The Many Faces of E-mail Marketing

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It's no secret that e-mail holds unbelievable marketing promise. E-mail's ubiquitousness combined with its extreme versatility gives it the potential to be the Holy Grail of one-to-one marketing.


But when one refers to e-mail marketing, they may actually mean several different things. Here are some of the most common methods being used to market by e-mail and some tips for each:


Sending your own e-mails. Sending broadcast e-mails can be an extremely cost-effective way to cultivate a relationship and maintain customer loyalty. But there are certain rules that must be followed. If you don't follow them, you can harm your company's reputation, receive viruses or even be admonished from your ISP forever.


* Only send to people who have opted to receive e-mail messages.


* Personalize your e-mail (as much as possible).


* Re-establish your relationship with the person in the message. (How did you get their name?)


* Always make it easy for them to remove themselves from the list.


* Honor all removals immediately.


* Keep the message brief.


A good way to accomplish many of these things is to put a generic paragraph at the beginning of your message, such as:


"This is a message about discount golf supplies. You are receiving this message as an opt-in subscriber to the golfers e-mail list. If you would like to be removed from this list, please respond to this message with the word 'remove' in the body of your e-mail."


There are a number of ways to build an e-mail list on your own. One way is to provide useful content, such as an e-mail newsletter. Companies like RevNet (www.revnet.com), Sparklist (www.sparklist.com) and Listserv (www.lsoft.com) specialize in administering large scale lists. Other services like WebPromote's Engage (engage.webpromote.com) and OakNet Publishing (www.oaknetpub.com) are great for smaller business because they take care of all the technical headaches, allowing you to simply write the articles and hit the send button. Another way to gather e-mail addresses is through your own company database. Give your current client base an incentive for providing their e-mail address. Companies like Digital Impact (www.digitalimpact.com) or Egain (www.egain.com) will help you build your e-mail database and then show you how to use it.


Renting an e-mail list. If you are renting an e-mail list, we advise that you make sure the company you rent from uses only opt-in lists. Companies that currently offer opt-in e-mail lists for rent are IDG (www.idg.net), Postmaster Direct (www.pmdirect.com), Bulletmail (www.bulletmail.com) and VentureDirect (www.venturedirect.com). Even major ad networks, such as 24/7, are jumping on board, as witnessed by their recent partnership with Sift, a database of more than 3 million subscribers.


A good price to pay for an e-mail list ranges from $150 to $200 CPM, depending on how targeted the list is. Currently, many e-mail lists can be selected much like a direct mail list -- by state, by job function and by industry. Do not buy a list that is mailed to you on a CD.


Another advantage to renting an e-mail list is that it's almost instant. The entire process can be set up and mailed in less than 24 hours. This offers a great way to test creative messaging and different audiences at an inexpensive cost. A good way to approach a first-time mailing is to narrow it down to about 5 different list selects and mail to each of them in small quantities. Based on the results, you can continually optimize the campaign by mailing only to the lists that are working. My experience with using this method has lead to clickthroughs of over 15 percent month after month for our clients. Compared to banner ads, which are currently averaging 0.5 percent, that's 30 times better.


E-mail newsletter advertising. You don't have to rent a list of e-mail names to send a message to thousands of people by e-mail. All you have to do is sponsor the online newsletter that they feverishly read each day, each week or each month. There are literally hundreds of online newsletters to choose from, and their circulation can range from as few as 100 subscribers to more than 100,000 subscribers. Advertising in these newsletters is proving successful for many advertisers. In my own experience, one of the advantages of this form of advertising is the high quality of lead generated. There are two reasons for this: Your advertising message is presented within a credible, newsworthy environment, and you can use more words to describe your product and your offer than you can in a banner ad.


E-mail newsletter ads usually come in a text format, ranging from three to 10 lines. However, some sites offer HTML newsletters that can include a graphical, banner advertisement. Both work extremely well. Usually, your best strategy is to test the effectiveness of several different newsletters by agreeing to a minimum buy for one issue. Track your results, evaluate your cost per qualified prospect or cost per sale, and make a decision from there.


Finding an online newsletter (often referred to as an e-zine) that efficiently targets your market and accepts advertising can be a time-consuming task. Here's a couple of searchable directories: Copywriter.com (www.copywriter.com/lists/ezines),


John Labovitz Ezine List (www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list) and Lifestyles Publishing (www.lifestylespub.com).


In addition to these smaller newsletters, most of the major online publishers such as IDG.net, CMP.net, CNet and ZDNet offer several of their own e-mail newsletters. Also, go to the sites that you already know in your industry and look for a subscribe button. Chances are they offer advertising if they have more than 1,000 subscribers.


Michael Aaron is online marketing manager at Internet advertising firm M2K, Austin, TX. His e-mail address is maaron@m2k.com.
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