April 21, 2005, 12:00 AM

Yesterday’s e-mail tactics, strategies make way for today’s

A number of earlier best practices in e-mail no longer measure up to current thinking. The most successful e-mail marketers today are those that have completely overhauled their original programs, says Silverpop’s CEO.

CAN-SPAM, overflowing inboxes and higher customer expectations have dealt a death blow to a number of e-mail practices that once worked. “The companies that can boast the most effective e-mail programs today have been successful because they’ve completely overhauled their way of thinking,” says Bill Nussey, CEO of e-mail services provider Silverpop.

Nussey highlights a number of misconceptions that have been flipped around in the current practices of knowledgeable e-mail marketers. For example, they now recognize that the size of an e-mail list is less important than how the list is used. “Owning a huge list does you no good if no one on your list wants to hear from you and everyone on the list begins opting out,” says Nussey. “Focusing excessively on list size and frequency ignores the three most critical tenets of any e-mail marketing program: relevancy, recipient control and relationships.”

Nussey also challenges the idea that adding pizzazz to the subject line is the best way to increase response. Too many marketers overlook another area: the brand value in the “from" field. “If customers trust your company name and what it represents they will continue to read over to your subject line,” he says. “If your name in the ‘from’ line has come to represent irrelevant and useless e-mails, even the most enticing subject line is unlikely to convince people to open your messages.” As a result, he adds, marketers need to focus on how they use their e-mail “from” field with as much attention as they would give any online or offline branding effort.

One other shift in e-mail marketing strategy over time has been the need to look beyond immediate metrics such as click-through to the collective branding effect of individual e-mail campaigns, Nussey notes, adding that the need to drive results with each new campaign can overshadow larger, strategic and branding best practices, he says. “Companies that focus on short-term customer acquisition at the expense of relevance may sacrifice positive brand value. Companies that take the time to develop long-term relationships gain equity in the form of increased customer lifetime value.”

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