Can business intelligence (BI) be applied to e-mail direct marketing? If so, how?


Yes, business intelligence can be applied to e-mail direct marketing. E-mail direct marketing is here to stay. With e-mail, it is clear that business intelligence applied effectively can ensure success in building, growing and retaining the end customer and consumer.

Through the effective use of business intelligence, e-mail marketing campaigns can be executed to ensure:

  1. Compliance with opt- in and opt-out rules.
  2. Delivery of targeted and relevant content to the right recipients.
  3. Mailing frequency management across brand marketers.

First, business intelligence can help to ensure compliance with opt-in and opt-out rules. In a recent study completed by the E- Mail Research Institute (EMRI), it was found that fewer than 30 percent of companies can accurately and effectively unsubscribe a recipient of an e-mail message. This means that if you ever told a company who sent you an e-mail message to remove you from their list, less than one in three can do it correctly. Thus, in the so-called world of e-CRM and CRM where billions of dollars were spent in 2001, most companies' internal data structures were so poorly implemented that they simply cannot support removal of a name from a list. Business intelligence professionals can immediately help by offering the good business practices in data storage combined with proper data structures to ensure accurate and dynamic e-mail list management. Given the number of bills in Congress demanding small to large fines for companies who do not effectuate opt-in and/or opt-out requests, business intelligence can ensure compliance and prevent legal suits and fines.
Second, business intelligence combined with content management can ensure that the e-mail medium is effectively used to deliver relevant and targeted content. Nearly 100 billion e-mail marketing messages will be sent in 2002; however, most consumers consider many of these messages to be unsolicited commercial e-mail or spam. Most of the companies and individuals sending such e-mails are misusing the e-mail medium to inundate consumers with irrelevant messages. Through business intelligence, we can assign consumer profiles to our end recipients. These consumer profiles can, in turn, be linked to individual text or HTML content. By establishing business rules to such text and HTML content, technology can automatically build and assemble one-to-one messages, newsletters or offers for the end recipient. This means that in a single e-mail mailing to millions of recipients, each individual recipient could theoretically receive his or her own unique, targeted and relevant e-mail. By combining business intelligence with content management, we are thereby able to deliver one-to-one e-mail messages at a fraction of the cost. Such e-mails are less likely to be seen as broadcast spam e-mails, because they will be individually constructed for each recipient. The response rates of such e-mails are proven to be three to five times higher than broadcast messages with noncustom content.

Many companies are shifting anywhere from two to five percent of their traditional advertising budgets toward e-mail marketing, and there is an increase in e-mail marketing across fraternal brands within the same organization. This demands business intelligence to track and manage the frequency of communication to end recipients. For example, suppose I appear on the mailing list of Brand X, Brand Y and Brand Z of Company A. As a consumer, I view the e-mails I receive as all originating from Company A. However, within Company A, different brand managers may be sending me multiple e-mail campaigns. Thus, if each brand manager sends two e-mails per month, I may receive six e-mails from Company A. As a consumer, even though I may have opted to receive those e-mails, I would more than likely be quite upset with receiving six e-mails each month from the same company. Business intelligence can be applied to track the frequency of messages sent across brands and offer the ability to suppress mailings if an established number of mailings per month, or frequency limit, was exceeded. Business intelligence is becoming and will continue to become a necessity to ensure that the e-mail marketing programs designed to grow and retain a customer do not backfire and destroy that relationship.

As with any medium, those who learn the principles of the medium and establish good business practices will have a competitive advantage.

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