By Robyn M. Sachs
President, RMR & Associates, Inc.

Email marketing can be a huge asset to any organization. Unlike advertising, it can be sent to a carefully selected audience. Unlike public relations, you have total control over the message and the delivery. Unfortunately, it can also be tricky. In a medium where a 3% response rate is considered a success, you want to be sure to leverage every tool you can. The best way to do that is to pay attention to three basic components of your campaign: the list, the offer, and the creative.

1) The List

The list alone is responsible for 60% of your campaign’s success or failure. You may have a compelling offer and great creative, but if it’s going to the wrong people, you’re wasting your time and money. If you operate an ice cream parlor in Germantown, MD, but are sending direct mail to people in San Francisco, it’s fairly certain that you won’t see a big response.

• Choose lists that pre-qualify your targets as being interested. Subscribers to blogs in which you advertise or owners of systems you support are just two examples. The added benefit of sending to an opt-in subscriber list is that if prospects have already seen your ad, they will have some awareness of your company once they receive the email.

• Direct response lists will almost always deliver better results than compiled lists.

• Lists that target your prospects by job function, lifestyle, income, and other factors will always improve response. The more targeted your list is, the greater your chance of a good response. If you know most of your current customers are married men over the age of 35 who earn over $60,000 per year, have a college degree and like to watch football and you send a direct email piece to people who match those criteria, your odds for success increase dramatically.

2) The Offer

Once you have your list, you need to come up with your offer. This accounts for 30% of your campaign’s results.

• Sell the offer, not the product. The offer is what the recipient gets for responding. If you are selling a million dollar software system, the chances of your closing a sale based solely on an email campaign are slim. However, the chances of you getting someone to come to a seminar, visit your tradeshow booth, or download your white paper is much higher.

• Price can be the offer if it’s a bargain. Offers such as “50% off” or “Buy one get one free” are compelling reasons to respond.

• Money-back guarantees and free trial periods are powerful offers in email marketing. With high-ticket items or new technology, there is often a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) for the prospective buyer. By giving a guarantee, you can decrease the FUD factor and increase your response rates.

• Include a call to action with a deadline. Conditions such as “Respond by October 31st” or “Call in the next 30 days” will help motivate people and will allow you to gauge the success of your campaign more quickly.

3) The Creative

The final part of an email campaign is the creative. The look of an email piece is responsible for 10% of the campaign’s pull, and often the creative decides if it makes it past the delete button.

• Start selling in the subject line. Remember, the email’s first job is to get noticed and opened.

• Continue the sell in the body of the email. If it was compelling enough to get the prospect to open it, don’t lose that momentum. Pay off the promise in the body of the email.

• Make it easy to respond. Provide a landing page if more information is necessary.

There are thousands of other variables to consider with email campaigns: How often do you send? How do you track the responses? Do you personalize each piece? Working with an experienced marketing agency can help you answer these questions and can help increase your chances of a highly successful campaign. However, knowing the three basic components will put you ahead of the game.