June 4, 2007, 12:00 AM

Too much e-mail marketing can hurt, expert says

So says Dave Lewis, vice president of market development at StrongMail Systems, who advises it’s not the size of a customer e-mail list that counts, but the percentage of customers engaged with a brand.

Big business is faulted by some economists and analysts as being short-sighted, focusing far too heavily on the short term and not enough on the long term. A similar criticism can be made of e-mail marketing practices, says Dave Lewis, vice president of market development at StrongMail Systems Inc.

“It’s so easy to dump 5 million messages using the e-mail medium. A retailer might do this because it needs to make a sales objective for the week and it knows a certain percentage of consumers will respond,” Lewis says. “Where that backfires, though, is while there will be some people who click through, enabling you to meet your sales objective, there also will be people who make decisions to unsubscribe or complain, or simply delete your e-mails. This affects your reputation and your ability to really reach customers.”

Too many marketers use e-mail as a broadcast medium, Lewis contends, and overlook narrower, customized, more effective uses of e-mail messages.

“You can send out 5 million messages, all the same, all at the same time. But the technology and the medium permit you to customize each message personally to a customer, relevant to their online behavior, all centered on your brand,” he says. “Marketers still see the Holy Grail as list size, when it actually is the percentage of customers on your list who are engaged with your brand.”

Relevancy, Lewis says, produces an engaged customer.

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