It's quite hard to believe, so it was with some irony that Web advertising's anniversary was quickly followed by the announcement that DoubleClick had just retained Lazard to explore options including selling off all or part of the company. One thing we will be following closely will of course be what they do with Dartmail.
But while we are waiting on that development and while we are between the DMA show and Ad:tech, today's article will address some of the technologies being used by small- to medium-sized companies that are dipping their toe in the e-mail marketing for the first time.
While e-mail-based marketing has been around for over a decade now, there is still a constant stream of on and offline business that are new to this form of advertising and looking for ways to successfully apply its potential to their campaigns.
For many of us, our longevity in the field has provided us with a level of expertise born on years of trial and error. For the nascent advertiser, the learning curve has been reduced somewhat as best practices have been established and the wanderings of the many before them have produced well trodden paths.
That said, getting up to speed on how to best use e-mail for marketing, designing, and developing creative and pulling together targeted mailing lists can still make the process daunting, especially for small businesses.
The reality of small business is generally one of limited money and resources. While enthusiasm and drive may often span the gaps of need, deciding to run an e-mail campaign can be costly both in terms of the time required to learn how to go about the task and the expense of renting lists, getting creative produced, and getting the e-mail out to the world. Even after all that, the ability to accurately measure and decipher the results of the campaign requires understanding and potentially even more resources.
So what's a small business owner to do?
Fortunately help has arrived. Some companies now offer full e-mail campaign support in the form of templates. One such company is Roving Software and their 'Constant Contact' product. Constant Contact bills itself as 'Do-it-yourself E-mail Marketing.' Another contender is Benchmark E-mail which also provides a full range of template types as well as list management tools and campaign tracking.
I will mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that I have used neither of these products and can't attest to their capabilities or promise. Individual marketers should research further.
That said, the campaign approach of both offerings is pretty straight forward: The marketer uploads the permission-based e-mail list either gathered or purchased, chooses a template that best meets the campaign needs (both offer a wide range of formats such as newsletters, promotions, event invitations, or seasonal messages), modifies the graphical and textual content of the e-mail, and then kicks it out to the world.
Results are tracked offering marketers a clear look at the number of e-mails opened by recipients, a count of links that were clicked (including click-through), e-mails that bounced, and recipients who unsubscribed, among other factors.
Perhaps most impressive is the low cost associated with this approach. Apart from free trial periods, both companies offer full programs for under $20 per month to push and track up to 600 e-mails; which is perfect for regular newsletter campaigns or small market tests. Of course larger pushes are priced higher but still come in under $150 for 25,000 name pushes.
Both products are impressive and offer comprehensive self-running tutorials that provide a decent overview of the products and their features. I would recommend taking a few minutes to check them out.
While this approach might not be for all small business marketers, the cost of admission is far less than it once was. Instead of having to focus on becoming an HTML design expert along with developing greater insight into tracking e-mail results, today's beginning marketers can focus on his core message and leave the hard part in the hands of those who have already walked down this path.
And by the way, I will be at Ad:tech, speaking on Tuesday afternoon. If any companies or individuals would like to meet with me while I'm there, e-mail me at email@example.com.