Email Based Marketing

An email based marketing campaign can be a relatively inexpensive strategy for a business to use as part of a larger program. Sending well-designed emails to a list of targeted consumers cost much less than mailing promotional materials the old-fashioned way. Even when considering the costs of using a third party to take care of the details, emails cost less per person than bulk mail rates. Additionally, it takes much less time to send out the email messages than to sort and package materials that are being sent by bulk mail. The postal service has strict guidelines that have to be followed as far as sorting, counting, and labeling pieces that are being sent bulk delivery. This can be a very time-consuming task to get it right. In contrast, once the message is designed, little effort is required to get it emailed to the distribution list. The lower cost and efficiency of promotional emails are easy to see. But these benefits can also be drawbacks. Some businesses may be tempted to send multiple (and annoying) messages to every email address that can be found. But this isn't a legitimate email based marketing strategy it's spam. Instead of meeting specific objectives, spam-like messages irritate the recipients who seem them. Other potential recipients set up filters so that such messages never get into their inboxes. Legitimate businesses understand the importance of good customer relations and won't be involved in sending spam.

A company may have different reasons for creating an email based marketing campaign. The objective may be to attract new customers or to motivate previous customers to make additional purchases. Another objective is to encourage customer loyalty. Different emails should be designed for each objective. For example, a website that sells garden tools and supplies may rent a distribution list of people who are known to be interested in gardening. The company sends a message to these potential customers promoting a special offer for first-time orders. Perhaps the company will send a free packet of flower seeds along with each order from a new customer. The new customers are added to a separate distribution list which is sent a message that includes a coupon for a discount on a future order placed by a certain date. With this two-pronged, email based marketing approach, the garden supply store has met the objectives of attracting new customers and motivating them to make additional purchases. Customer loyalty can also be achieved by sending out periodic coupons or other special offers. People are creatures of habit. Once they make purchases from an online store, they are more likely to return to that same site for additional items as long as the shopping, checkout, and delivery experiences were positive ones.

Because people like to do business with companies they are comfortable with, savvy email based marketing experts understand that it's much cheaper and easier to keep loyal customers than it is to attract new ones. Customer loyalty programs are popular for this very reason. Still, the business has to walk a fine line between providing information on special offers and being a nuisance. One method for keeping the company name in front of likely buyers without causing annoyance to them is to provide valuable and relevant information. The online garden store of the previous example has a golden opportunity to develop loyalty by emailing monthly newsletters to its customer distribution list. Each month's newsletter can include seasonal information on caring and tending for the garden, highlight specific plants, provide reviews of new gardening supplies, and offer discounts on certain items. Gardening enthusiasts will appreciate this type of email based marketing information and will most likely continue to make purchases at the garden online store, especially when the growing season draws near. "For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell" (Song of Solomon 2:11-13a).

The above example shows how important it is to develop a strategic email based marketing campaign that focuses on specific objectives and that is targeted to specific recipients. Distribution lists can be rented or bought that meet certain demographic criteria or that are based on a common interest, such as gardening. Businesses can develop their own distribution lists by giving website visitors an incentive for providing their contact information. Perhaps the website offers a coupon or some type of questionnaire in return for a name and email address. Or perhaps the website invites the visitor to sign up for a periodic newsletter (again, as in the garden online store example). By subscribing to the website's newsletter, the visitor gives permission for the website company to send emails. Some websites provide a double opt-in process to ensure that the visitor really does want to receive the information that is being offered. As a caveat to the webmaster, such messages should also include an unsubscribe option for recipient. With the proper software applications or by contracting with a web-based bulk email vendor, the company can keep track of multiple distribution lists and design multiple automated messages. The software program or web-based vendor should also have the capability to show various statistics to the company that evaluates the effectiveness of different messages and relevant information on the recipients. By having a strategic plan, any business can develop an effective email based marketing campaign that won't be mistaken for annoying spam.

Email Direct Marketing

Many companies today are choosing email direct marketing over more traditional methods to get the word out about products and services. Email has quickly become one of the most popular forms of communication. Other techniques like door-to-door salesmen, catalogs, websites, direct mail, telemarketing, seminars and trade shows cost money and take a lot of effort to put together. Online media has not only increased direct communication with prospective customers and clients, but also erased geographical limitations that may have formerly existed. Products can be easily sold over the Internet. Information is available and downloadable for anyone with a computer and an Internet connection around the world. Both businesses that offer products and services and non-profit organizations use email direct marketing campaigns to avoid communicating through third parties or other middlemen. They are able to target audiences more specifically and become more profitable than ever before.

Business owners using email direct marketing must understand that it is unique and requires different techniques to be effective. Some marketers operate by the 40/40/20 principle: 40 percent effort on the offer, 40 percent on the list or audience, and 20 percent on the creative approach. Probably one of the most things about marketing is determining an audience. With any direct communication piece, segregation is necessary. Everything revolves around who that audience is. Study the demographics and psychographics. Know them well and communicate in a language that is relevant to them. Doing this takes time to research and test messaging to make sure it resonates with them. The point of email direct marketing is to call the recipients to some form of action: to purchase a product, to sign up for an event, to donate money, etc. Know what appeals most to the audience. Why should they act or even care? If they don't care, no action will be taken. Graphics and text will either intrigue the recipient or it won't. The subject line of a message is the first thing someone sees that can convey an offer. Unoriginal, boring subject lines won't entice anyone to even open and read the rest of the content. Be sure that the text is exciting and supported by intriguing graphics. Use ALT tags or HTML coding that will display text when graphics are broken or blocked and still get the message across.

Email direct marketing can make companies more efficient in many ways. Emails can be created, sent, and delivered in minutes compared to the weeks involved to layout, design, print and mail traditional direct marketing pieces. Messages are can be tracked in real time. Marketers know exactly how many recipients opened the email, how many bounced and how many clicked through to the website or made some type of response. This data can help business owners better develop future campaigns. Electronic campaigns also save money. With paper costs, printing, and postage rates continually on the rise, online communication has become a very lucrative alternative for companies to take advantage of. Plus, with the increasing concern for our environment, email does not require trees, gasoline or any pollutants to process. It just uses a little amount of electricity. Most companies still use other traditional methods of direct marketing, but by combining electronic technology, they are able to save money and increase business at the same time.

One major concern about email direct marketing strategies is its penchant for spam. Spam or unsolicited commercial messages, ties up resources, uses needed storage space and slows down, even crashes, computer systems, making it more frustrating for consumers than typical paper junk mail. Internet service providers (ISPs) often take action to protect their customers against spam. When consumers report spam to an ISP, the marketer's email account runs the risk of being shut down. Websites can also be taken offline. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2004 enables the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate spam messaging. Individual states also pass laws regulating unwanted emails. International laws are even stricter.

In the Bible, Paul writes, "finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8) Reputable businesses manage lists for their email direct marketing campaigns effectively and honestly. Two primary practices will keep electronic campaigns protected. First, get prior consent before adding an individual onto a list. Secondly, always include an unsubscribe or remove option on every message sent. Many companies will include an opt-in option when prospective customers fill out a form. The customer usually checks a box, agreeing to receive electronic communication from the company. Basic opt-in online forms add the individual automatically. Confirmed opt-in is a two-step process where the recipient must reply to a confirmation message after making the initial request. This ensures that the individual didn't accidentally make the request and protects against forged subscriptions. Although this process can miss some customers who don't understand that they actually need to reply to the confirmation email, the confirmed method is becoming more prevalent and many ISPs are even requiring it. Other companies use an opt-out feature on forms which automatically checks the subscribe button. Unless a person unchecks the box, he or she will be subscribed. The individual can also opt-out if the emails include an unsubscribe or remove option as the law requires. However, consumers must be aware that some intentional spammer will use an unsubscribe button to confirm live addresses. Legitimate marketers almost always prefer the opt-in method for campaigns.

Email direct marketing campaigns can be very beneficial for businesses and customers. Companies can market products to potential clients or keep current customers up-to-date on product updates and new products. Its cheaper and more efficient for both parties. But even when companies follow all the rules, some customers will complain and file spam reports. Usually, these individuals won't take legal action and a few complaints won't permanently shut down an email or web server. Knowing the law and following it is the best security against future problems.

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