E-Mail Or Newsletters?

By Karen Gedney | Posted March 31, 2003
When clients first explore the idea of an e-mail campaign, the question usually arises, "Should we do a straight sales e-mail or a newsletter?" The discussion typically centers on the merits of one over the other.

As a recent case study from the London-based Tarsus Group demonstrates, it can pay to employ both. This international business-to-business (B2B) media group organizes the biannual Labelexpo Americas trade show, serving the label and narrow Web printing industry.

Alternating Weekly E-Mails Lifts Response
The sales e-mail was a dedicated HTML mailer highlighting the basic show branding, dates, and venues. It reflected the overall design of the show's Web site.

The e-mail newsletter already existed. Labels and Labelling magazine, which supports Labelexpo, publishes an e-mail newsletter, "Labels e-Flash," twice monthly. For this campaign, the newsletter carried a text box devoted to relevant show messages.

Lists were derived from the show and magazine Web sites, both of which have opt-in e-mail registrations. Depending on the geographical targeting and list source used, mail quantities ranged from 6,000 to 15,000. The e-mail messages varied in intensity, depending on the timing.

Initial messages were fairly soft: a simple "reserve the date," followed by a review of what could be found on the show's Web site. As the date drew closer, copy focused on specific event highlights, such as new exhibitor innovations, and the conference agenda. In the final weeks, messages focused on a pre-registration call to action, including discount dates, reminders to book hotels before they filled up, and a "see you at the show" message sent the week before the show.

Prior to the first e-mail broadcast, daily visitors to the Web site were in the low hundreds. The day the first message was sent, visits jumped to 2,762. The Labels e-Flash results were even better: 3,956 visitors immediately after the first broadcast. The pattern repeated after every broadcast. Site readership dropped into the low hundreds between mailings but spiked immediately after one. On average, the campaign generated a 33 percent click-through rate (CTR), in some cases closer to 60 percent.

Online registrations doubled the first week. Although online registrations from e-mail weren't fully tracked, booking patterns showed a favorable trend. In the week immediately following the first e-mail broadcast, online registrations doubled. They were only beaten by offline registrations once, following a large direct mail (DM) and insert hit. Overall, 60 percent of registrations were generated online, due in large part to the e-mail campaign.

Key Findings

  • Weekly messages did not result in "mailing fatigue," which usually occurs in traditional DM when lists are over-mailed.
  • Short copy worked best for sales e-mail. The editorial style in the e-newsletter permitted slightly longer copy.
  • The e-newsletter delivered higher response rates than sales e-mails.

Future Implementations
The campaign successfully raised Tarsus's profile. Future efforts will include:

  • Opt-in collecting e-mail for all show sites.
  • Testing response rates between DM and e-mail on a list-by-list basis. If e-mail marketing proves more effective, savings in print, postage, and fulfillment will be substantial.
  • Promoting Web site advertising to exhibitors based on increased traffic.
  • Timing e-mail messages so campaigns start 12-14 weeks out from a show, synchronized with offline promotions.

David reports he's been able to lift response for other Tarsus Group shows, ranging from bottle filling and decoration to European employment policy, using a similar e-mail approach.

Thanks, David, for such a detailed case study. Specifics like these help us all plan our own B2B e-mail marketing campaigns more effectively.

Adapted from ClickZ.com.

As president of Direct Response Marketing, Joanna Belbey works with Global 2000 firms who want to increase ROI amid declining response rates and increased costs. She develops strategy, then executes integrated direct marketing programs to drive C-Level decision-makers to purchase her clients' services. Joanna also happens to be an antiques expert. She lectures on the antiques business and owns northside JUNK, a shop in Brooklyn that sells antiques, used furniture, vintage clothing and collectibles to local hipsters and their parents.

Karen Gedney is an award-winning creative director and copywriter. She is challenged almost daily to come up with innovative new e-mail approaches for her clients. She has a particular knack for conference promotions, having produced rocketing registration numbers for The American Stock Exchange, BusinessWeek, The Economist, FORTUNE, Gartner Group and Trilogy Software.

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