Most news media companies have already tapped into the power of permission-based e-mail marketing to grow audience, engagement, and revenue. How e-mail communications are used can vary dramatically by publication, with many organisations initially focusing on “blasting” messages to all available e-mail addresses to promote content and drive Web site visitors.

We’re often asked about the “best” ways to use e-mail communications to grow audience, consumer engagement, and revenue. Here’s what we’ve learned over the past 16 years.

It’s cheap, and it’s fast. Those are the two attributes that are most frequently associated with the e-mail communications channel.

Using e-mail for communication is much more than inexpensive and fast.
Using e-mail for communication is much more than inexpensive and fast.

While accurate, they are not the most valuable attributes of the e-mail communications channel. There is no arguing that e-mail is inexpensive when deployed correctly. It is also true that e-mail’s “speed to market” is unmatched in terms of reaching your target audience with time-sensitive information.

But perhaps the most valuable attribute associated with the e-mail communications channel is the fact that e-mail delivers an “audience of one.” As we say, your 5-year-old can answer your phone and your neighbour can open your postal mail. But generally speaking, an e-mail reaches a specific individual.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that one of the most valuable attributes of the e-mail channel is its ability to cost effectively personalise communications as one-to-one communications.

Personalisation goes well beyond addressing the message recipient by name (although that serves to increase readership and response) to using available information to target e-mail messages so they reach the right contact at the right time and with the right message.

Timing is everything. And precise timing combined with targeted messaging provides an unbeatable combination when it comes to engaging consumers and generating the desired response.

The e-mail channel is all about generating a response, whether getting a recipient to hit “reply” or click on a link to a Web page or order form. E-mail, like other interactive communications channels (think telemarketing), provides for an immediate response. Sending e-mails without response options is like dumping postcards in the lobby of a high-rise condominium; it’s a waste of paper, time, and money.

The e-mail channel provides the opportunity to generate an immediate response. Results from thousands of e-mail campaigns demonstrate that more than 80% of those responses come within 24 to 48 hours of the e-mail message being delivered.

Not only is the response to e-mail communications immediate, it is always measurable. You never wonder whether your e-mail communications “worked,” as nearly every aspect of an e-mail campaign is measureable.

You know how many e-mails were sent, how many were delivered, and how many failed delivery. You also know how many were opened, the number that resulted in unsubscribing, and the number of people who clicked through on each link in your e-mail message.

But it goes beyond the numbers to knowing who received, opened, and responded to your e-mail message. No other communications channel provides these immediate and measurable results.

In addition to being fast, inexpensive, personalised, response-driven, and measurable, the e-mail channel provides the “bridge” between other communications and sales channels.

Want to sell a print or digital newspaper subscription? Then e-mail should be one of your primary sales channels. The e-mail channel is highly effective when it comes to selling newspaper subscriptions — and the best way to sell digital is to use digital.

Data-driven in nature, the e-mail channel also provides the opportunity to not only associate information with e-mail addresses (people) but also associate your staff (customer service, sales) with an e-mail address (person).

Personalised communications — from someone to someone — yields significantly better results than generic communications (from nobody to somebody).

A prime example is associating sales staff with customers and prospects with e-mail addresses. The e-mail channel extends the reach of your sales staff at a fraction of the cost of telephone, postal mail, or personal selling.

Finally, perhaps the most significant attribute of the e-mail channel is the ability to automate e-mail communications (time and target e-mail delivery) using available information on your customers, prospects, products, and services.

Establishing automated e-mail campaigns that are timed by transaction dates (start date, expire date, renewal date, temp stop date, restart date, last complaint date) or other information ensures that your customers and prospects are receiving consistent and relevant messages to help you maximise their satisfaction and value to your organisation.

Whether you are automatically renewing subscriptions or advertising, automated e-mail communications allow your organisation to do more with less labour and little incremental expense. The results are not only increased revenue and customer satisfaction, but increased revenue and satisfaction at a lower cost.

Yes, e-mail is cheap and fast. However, it is only when you fully understand and embrace these other important attributes of the e-mail channel that you can maximise the return on your e-mail channel investment.