The number is no coincidence. The allusion is, of course, to addiction recovery programs. E-mail is abused by “innocent” people, just as alcohol, drugs and food are. Obviously, e-mail abuse does not bear the same dire consequences.

Steps #1-5 refer specifically to e-mail used for prospecting only; Steps 6-12 apply to e-mails going to both prospects and customers (current, inactive, and about to become inactive)

STEP #1: RESIST TEMPTATION
The temptation – especially for b-t-c marketers – is to use e-mail as a mass medium. Why not? It's SO inexpensive? You just do a blast and it doesn't matter how many people respond. Your cost per response is still close to zero. Why not? Because you are polluting the stream – dumping gunk which makes breathing in cyberspace impossible. E-mail list selection for prospecting purposes should be compatible with your snail mail list selection strategy. RELEVANCE should always be your guide.

STEP #2: UNDERSTAND WHO'S GETTING YOUR E-MAIL
This is a corollary of Step #1. Prospecting to both businesses and consumers has relied heavily on double opt-in lists. Double opt-in was the methodology that was going to stop spam and leverage Seth Godin's concept of permission-based marketing. However, many of these lists were developed through sweepstakes and other highly promotional offers.

Respondents who said that they were interested in receiving specific types of offers really weren't. They were being bribed to say they were interested. Many of those who opted-in don't remember why; now they're receiving offers that confuse them. Finally, many of these same people would opt-out, only they're smart enough to know that the act of opting-out many indeed land them on another list.

STEP #3: OPT FOR TRUE RESPONSE LISTS WHEN YOU CAN
Just as traditional mailers know that response lists normally outpull compiled lists significantly, smart marketers use true response lists in their e-mail campaigns. That's why the cost of the mass opt-in files has dropped precipitously – they are just not performing. In the b-t-b arena, controlled circ publication e-mail files (not just traditional files with e-mail appends) are working very well. Obviously, as a consumer marketer, if you can rent online respondents to magazine or catalog offers, or even to insurance and financial lead-generation offers, you'll want to test them.

STEP #4: CRYSTALLIZE YOUR OBJECTIVES
You want response, sure. But what's the offer? How will you let prospects respond to that offer?

Example: we recently completed writing an e-mail series for a company trying to recruit new franchisees. The entire thrust of the series was to get prospects to register for a free seminar in their region, certainly a common and acceptable strategy in the world of franchising. We raised the question: “What if the prospect is either not the seminar-going type, or, in fact, is such a hot prospect that he/she wants an immediate one-on-one with your sales director”?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Lee Marc Stein

Lee Marc Stein is an internationally known direct marketing consultant and copywriter. He has extensive experience in circulation, insurance and financial services, high tech, and B2B marketing.