggott. "Marketers must control outbound email at the enterprise level."

6. Leverage Transactional Emails.
Transactional emails are an opportunity to touch your customers. Marketers are almost guaranteed that transactional email will be read. "Take advantage of this opportunity to grow the customer relationship. Transactional emails are a chance to convey relevant information to the customer and to gather additional data that will help build your relationship," advises Baggott.

7. Create One-to-One Relationships.
"A relationship takes two people," says Baggott. "While brands are important for the credibility and reputation of your organization, at the end of the day, decisions are made between people," says Baggott. Marketers can be expected to leverage emails to facilitate and enhance one-to-one relationships. "The best way to do this is with the 'From Line.' Make email come from humans, such as salespeople, spokespeople, relationship owners, store managers, and customer service reps, rather than institutions. Including pictures of the sender makes email more personal."

8. Measure Results with Multi-Channel Analytics.
Measuring email success based on opens and click-throughs no longer is enough. Marketers need to focus on how the individual subscriber behaves after the click. This is accomplished through multi-channel analytics, integrating email with web tracking software and then with the company's CRM system.

9. Integrate Customer Data.
"Marketers make the greatest impact when they talk to people like they know them. The trick is to learn as much as possible about your customer and to collect data at every touch point possible then centralize that data into one source," advises Baggott. With API's and Web Services, marketers can feed data automatically into a single database from various touch points such as the web, email, POS, telephone or personal contact.

10. Email Only When You Have Something to Say. Email frequency and relevance go hand in hand. "Marketers should only email individuals when they have something to say. The idea that it's Thursday and I've got to send an email is antiquated," says Baggott. "Marketers have few opportunities to constructively engage their customers and prospects, and they must maximize each opportunity to touch the customer."

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