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Jan 23, 2002

Email Marketing Forecast: Top 5 Critical Factors for 2002

SUMMARY: Due to the ever-growing plague of spam, the rules of email marketing are changing quickly.† We interviewed Ben Isaacson, Exec Director of AIM (Association for Interactive Marketing), whose members include many of the largest emailers in the world, to bring you these five tips that could make or break your email marketing in 2002.
1. Legislation in the US

Isaacson says, "I don't think many of the emailers are paying enough attention to state laws." Anti-spam laws are already on the books in 17 states in the US. Generally they prohibit email sent to anyone with whom you don't have a 'prior business relationship', which is sometimes defined as an opt-in or purchase.

Few emailers worried about the laws in the past because few states actually enforced them. That's changing rapidly.
California, for example, may now try to enforce its law that all advertising email carry an "ADV" in the subject line -- which would crush response rates. Also well-meaning-but-naÔve marketers in any of the 17 states who are suckered into buying non-permission lists could be caught, fined, and see their brand names tarred.

2. ISP & MIS Filters

Egged on by cries from outraged clients, and by the sheer volume of spam their servers have to process, ISPs and corporate MIS/IT departments are aggressively setting up filters to stop the spam before it reaches you. This affects legitimate permission marketers because your mail may get caught in the filter. Publishers in the email newsletter industry started seeing significant declines in their in-box delivery rates in the latter half of 2001 due to this.

[Note: In February MarketingSherpaWeekly will publish a free report on how your marketing creative can be tweaked to avoid the filters -- so watch for it. If you're not a subscriber, go here to sign up:]

3. Appending Email Addresses to Marketing Databases

Isaacson says, "Email append is one of the top 10 business trends for 2002." The problem is, many marketers donít know what's allowed and what's not. While there are no fast rules, MarketingSherpa's guidelines are:

- You can use non-email media to solicit email addresses from your current customers and prospects. Special offers sent via postcard and B-to-B telemarketing are particularly effective. Also, make sure opt-in offers are placed throughout your site (not just on one page.)

- If you use an appending service, you run the risk of being accused of being a spammer because the names did not proactively opt-in to be on your email list. Safest way -- only use a service for current active customers, and only add their emails to your permanent files after they have responded to a one-time email from you requesting that they opt-in.

4. Low Opt-Out Rates Don't Mean People Want Your Email

"People are scared to opt-out," Isaacson says, "It's a big issue." Why? Because the public's been trained by the practices of disreputable (or simply disorganized) emailers to believe that opting-out might not only not stop the mail, it might also land them on another list.

Instead of opting-out, email users are turning to their delete button more and more frequently. Which, Isaacson says raises another problem:

5. People are Deleting Quicker

Because email recipients get so much email they donít want in their in-boxes these days -- either because it's spam, or because they can't be bothered to opt-out -- their "delete" reflexes are becoming lightening fast. Which means even legitimate, permission email, can get swept up in the delete.

Isaacson says, "It's just such an unconscious method. The delete key gets easier and easier to hit. It might hurt response rates."

What stops the delete? Isaacson says, "Brand recognition may be a factor." His advice, make sure your brand name shows up in your From line and/or subject line. And don't send email from a name your list has never heard of -- if your CEO is not a very famous person, then don't use their personal name in the from line, instead use their title and your brand.
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