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By Robert Davis

Continuous advancements in technology have translated to continuous changes in the way we communicate with our customers. E-mail, short message service (SMS) and really simple syndication (RSS) can be effective marketing tools if used correctly. But how can you use them for your business?

What's Next For E-mail Marketing?

E-mail has rapidly become an important part of everyday life — and the most important reason Americans access the Internet. On average, more than 58 percent of American adults used e-mail every day in 2004, according to the Pew Internet Project. According to Quris and Executive Summary Consulting, almost half of consumers (45 percent) view e-mail as a good way for companies to stay in touch with customers – the same number who reported that they could not live without it.

Just 10 percent of online consumers find permission e-mail annoying, compared with 31 percent who find direct mail annoying. Seventy-one percent of online advertisers used e-mail marketing in 2004, making it the next most-used interactive tactic after paid search. Of the 29 percent who did not use e-mail in 2004, nearly half indicated that they would start in 2005, says Jupiter.

Ensuring e-mail’s effectiveness. IT departments continue to combat rising levels of spam. Reaching consumers at work is not any easier, as spending to prevent spam from reaching employees is expected to continue its rapid growth. Once an e-mail makes it to the inbox, it faces increased competition with spam and other legitimate marketing messages for consumer attention. Phishing is also expected to increase in 2006, putting more pressure on consumer’s trust in e-mail as a communication medium.

There are steps that you can take to make sure your marketing e-mails survive the war against e-mail threats, including:
• Employing accreditation tools such as ReturnPath’s Bonded Sender program and authentication tools such as Sender ID and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to make sure that legitimate e-mail marketing messages are not filtered as spam.

• Instituting e-mail best practices, including routine A/B testing of subject line, offer and creative, segmenting mailing lists by identifiable dimensions and mailing “welcome” messages within 30 days from the date of opt-in.

SMS: Text Messaging Goes Mainstream

Text messaging in the U.S. has grown to the point where it can safely be called a mainstream communication channel. The proliferation of aggressively-priced data services bundles is expected to drive the continued growth of messaging for the next few years. For example:

• Mobile messaging in the US grew 104 percent in 2004, according to Analysys Research.
• 77.9 percent of U.S. mobile phone users are aware of text messaging, according to the Yankee Group.

• The firm says that 47.8 percent have used SMS.

Marketers outside of the wireless industry have seen increasing adoption of SMS, particularly with younger audiences. Several companies are providing consumers with the option to receive SMS updates on product and service offerings. Others have built campaigns featuring text messaging as a way to interact with the brand.

Strategies for action: You too can take advantage of SMS marketing. Consider text messaging as an integrated component of your next marketing campaign. Integrate SMS into your next campaign by building it into the core concept of the campaign itself, rather than as an afterthought to a traditional promotion. Interactive marketing agencies have extensive experience with SMS campaigns, and can help you develop your project.

To further incorporate SMS marketing into your business, provide customers with the option to use text messaging for account management and customer service.

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Robert Davis is the Director of Strategic Services at Think Inc.
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