Welles: E-mail messaging

A marketer gives tips on using e-mail for communicating with the public

Just as e-mail communication is taking more of our time at work and home, advice about how to handle it is crowding the bookshelves.

E-mail is becoming the primary way we communicate with friends, customers and co-workers. It’s also increasingly the way businesses — and probably government agencies — market. We might dismiss such pitches as spam, but experts such as Chris Baggott, co-founder of e-mail software company ExactTarget, provide some useful communication tips based on marketing techniques.

Baggott’s book, “E-mail Marketing by the Numbers: How to Use the World’s Greatest Marketing Tool to Take Any Organization to the Next Level,” sheds some light on how marketers are using e-mail and shows you how to avoid receiving unwanted marketing e-mail messages. He also offers advice that could help you improve your e-mail conversations and build relationships with customers.   
Here are a few of his tips, which are useful whether you want to use e-mail to promote or provide a service or simply inform others.

1. Stay out of the spam or deleted folder.
The quantity of e-mail messages you send means nothing. The quality of your messages means everything. You can avoid having people trash your messages by providing them with information they find useful.

2. Earn your recipients’ trust. Remember that people are busy. Don’t waste their time. If you don’t have something of value to say, don’t say anything. If you keep sending people information they don’t care about, they won’t believe you when you finally deliver something of value.

3. Find the best recipients. If you have something relevant to say, say it to the right people. If you are trying to reach a large number of people, consider targeting those with similar interests or segmenting the group in other ways. Develop messages that are relevant to select members of your audience, which may mean sending different messages to different people.

4. Use analytics that matter. On group e-mail messages, pay attention to your deliverability rates, click-through rates or unsubscribe rates. With a little analysis, you can know exactly what’s happening and why. You can measure your return on investment for every e-mail activity.

5. Put your messages to the test. It’s easy to find out which elements of your message are more likely to work. You can send a message in which only one element is different — a subject line, for example — and see which subject line encouraged the most recipients to open the message. 

Those tips apply to government and business because e-mail, like marketing, is all about communication. E-mail challenges us to think harder about whom we communicate with and how we communicate.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@1105govinfo.com.

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