Implementing an Effective E-mail Marketing Campaign - Choosing a system
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Managing this amount of complex data requires sophisticated software. An Outlook contacts list simply isn't able to handle the kind of interrelationships that are at the heart of a well-run e-mail marketing system. Building such a system in house is possible if the appropriate skills and resources are available, and may even be necessary if your business is dealing with highly unusual information.
However, this situation is rare. Most companies, most of the time, will be using various subsets of a fairly standard data set. The important thing is that this data can be effectively customized to suit your particular requirements. It is important, for example, to be able to create custom fields. These should be searchable and selectable items that can be used to determine the contact's inclusion or exclusion from a particular message or campaign.
This is illustrated by a survey of independent marketing professionals carried out by Pinpointe in August 2008, in which only one in four respondents regarded a contact's job title as "must-have" data. Marketing evidence suggests they're missing a trick, as this can be a highly effective filter with which to target campaign mails. For example, messages that emphasize the cost benefits of a particular product or service are unlikely to be of interest to operational staff and should be reserved for financial decision makers. Job titles and roles can be critical in making sure the right people are seeing your message. If you think this doesn't matter, remember that every poorly-targeted e-mail undermines your credibility and dilutes your message.
Selecting the right software to do the job is a major decision that will have long-term impacts on your campaign's success. There are a number of service providers in the industry aimed at different scales of enterprise, and it's worth researching these thoroughly before making a decision. One such is Pinpointe themselves, whose system is aimed at what it describes as "mid-market" B2B companies wishing to send between 25,000 and 500,000 messages per month.
Another contender is Constant Contact, who target themselves at smaller business with less sophisticated segmentation requirements. Constant Contact claims that its system "makes it easy to create professional HTML email campaigns with no tech skills." It is quick, easy and cheap to get started with them, with monthly fees starting at $15.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the comprehensive automated marketing services offered by companies such as Eloqua. These can be expensive - $8,000 a month or more - but for large organizations in need of total solutions, this sort of price isn't unrealistic.
Extensive data demonstrates that highly personalized, customized and accurately targeted opt-in e-mail campaigns are an excellent marketing strategy. Such campaigns are cost-effective, flexible and consistently show excellent returns on investment. They are also available at a price and sophistication level to suit the needs of just about every business or organization. The question isn't whether opt-in e-mail marketing works, but whether your business can afford to do without it.
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