How to judge e-mail marketing experts

Answered by guest expert, Kim MacPherson, President of Inbox Interactive

We are looking to hire an agency or e-mail marketing experts to help us with online marketing. When we interview these types of companies, what should we ask or look for?

Your first instinct may be to call your advertising agency to handle this. However, the reality is that e-mail marketing is still very new, and most of the principles that work well in print, television, radio, etc., simply don't apply to e-mail.

E-mail marketing as a special niche should be tended to by a firm dedicated to the medium. It's a lot like going to the doctor: Your general practitioner is great for 95% of your needs, but when something needs particular attention, you ask for a specialist. Go to a specialist in e-mail marketing.

When you inquire about agencies or other types of e-mail marketing experts, ask how long they've been in business. (There are several newbies out there just clamoring to get into this space because it's "the" place to be.) Also, ask what experience they have in direct marketing. The best e-mail marketing agencies are the ones that have a deep understanding of DM practices. Hint: If they don't know what an offer is, stay away!

Find out if their designers are just people who know HTML and decided to learn design after the fact, or if indeed they are classically trained in design. I bet you can guess what the better choice would be! Of course, ask to see samples of the work and get client references.

Dig deep about the platform the company will be using to send your e-mails out. Make sure it fits the basic prerequisites, such as link tracking for response click data broken out by text and HTML, management of bounced and reply mail, management of remove requests, etc. And of course don't forget to find out the level of their involvement in the deployment.

Ask them about their team. What are their credentials? What is their client list like? Is it slanted more towards B2B or B2C?

Inquire about acquisitions. Do they use an e-mail broker? Do they own or manage their own lists? (Hint: If they own or manage their own lists, chances are they might be foisting these upon you as part of their media recommendation.)

You get the idea. There are tons of questions you'll need to pose, but this hopefully can get you started!

About Kim MacPherson and Inbox Interactive:
Kim MacPherson is President of Inbox Interactive (, a full-service e-mail marketing agency located in Bethesda, Maryland. She is the author of Permission-Based E-mail Marketing That Works! (, published by Dearborn Publishing.

Kim MacPherson
Inbox Interactive, Inc.

phone: 301 654 7977

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