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Aug 07, 2003
How To

Adding IM Reply Option to Email Campaigns: Results Metrics, 5 Tips & 6 Vendors

SUMMARY: If you offer an IM chat button or link as a reply option in your email campaign or newsletter, our quick survey shows you can expect between 1.7%-3% of your list to click it. Our how-to article includes:

* Why people love to respond to email via IM buttons
* 4 different marketers' results
* 5 tips to make chat work better
* Snapshot profiles of 6 Vendors
Reported by Lynda Partner

Offline direct response marketers' tests proved years ago that the
more ways you give people to respond, the more overall orders
you will get.

That is why mailed and televised campaigns always include phone,
postal address, Web, and sometimes even fax numbers, for replies.

However, emailers have been slow to pick up on this tactic. The
vast majority only offer a hotlink reply, which definitely means
they are missing substantial orders from consumers who prefer to
respond via other channels.

As we reported almost three years ago (see link below), one low-
cost/high-impact response option you should test is adding an
instant messaging (IM) chat button to your campaigns. Here's a
quick update with some numbers, tips and vendor data:

-> Why people love to respond to email via IM buttons
-> Four different marketers' results
-> 5 tips to make chat work better
-> Snapshot profiles of 6 Vendors
-> More useful links

-> Why people love to respond to email via IM buttons

Say you just got an email offer in your inbox that intrigues you,
but you have a few questions. Your options are usually:

a) Reply to the email and wait possibly for 24 hours or more
for an answer

b) Go to the website and search for more info which may not be
easy to find

c) Telephone, which may involve battling automated phone
systems and/or dealing with a too-pushy sales rep

Clicking on an IM chat button in the email lets you connect
immediately with a helpful human. IM leaves control in the hands
of the customer. For some psychological reason it is so much
easier to terminate a chat than it is to hang up on a phone call.
Plus, IM offers a sense of anonymity, comfort to those who are
wary of disclosing too much personal data.

Best marketplaces to offer IM in are:

o Younger consumers: 20-somethings often prefer IM to email.

o Impulse buyers: Especially if the purchase is complex enough
where the buyer may need some personal assistance.

o Busy businesspeople: Great for upselling to current clients
or prospects in the midst of a sales cycle who may require a
personal touch.

o Multinational campaigns: Folks in other countries who may
not speak your language well enough for a call, or who may
worry about time zone differences and the phone, will be
more tempted to respond.

o Unhappy customers: If you have bad news for a customer,
adding a chat button to the message makes you look like you
really care. Response rates may be low, but brand benefit

-> Four different marketers' results

When we first reported on adding IM to email campaigns in Oct 2000,
LivePerson cited their own response rate to campaigns sent to a
house list was 15%-20% of responses were clicks on the IM button.

That number has more than tripled in the past three years. Now 70%
of people who contact them as a result of an email campaign will
use the chat button, 10% will reply via email and 20% will pick up
the phone. Naturally, being a chat tech provider, LivePerson
probably has an higher-than-average chat rate, but this upward
trend is worth noting.

The total response rate is still determined by list quality.
LivePerson gets a .17% average chat request rate from offers sent
to a broad house prospect file. (That is about 500 IM requests
generated from a mailing to a list of 300,000, and remember the
same mailings are also generating clicks and calls.)

Info from three more marketers:

o 1st Choice Vacation Rentals

They add chat to their email newsletter sent to a house list of
about 40,000. Typically 5% of recipients who are tracked as
opening an issue click on the IM button.

1st Choice says it is very efficient. Instead of emailed Q&As
going back and forth over days, they qualify and sell prospects in

o LaGarde

This business technology company added chat to prospect emails
after testing it with huge success on their Web site first. A
typical mailing to a house prospect list of 10,000 names triggers
about 100 chats. (That is 1% of emails sent, equaling roughly 3% of
emails opened.)

LaGarde salespeople use IM to determine customer needs and to push
the appropriate pages from their website to the prospect’s browser.
While they occasionally even close business via chat, they
primarily use IM to deepen their relationship with their prospect.

It is a step in relationship building that may lead to phone next.

o GotMarketing

Also use IM offers in B2B email campaigns, and have found roughly
50% of qualified chatters are more than happy to continue the
conversation by phone; while an email conversation rarely leads to
a phone call.

-> 5 tips to make chat work better

#1. Be ready to chat immediately

IM requests will come in the minute you send out the email
campaign, so you have to warn customer service or whoever mans the
chat *before* you send the campaign.

Bigger mailers stagger their outbound email sends over hours and
sometimes days so inbound chat is not flooded.

#2. Do not ask reps to handle too many chats at once

The average business-to-consumer chat rep handles a maximum of
three-to-five chats at once. Any more results in a (really) bad
customer experience.

For business-to-business you may want to cut that down to just one
chat per rep, especially if you are hoping to transition chatters
to phone conversations. (See link to a Case Study below for more
tips on B2B chat use in marketing.)

#3. Do not take credit cards via chat. It is not secure.

#4. Start slowly, learn as you go.

Try adding an IM offer to a small portion of your drop at first,
do not just roll out a huge campaign and expect to cope without
prior experience.

#5. Avoid stuffy-sounding cut-and-paste answers in favor of real
chat reps IMing real answers.

Although people expect a fairly formal response to emailed queries,
those same answers sound awfully weird and stilted in the context
of IM.

In fact, your rep's IM "voice" can become a big part of your brand
appeal, or not. See below for a link to samples of three real-
life chat transcripts. The difference in voice between "cut and
paste" and real answer is obvious.

-> Snapshot profiles of 6 Vendors

Here is what we were able to learn about six of the top IM tech
vendors by IMing them via links on their Web sites. These are just
quick snapshots, you will want to do more research to pick a vendor.

In alpha order:

eAssist's NetAgent
Price: Available as ASP, offer 30-day no-cost trial
"Wendy" told us they've been recognized as the industry's leading
best-of-breed chat product for nearly 5 years with more
installations of NetAgent chat than any other chat product.

Price: “There are many factors involved in pricing. That should be
enough for your article.”
Forced us to fill out a form before we could begin chatting
(annoying) and service was a little slow. They claim their
"solution is the most feature rich and robust on the market."

Price: Starts at $1800 per year per seat
Their differentiator? According to "BobT", who took our chat,
Hipbone is a “proven solution that extends beyond simple chat
capability and includes real-time collaboration”.

Price: $0.29-$1.00 per chat, offer no-cost trial
Once "Shelbi" realized we were journalists, she did a neat little
transfer over to someone more qualified to answer our questions.
InstantService is an ASP service with a unique pricing model. They
too offer free trials.

Price: Starts as low as an ASP for $50/mo
No-cost trial available. They say you should pick them because 1)
they work with all email clients (while all vendors claim the same
thing, LivePerson claims that chat services based on Java Applets
will not work with some email clients including Outlook XP). Also
2) they can make each chat link in each email unique and link it to
your database so that prospect's campaign data is passed to the
agent taking the chat.

Price: Starts as an ASP service for $20/mo
When asked what makes their product better than competing products
they told us they are designed specifically as a marketing and sales
tool, as opposed to a customer support technology.

-> Useful links related to this article:

Transcripts of three of our reporter's IM chats with reps:

Recent Sherpa Case Study, "How to Use Site Chat to Generate Sales
Leads: 4 Best Practices & Test Results"

Sherpa's Oct 2000 article (no-cost to access) "15% of B-to-B Sales
Prospects Click On Emailed Link to Chat Online With a Sales Rep"
See Also:

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