Getting to the E-mail Inner Circle

In the early days of e-commerce, e-mail marketing was a fresh way to reach people. Indeed, for a brief period, click-through rates were frequently in the double digits.

Then people’s e-mail boxes became flooded with marketing messages – some legitimate, some spam. And e-mail response rates fell from the stratosphere back to earth.

But the deluge continued. Individuals installed spam filters. Corporations built firewalls. And e-mail response rates, once stellar, were now not much better than what postal direct mail could produce.

One study indicated that most people regularly open and read a maximum of 16 permission-based e-mails. If your e-mail doesn’t come from one of the 16 sources whose e-mail the recipient regularly opens and reads, your chances of getting any kind of response are significantly reduced.

How do you become one of the 16 trusted sources from whom the recipient will accept an e-mail communication?

You might become part of that “inner circle” of preferred e-mail senders if the recipient is already your customer. A survey from, for instance, shows that customers value and read two specific types of e-mails: transaction confirmations and account status updates.

Since these e-mails get read, you could add a promotional message or special offer – with a link to a landing page – to your transaction and account-related e-mails, measure the response, and see whether it works for you.

Another way to join the inner circle of preferred e-mail senders is to publish an e-zine that the recipient has willingly subscribed to and actively looks forward to receiving. But there are two problems with that strategy.

First, with literally thousands of free e-zines available, chances are that your recipient already gets more than he can read. Therefore it’s tough to interest him or her in yet another.

Second, producing a quality e-zine – whether monthly, weekly, or daily — takes a lot of time. If you want to reach a particular group of prospects on an occasional basis, the marketing ROI you get from such an e-zine may not justify the cost or effort.

One e-mail marketing method that promises to solve this problem – and gain advertisers quick entry into the inner circle of preferred e-mail subscribers without committing to a regular e-zine – is the sponsored e-mail alert. A respected information provider–a magazine or trade group, for instance–creates the content, and you sponsor it. Or the advertiser can write customized content featuring its products and services for the week it sponsors the newsletter. Another benefit: Your message appears to be endorsed by the publisher.

Stevan Roberts is president/CEO of Pearl River, NY-based list brokerage and management services firm Edith Roman Associates.

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