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Mention e-mail marketing in a room full of marketers, and you are likely to spark off an interesting debate. While some declare that e-mail marketing is dead in today’s Web 2.0 world of social connectivity and actual interaction, there remains strong proponents of the trusted EDM.

Recently, Mike Compton, a Director at Zuba Ski, a travel operator specialising in winter sports destination, spoke at length about the virtues of e-mail marketing to a classroom of students. During his lecture, one of the key points he mentioned was the importance of a well-crafted subject line.

According to Lon Safko, author of the Social Media Bible, marketers only have 1.54 seconds to convince a reader, whether or not to open an e-mail. As such, the success of an entire direct marketing campaign hinges on a few carefully selected words. The minute they hit the ‘delete’ button, that is all your marketing dollars and effort down the drain. MailChimp, an internet marketing service, did an analysis of 40 million e-mails sent through their platform, and determined that the best open rates belonged to emails that had a simple straightforward subject line which actually described the content of the e-mail, rather than those that were too creative. Other useful tips included keeping the subject line to 50 characters or less and avoiding the words “help”, “percent off” and “reminder”.

E-mail marketing could remain to be a valuable tool for a variety of reasons. It allows for highly targeted and personalised communications through customer segmentation and e-mail triggers. It also gathers valuable data about your customers and is highly measurable, while being relatively low-cost as compared to traditional ad-spend.

The down side? According to Return Path’s Global Deliverability Report for the first half of 2011, only 80% of e-marketing messages make it to the customer’s mail box. With 57% or more than half of the UK population over 16 using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter (Office of National Statistics), it may well be worth your time and dollar to invest in a more integrated campaign that utilises both social media and e-mail marketing in a cohesive manner, depending on the demographic profile of your targeted customer. Social media activity rates are still highest among mid 20s to 30s, so the use of Facebook or Twitter to target this age group may be well worth your while. However, the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey in 2010, reveals that e-mail is still the top internet activity among all age groups at 90 -100%. That alone, may be reason enough to stay the marketer’s hand from doing away entirely with the e-marketing campaign.

This post was first published in Incite People’s HR blog.

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