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Starting an e-mail program is one of the easiest ways to increase sales, customer satisfaction and brand recognition. A program is a regularly scheduled, reoccurring e-mail campaign, such as an e-newsletter or a weekly sale announcement. Program marketing differs from campaign marketing because campaign marketing occurs sporadically, on any topic that happens to arise. E-mail programs are effective in building a brand and sales because they establish constant, expected communications with recipients.

There are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of an e-mail marketing program. Data, Content, Style, Frequency/Timing, and Testing should all play critical roles in the formulation of your program strategy.


Customer data is the most important factor in any e-mail program. You can't make a sale or convince someone to subscribe to your communications if they are not interested in your topic or product. The best way to ensure that your audience is interested is to use your house database. Collect e-mail addresses from your customers, website visitors and sales prospects. Ask for e-mail addresses at every point of contact because those who have previously expressed an interest in your company will probably be the most open to receiving your message.

Renting lists from outside vendors is another way to increase database size, but rented lists are never as successful as your house database. In a recent study, Jupiter Communications found that only 14% of consumers were willing to receive information from companies they did not have a relationship with. Keep in mind that you will have a much higher opt-out rate when sending e-mail to a rented list, because these recipients have not specifically agreed to receive your message. Data captured by a third party must be trustworthy. It is your company image at stake when you send e-mail using third party lists.


A company is not limited to one program; rather, there are many different types of communications that can be transmitted via e-mail. Examine the kinds of information your organization has to deliver. Do recipients want weekly specials, updated product information or informative industry newsletters? Recipients will opt-in only if you provide valuable content, so be relevant.

It is easy to get a recipient to read your message once, but what convinces them to subscribe to regular communications? Here are a few keys to success:

  • Relevancy
  • Clear purpose and topic
  • Prominent offer
  • Concise writing
  • Apparent call to action
  • Use personalization and/or customized content
  • Use small, skim-able paragraphs, insert links for longer copy
  • Insert subscribe/unsubscribe links


Style goes hand-in-hand with content. When designing an e-mail marketing program, create a separate look and identity for each program so readers immediately know what they are receiving. Creating consistent templates will make each program easily recognizable and eliminate the need to design a new layout each time.

Give each program a title, so recipients know what they are receiving from the subject line. Use the program name in the subject line or from line so recipient recognition of your message is automatic. The more familiar your recipients get with you, the less likely they are to delete your messages.

Be consistent. Include features that appear in the same spot, in every issue. For example, Socketware's Subject Lines E-mail Marketing Newsletter always contains a marketing article, a technical advice section, some reading recommendations, and a client of the month. Keep the format the same in every issue. This will help your readers navigate your e-mails quickly, and encourage click-throughs because the reader can easily find what they are looking for.


Send programs at the same time each day, week, or month, to build anticipation. Delta Air Lines' Weekly Web Fares are always sent on Wednesday mornings, so recipients expect and look for these communications when making their travel plans.

Since the average person is inundated with e-mails each morning, it is important to time the delivery of your message so that it does not arrive when your recipient's inbox is already packed with other messages. This timing depends on the type of message you are sending. B-to-B messages work best during the work week, but not on Mondays, while consumer e-mails have the highest open rates during the weekends and leisure time. Think about your daily work schedule and e-mail habits and send accordingly. While there is no hard and fast rule for success, experimenting with timing can lead to an increase in open rates and campaign success.


You can actually damage your brand through improperly planned e-mail marketing. It is possible to alienate your recipients by sending too many messages. The ease of opting out makes frequency an important factor to consider. If you e-mail too often, your recipients will opt-out, if you e-mail too little, then they will forget about you. How should you calculate the optimal amount? Start with once a week and test from there.

  • Opt-Outs - Look at your opt-out rate. If the unsubscribe rate is higher than it should be, the cause might be sending too often. Remember, some churn will always occur. Look for significant differences in opt-out rates.
  • Survey - Ask your customers how often they would like to hear from you.
  • Content - Are you running out of important things to say? Don't e-mail without solid, relevant content.

Don't forget to test! The beauty of e-mail is that you can track what recipients really do, and tailor future strategies based on what you find. Track click-throughs, opt-in/outs and conversion rates to identify the optimal frequency for your e-mail campaigns. For most companies, it is better to err on the side of not enough e-mail, rather than to send too much. Once a customer feels inundated, the damage may already be done.

E-mail is the most trackable and interactive marketing medium available. Take advantage of real-time reporting features to test the variables that impact success. E-mail program marketing is an easy and cost effective way to reach your customers and potential customers. Switch your campaign marketing to program marketing and increase sales, customer retention and brand awareness.

Michael Pridemore is CEO of Atlanta-based Socketware, makers of Accucast ( e-mail marketing software and hosted services. He can be reached at, or at (404) 815-1998

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Michael Pridemore is CEO of Atlanta-based Socketware, makers of Accucast ( e-mail marketing software and hosted services. He can be reached at, or at (404) 815-1998