By Bob Hubbard
E-mail is the most popular activity on the Internet, with upwards of 90% of internet users having used it. With 63% of the US adult population on line, that opens a market comprising more than 100 million prospective clients. Successfully marketing your business by email can be done. The challenge lies in doing it right. Every day I get literally hundreds of junk email or “SPAM” selling everything from adult items, to software to of all things, anti-spam software! With over 40% of the 31 Billion emails sent each day considered “SPAM” and the rules tightening, you need to be up to date in order to successfully market your services by email. While an in-depth e-mail marketing attack is beyond the scope of this article, I will list a select number of tips to help enhance and optimize your chances of success.
Don’t randomly gather email addresses.
We’ve all gotten those junk mails that we didn’t ask for that tell us to “Click here to unsubscribe”. Rarely do those work as listed. Usually, they result in even more junk mail. So, who subscribed us in the first place? Someone either bought a list, randomly generated addresses, or used special software to find your address from message board postings, and web pages. I recommend only using addresses that have specifically been sent to you for information.
“Opt in” versus “Opt Out” lists.
An “Opt In” list is one where you specifically ask for information before they send it to you. An “Opt Out” puts the burden of stopping it on you. Increasingly, “Opt Out” lists are generating scorn and hatred from internet users. When someone “Opts In” they are specifically asking you for information. This is one of the more ‘web friendly’ means of doing professional emailing.
Learn how to use the “BCC” or “Blind Carbon Copy” feature.
The BCC feature is your friend. It allows you to hide the list of email addresses, thereby respecting and preserving the privacy of those on your list. Not using this feature can and will generate angry replies from those on your list.
Include a way for people to be removed from your mailing list and honor all “Unsubscribe” emails immediately.
Do not send your mailings to anyone who hasn’t requested it.
That is considered spam, and violates most ISP’s service terms. If you anger the wrong people, you can lose your Internet connection! Internet Service Providers are increasingly taking harder stances against those who spam.
Collect your addresses in a web-friendly manner.
Doing this insures that those you send email to will welcome your message. You can do this in a few easy ways.
- Add a signup form on your web site. This is called “Opting In”.
- When you receive an address, send a confirmation back. Include a standard “This address was signed up for XXX. If this is in error, please reply to this email with the word CANCEL at the top.” Type message. This is very important! By doing this, you will let the person know that their email address was submitted successfully to your list, or that someone else submitted it. It also ensures that your list is clean and full of good addresses, since your verification will usually bounce back if the address is really invalid.
Now that you have your list, understand how to send to it in a web-friendly manner, you now need to compose your message for optimum effect.
Include a “Call to Action”
This is text that will motivate the reader to “Act Now”. Terms like “Limited Time Only”, “Act Now”, “Offer Expires” are all examples of action calls.
Include –all- of the “Need to Know” information.
How many times have you gotten a flyer that assumed you knew which location an event was held at, or that you knew how to get there?
- What: Be certain to list the “What” outlining the purpose of the email.
- When: Include the full date (yes, year too), month, date –and- day of the week, times of events.
- Where: Include a complete location (if applicable). This is very important if you have multiple locations.
- How Much: This is mostly for events. If it’s free, say so. If there’s a charge, let people know up front. For events that don’t require advance registration (which is what we’re talking about here), the fee is typically nominal, so it won’t scare anyone away. This differs from an e-mail for a large conference requiring pre-registration, where you might want to sell people on the value before disclosing the price.
- Who: Who is this event/item for? This will help people decide if the offer is for them.
Additional information to include would be extra details. If this is an event, include directions. Presenter bios are always good if this is for a seminar. If selling a product, include more detailed specs here. More information is always good.
Another point I cannot emphasize enough here is, write clearly, and proof read. Misspellings, typos, and grammatical errors will kill an otherwise well done mailing.
Avoid sending large graphics, sound, music or video files.
Keep your mailing to a small size, as nothing angers people like having their email box jammed full of videos they didn’t ask for. Having to contact their ISP for ‘unplug’ things will cause a lot of bad PR. Keep the mailing small and simple for best results.
Tracking the success of mailings is good business, and tracking an emailing is no different. Include a coupon with a special code, or an “Offer Code” to use when registering or purchasing. Be certain to also ask people how they heard about the item/offer.
1 last key piece of advice:
Answer prospect emails within 24 hours!
If you don’t reply promptly, you risk losing a client for life. People also tend to tell others when they feel ignored! To avoid this and to ensure you’re not missing any opportunities, make it a top priority to reply to all incoming mail within 24 hours.
While there is some work that goes into a good email campaign, you can reap some excellent rewards.
===Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site MartialTalk.com and president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists.