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Email Marketing Basics
Over the past few years, research has continued to prove the benefits of e-mail marketing for business: low costs, high conversion rates and detailed tracking are all notable features.

Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy on the differences between spam and permission-based emails. Today, the majority of people who receive permission-based e-mails open, on average, 78% of them. But crafting an effective business email is both an art and a science. Here is a list of tips to keep in mind:

1. Spam! Spam! Spam! I don't need any Viagra!
The average consumer receives more than 300 emails a week, 62% of which are spam. But spam filters, bulk folders and "report spam" features are helping consumers become more at ease about spam. While 89% of users cited spam as a major concern in 2003, that number dropped to 85% in 2004, proportionally to an increase in the use of spam-fighting tools.

So as a permission-based email marketer, what can you do? First, remind your subscribers to add you to their "safe senders" list. Secondly, and most importantly, make sure your email marketing service provider has a good relationship with ISPs. This will ensure that your emails go into your subscribers' inboxes, not their junk mail folders. Make sure you choose an email marketing company that has strict anti-spam policies and complies with the guidelines of Can-Spam.

2. Images and formatting: Why do my emails look broken?
Broken email campaigns are an increasing concern among email marketers, especially since several companies now block graphics to combat spam. According to ClickZ, 40% of email marketing messages delivered to inboxes are "broken."

This was actually something that came up during Eliteweb.cc's beta-testing phases, as we had a client in the Canadian Government whose recipients were mostly using highly secure email programs.

Our solution was to publish every email marketing campaign sent to a secure location on the web (a location only original recipients of the email can access, thanks to encrypted technology that automatically authenticates the user).

3. Personalization and relevant content: In a business e-mail, one size does not fit all.
In a recent study by DoubleClick, email users were 72% more likely to respond to a business e-mail if its content was based on the interests they had specified. That number points out the absolute importance of allowing users to choose their own interest groups. The most popular interest categories are coupons and household goods.

But you're coupon is only good if the user opens the email. Users said the most compelling reason to open a business email is the name in the "from" field, so make sure your company name is clearly stated there. Another major factor is the "subject" line. Users cite discount offers and interesting news as the most compelling subject lines.

4. Click-through and conversion: Show me the money!
So the user opened your email. Great. But where's the sale? There's good news here: consumers are increasingly likely to make purchases as a direct result of a business email campaign</b>. One-third of users in the DoubleClick study had purchased something by clicking a link on an email. Second, online couponing is booming: 73% of consumers have redeemed an online coupon for an online purchase, and 59% have redeemed an online coupon offline.

In terms of industries, the top performers are travel, hardware/software, electronics, apparel, food, home furnishings, gifts/flowers and sporting goods. All companies sending business emails in those categories said between 71% and 80% of recipients have purchased their products because of an email campaign.

5. Stats tracking: Who are my real consumers?
Real-time statistics tracking is now an industry standard, and it's highly valuable, as it allows you to see the exact moment users act upon your email. Studying your users can help you improve your communications efforts, so each campaign performs better than the last.

But many marketers are still in the dark. According to a recent WebTrends research, only 5% of marketers are very confident in the measurement of their online marketing efforts, while 26% admit they're "flying blind."

In email marketing, a blind shot won't take you very far. But if you aim properly by following these essential rules of play, you should soon be reaping the same major results as so many online and offline businesses.

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