“We do not use email for acquisition purposes. It just doesn't work for us!” says one marketer.

“We have tried it in the past and it just doesn't work. It bombed!” says another.

If I only had a nickel for every time I heard these two statements, I wouldn't have to write about how wrong they are.

Believe me, it is certainly not easy to make email acquisition work. It can, however, be done. How do we know? We do it every day for our clients. How do we make it work? Let me tell you.

First and foremost, you need the marketer to be committed to the medium. They cannot rent one list from a sweepstakes-type list (because it was inexpensive), see minimal conversions, and then proudly announce “EMAIL DOESN'T WORK!”

You must convince them to stay the path. They need to follow the same strategies they adhere to when implementing a postal mail plan. Yes, it does take a small investment, but moreover, it takes a large commitment by the marketer to the medium.

Secondly, you need to test, test, and test. It is critical that the marketer test the numerous variables (one variable at a time) that combine together to create an effective campaign. These variables include the offer, the creative, the list, the links and the landing page.

The offer is critical when creating a strong, successful email campaign. The marketer needs to give the recipient a compelling enough reason to want to act upon the email. For example, history has shown that a marketer who sells merchandise online has a significant increase in conversion when employing a promotional offer.

Consider using time-tested direct mail offers such as “$ off coupons,” “% off coupons,” or “free shipping and handling.”

When developing an email creative, the marketer needs to first establish a control. Once that control is instituted, they need to begin testing a different creative, in hopes of bettering their results.

If the findings of the new creative return increased results, do not get overly excited--continue to test the creative one or two more times to be positive it wasn't an aberration. If results continue beating the old creative, you have found yourself a new control. Begin the process all over again.

With email, just like direct mail, how precisely the list is targeted to the marketer's offer is critical to the success of the email campaign. The marketer will need to test a variety of email lists in order to find the most responsive names for their offer. Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value are important within email lists. Thus, where applicable, focus on lists of recent online buyers or registered users.

More importantly, when researching email lists, focus on the origin of the list to ensure compatibility with your offer. Make sure you obtain names from branded, well-recognized sites or sources. Since an outbound email announces to the recipient, in the form of a header, exactly where they gave permission, a well recognized source would lend more credibility to the message.

Two of the biggest mistakes made during the process occur with the placement of the links, and just after the click at the landing page. The marketer should make sure the link (call to action) is positioned within the first paragraph of the message. They should not make the recipient search the message by scrolling to find the link.

Regarding the landing page, do not just "drop off" the recipient onto the marketers' home page. Instead, send them to a custom-designed landing page that is consistent with the offer in the email. Landing pages prevent the recipient from getting lost and ensure that they see what you want them to see first.

Due to the immediacy of results and the low cost, email marketing is the ideal medium for the direct marketer. With email being a relatively new medium, however, the marketer may not see positive results until all the variables are tested and refined.

Stick with it, and we can assure you that you will reap the benefits.

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John Hammersley Mr. Hammersley is General Manager of Walter Karl-Interactive. He can be reached at John.Hammersley@WKInteractive.com.