E-Mail That Doesn't Drive Prospects Mad

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Spam, privacy concerns and general resistance to advertising make it tougher than ever to get past the gatekeepers. Rather than bang your head against a firewall, get prospects to venture out and give you the keys to the castle.

E-mail marketing is no longer a single shot direct to the prospect's pocketbook. You have to cultivate a relationship, build trust and deliver a consistent message while being tactful, respectful, generous and thoughtful.

Getting e-mail addresses ethically is the first step in building trust with prospects. I am sure you have heard about opt-ins, opt-outs and privacy policies, but the principle of these rules, self-imposed by legitimate marketers, is to contact only users who specifically and knowingly requested to be contacted by you or solicitors like you.

Nothing is better than getting prospects to ask you to send them information. Give prospects an incentive to provide contact information, such as enticing them with an applicable research report. But don't ask for too much personal information, only what is needed to be targeted and relevant. Be upfront about how you intend to contact subscribers and use the information.

If you lack the traffic to build a strong list in a reasonable amount of time, or don't already have one, vie for an external list. The best lists are those managed by professional, ethical organizations that frequently communicate to your target market. An interactive agency familiar with e-mail marketing also can create a media plan for you that includes the right e-mail lists.

Either way, ensure that the list has been double opted in, is used frequently yet not abused, and includes a statement regarding why the user is receiving the message.

Unless you have a proven, well-known brand, your first communication with a prospect has to be easy to understand and non-threatening. Provide useful information and a simple call to action to your business prospects.

The challenge with e-mail is that you have less time than ever to get attention - two seconds for someone to read your subject line and decide whether to delete it, and less than three seconds to get someone to read your introduction. With other e-mail coming in the next few minutes that will demand more attention than your sales message, the prospect needs to find something useful.

Avoid superlatives, heavy-handed selling and cheesy used-car-salesperson jargon. These types of "ads" will be filtered by the company's software. If they do reach the user, they may cause users to more liberally delete future messages from you.

Prospects always are more likely to respond if they can relate to the content, so give readers targeted information. Segment your list into content groups and speak directly to each group's specific needs.

Understand the sales process within your prospect's organization. What does your prospect need to know about the product to sell it through? Arm recipients with unbiased facts and figures they can use. Forwarding something useful may help them push your product through and make them look good to their boss.

Always send from the same e-mail address. You need corporate users to flag your address or domain as one that their filter should accept. Send to the list regularly, but not too frequently. Determine your e-mailing intervals early in the relationship; users need to expect your e-mail, not be burdened by it.

Readily let users opt out. General consumers at times may be more tolerant of what they get in their personal inboxes, but corporate employees are more careful about what comes in and out of business e-mail accounts. Be respectful of that.

The call to action is the moment of truth for each e-mail. The trust you have developed lets you tell people about special deals, offers or sweepstakes and expect a more direct action. If you have built a good relationship with the user, he will expect it, understand why it is there and react to it when he is ready.

The costs of delivering multipiece campaigns via e-mail can be much lower than those in the paper world. But e-mail marketing is not without challenges. Business users will get better at avoiding solicitation while spammers will find ways around the technology barriers. Successful marketers will adapt to the changing sentiment toward e-mail marketing to cultivate relationships using technology. Now is the time to use e-mail to passively stay in front of prospects until they are ready to become customers.


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