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By Luc Vezina

RISMEDIA, Sept. 30, 2008-( more pressure than usual to drive holiday sales this year, many marketers may be tempted to conduct one-off e-mail campaigns, peppering their audiences with promotions and offers without an underlying strategy for ongoing contact and follow-up. To do this properly, marketers need to take a step back to ensure they have a strategy for their holiday e-mail marketing campaigns, and then apply that level of strategic thinking to all of their campaigns, starting now and throughout the year. Here are three ways to help marketers do this:

1. Preplanning pointers.

Start early: During the peak sales period, you have little time to think about creative campaigns or new projects. So, now’s the time to retool systems and lay out a campaign calendar for the next 100 days and beyond.

Set goals: Decide whether a campaign is designed to increase online traffic or to boost new sales, and whether increasing returning customers will offer perspective and enable you to better gauge what works and what doesn’t.

Define the campaign message: The best programs combine aspects of promotional, informational and operational communications. This allows marketers to promote longevity and strong relationships while still encouraging immediate sales.

2. Grow a quality list.

A successful e-mail marketing strategy hinges on constantly building, refining and maintaining your e-mail lists. As a result, consider the following:

– Focus on list quality, not quantity. Smaller, more focused lists get better results. Lists should be regularly cleaned by removing inactive subscribers and reviewing unsubscribes and hard-bounce rates.
– Grow a list without decreasing quality. Communicate the list’s value to subscribers by offering specials and promotions exclusively to subscribers throughout the year. Also, use effective tactics to grow a quality list, such as having a visible sign-up form on the homepage of websites, and use refer-a-friend programs.
– Segment, segment and segment some more. The most effective lists consist of segments sorted by common recipient characteristics or interests. Marketers can begin creating segments based on a wide array of information, such as subscriber profile, behavioral info, purchase history and transactional data.

3. Constantly fine-tune campaigns.

Review all metrics gathered from e-mail campaigns. Metrics such as click-through and conversion rates tell how readers are responding to content so marketers can give them more of what they want.

This holiday season and the year ahead are shaping up be challenging times. So take stock of marketing plans now and build a solid strategic foundation.

Luc Vezina is head of marketing at Campaigner, a Montreal-based e-mail marketing service provider. Reach Luc at