You're Invited To E-mail's Coming-Out Party--Again!

Remember six years ago or so when e-mail was "the flavor of the month"? You remember--all of those comments about customers feeling free to e-mail what they were thinking while they sat in their pajamas? Back then, for the first time in a very long time, customers felt like they could actually have "real conversations" with companies. And, when companies started to e-mail back...well, you would have thought that solving world hunger could not have been far off. Cool? WAY Cool!

Consumers couldn't believe they had found an alternative vehicle to engage in a two-way dialogue with companies whose services and products they valued. This event was the footing for the foundation of face-to-face marketing online.

Yeah, e-mail had one hell of a "coming-out party": cheap, relatively easy, very responsive and safe--everyone's eyes were on her. For a while, she even came with flashy videos and java scripts that made e-mail interesting to open and fun to read. And just when this beautiful channel debutante was in the middle of her big dance, the party was over. The commoditization of e-mail pricing fueled by vendor wars, bells and whistles galore, and the looming promise of a CRM platform that solved everything, swooped in and crashed the party.

When this happened, e-mail entered a dark age filled with, spam, phishing, and deliverability issues. The glamour, glitz, and ease of use were gone. But guess what? It is time for e-mail's second coming-out party. She's reinvented herself and she's back with a vengeance!

Today's e-mail is not the e-mail you used to know. Today's e-mail has emerged as the cornerstone of digital media and digital relationships--and is now the way that over 60 million people communicate with their friends and family on a daily basis.

E-mail has become much more than a commoditized messaging platform; it is the glue that bonds the customer to the brand in a digital world. Ninety-five percent of companies who market use e-mail as a key marketing vehicle. If your company is not using e-mail in a strategic manner, or does not recognize that EVERY e-mail you send or respond to is an opportunity to deliver on the promise of your brand, you are clearly missing the party.

In the new world of e-mail, there are seven key strategic elements that need to be considered when planning a program or campaign:

1. Your growth and maintenance plans for your prospect e-mail database. 2. Your opt-in methodology and early engagement strategy. 3. Your e-mail "promise" and the way the brand is represented. 4. Your header information and deliverability score and reputation. 5. "Above the fold" placement of imagery that drives action and use of relevant content. 6. The Web site/landing page engagement flow and interaction. 7. The strategy for integrating the precious content in your e-mails with other digital media: blogs, rss feeds and communities.

Learning how to make e-mail work best for you in its renewed form can be a challenge. But have no fear--every week, we are going to use this column to bring you insights and ideas from industry experts (in addition to the other E-mail Insiders). We plan to explore the key challenges of e-mail marketing--and provide real solutions, response results and other feedback and tools that will enable you to improve the level of success you achieve with e-mail. If you can't wait seven days, or can't get enough e-mail fodder, you can always check out the E-mail Experience Council Web site at http://www.emailexperience.org. This site contains links to MediaPost blogs, articles by our esteemed "E-mail Insider" colleagues--and, more information about specific ways to improve your e-mail programs than you could imagine.