When companies first started using e-mail as a marketing tool, some direct marketers saw it as a threat to the traditional way of doing things. But today, many companies recognise that used together, DM and e-mail are worth much more together than individually.
"Most clients appreciate the value of using e-mail and DM together" says David Bulman, chief technology officer, Europe, at DM agency Wunderman.
"It's very rare now that we send out a piece of DM that doesn't have some sort of e-mail element."
In its work for the launch of the new Jaguar X-type, Wunderman used an initial direct mail campaign based around a detailed questionnaire to narrow down a target audience and get those interested to supply more information about themselves, including their e-mail address for use in an e-mail campaign. Bulman says this is typical of the way in which offline DM and online e-mail marketing are often used in tandem.
Chris Seth, media director at Proximity London, points out that e-mail has some obvious advantages over DM. These include the cost, the speed with which a campaign can be tested, refined and rolled out, and the ability it offers respondents to easily find out more information.
"If you're trying to put across an information-heavy proposition, e-mail can be a lot more effective if you use it to direct consumers to a web site with all the information you want to get across," he says.
But DM also scores over e-mail in a number of ways too, says Seth. Perhaps the target audience does not tend to use the internet, or likes to take longer over the consideration and buying process. DM also offers a broader reach and is often more creative. For these reasons, many clients, says Seth, get the best of both worlds by using the two concurrently to target different groups of customers.
"Everyone thought the web was going to revolutionise the media world," he says. "But we've seen that it is merely an addition to the marketing toolbox. E-mail is just the same."
The low cost, speed and interactive capabilities of e-mail are widely recognised by clients and agencies alike. Nevertheless, says Chris Parry, group director at DirectionGroup, e-mail is still only another medium and another route to market, and should be viewed as such.
"There are certain drawbacks to e-mail marketing" says Parry. "Some consumers are ambivalent about seeing something on screen and prefer the feel and quality of a handheld mailer. Other target groups, including some with huge disposable income, are less savvy with the internet."
And Greg Sendell, client services director at marketing agency Toast, believes that the speed and affordability of e-mail can make marketers become complacent.
"Marketers aren't treating e-mail with the respect that it deserves," he says. "It needs to be seen as another medium, not a quick fix to reach multiple customers at the touch of a button. Until people approach e-mail in the same way as planning for any other medium, it'll be hard to shrug off the poor quality issues it faces."
According to Sendell, companies seem willing to embark on e-mail campaigns, knowing they are relatively quick and cheap to execute, without the same sort of attention to detail that goes into other types of campaign using different media.
"E-mail needs to be treated as a separate medium," he says. "There needs to be planning and targeting to ensure that you get the most from it. Thought needs to be given to the creative and to different executions. You wouldn't conduct a direct mail campaign without proper planning. Why would you do so with e-mail?"
And at data analysis agency Cognisance, which buys in more than 60 million customer records a year, managing director John Regan is sceptical about using e-mail for direct marketing, at least for customer acquisition purposes.
He says: "E-mail has achieved its junk tag all too easily. At the moment, it's unlikely that e-mail will become a successful part of the wider DM package. For identified customers where you already have a relationship, then it is of use. But where you are looking at acquiring new customers, the future's a little less clear."
The main problem, argues Regan, lies with the data suppliers. Until they begin releasing the addresses for analysis purposes, he says, e-mail's use for customer acquisition will remain limited.
"Without being able to analyse the data, successful targeting of direct e-mail campaigns is an impossibility," insists Regan. "At the end of the day, we should really be thinking about ways to accurately model e-mail data instead of just increasing the volumes of junk e-mail.
"As it stands, there is so much junk e-mail flying around that it is more likely to be trashed before it is opened and read. With this in mind the future of e-mail as a DM tool is bleak, without some significant changes being made. I for one am yet to be convinced that clients should be using e-mail for acquisition purposes."
MYOFFERS LINKS WITH OPEN UNIVERSITY
In its work for the Open University (OU), Myoffers (www.myoffers.co.uk) uses e-mail as an acquisition tool. Myoffers uses banners, buttons and links on around 12,000 affiliate sites to draw new prospects to the myoffers site, where visitors are incentivised to complete questionnaires on behalf of myoffers partner companies with the promise of a chance to win a free prize.
The details of all the prospects who complete the OU questionnaire are delivered to the University every two weeks and they are then sent an e-mail inviting them to contact the OU via the method of their choice: via e-mail, the web site, telephone or by visiting a local OU enquiry office.
Also, included on the original questionnaire is an option to order an OU prospectus. Anyone who says "Yes" to this offer is directed to the prospectus ordering point on the site and is then sent a prospectus in the post. This is followed up with an e-mail explaining the deadline to book on to an OU course.
"The way we work with the Open University works well," says Myoffers business development director Simon Lee. "The combination of traditional direct marketing, e-mail marketing and online data capture creates a very powerful and cost-effective student acquisition programme."
DMA AND EMMA JOIN FORCES
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and The E-mail Marketing Association (eMMa) are currently merging to form the DMA Email Marketing Council.
EMMa was established in July 2001 to promote best practice in the early days of e-mail marketing and created a charter setting out standards for companies exploiting the medium.
The groups say their agreement follows naturally from the recognition of the synergy and strategic fit that exists between the two organisations: "It will consolidate the industry and provide greater influence and support for developing and promoting education and best practice within the e-mail marketing sector."
Ten members from the former eMMa membership have been elected to the DMA Email Marketing Council, with Nick McConnell from Digital Impact elected as chairman and Chris Combemale from E-Mail Vision and Jeff Barnes from Bluestreak International elected joint vice-chair. The Council will fall under the DMA's Interactive Media Division and will be responsible for developing industry codes and best practice guidelines, training and events and other activities that promote the benefits of online marketing.
WHAT DOES SMS OPT-IN MEAN?
In May, MEPs voted for a Europe-wide opt-in for unsolicited e-mail and SMS marketing campaigns where there has been no prior contact with the prospect, as part of the Electronic Communications (Processing of Personal Data and the Protection of Privacy) Directive, which is due to be implemented in 2003.
Where a potential customer has supplied details of his e-mail address and mobile phone number to a company in the context of a potential purchase, however, that company can send marketing e-mails and SMS messages for its own products and services to such customers, but it must give the customer the opportunity to opt out of receiving further e-mails or SMS messages on each occasion.
Research carried out by the DMA has uncovered widespread confusion as to what constitutes an opt in. Justin Anderson, managing director of e-mail marketing agency Frontwire and a committee member of the DMA's recently-formed E-mail Marketing Council, says that to comply with the law, UK businesses should include opt-in boxes on registration forms both for marketing communications from the organisation and from third parties, and include opt-out devices on every e-mail marketing communication.
"The better e-mail marketers will already have these systems in place, since they will recognise the importance of respecting consumer wishes and the damage that failure to do so can cause" says Anderson. "Once the directive becomes law, however, many e-mail marketers will have to change their current modus operandi."
This article was first published on Marketing