A customer recently requested that an article about email marketing, the ethics behind it, what to watch out for, etc. be written. Email marketing is a topic we've covered frequently over the years so now is a great opportunity to revisit that topic to make it relevant for today (and another chance to prove that we usually listen to what our customers want)! So here you go, an article about email marketing, the ethics behind it and what to watch out for, etc.
Enhanced brand awareness, improved company credibility and increased sales are a few things that can be accomplished when using email marketing properly. When not used properly, just the opposite can occur such as inconsistent brand identity, damaged company credibility, reduced sales and even legal problems. To obtain the benefits of email marketing and avoid the pitfalls, here are 8 tips to email marketing success.
1) Brand Consistency
When it comes to branding, consistency is the key to success. When it comes to email marketing, your messages need to be consistent with your brand. How many times have you received an email marketing message that doesn't have the same look, feel and consistency with the brand from which you received the message? It's often overlooked as businesses will rush into email marketing without understanding that this is just another way to deliver your brand message.
While your email messages don't have to look exactly like your Web site, they should at least include your logo, slogan and be styled appropriately for a good fit with your existing online identity. This will ensure you send a consistent brand message to your potential customers helping build your brand awareness. Whether you decide to have your email marketing layout designed in house or outsourced, spend the extra money and effort up front to get something customized to be consistent with your existing brand.
Monthly newsletters are an outstanding venue for letting current and future customers know what's going on within your company and informing them of upcoming events, promotions, and discounts. Its a way to stay in touch. But you must keep in mind the monotony of a hard sale and blatant pitches. It is crucial to keep the customer's best interest top-of-mind.
Provide useful industry information, new topics or reports from which they can benefit. If you think of the customer's needs and provide them with content of substance, your efforts won't go unnoticed. Readers will stay subscribed and refer your newsletter to others.
3) Spelling & Grammar
By all means, proof your newsletters and do basic spell checking. While sometimes errors do slip by (our readers are eager to let us know), a considerable number of errors can display a lack of professionalism harming the company's credibility.
It doesn't matter if you send a weekly, monthly or quarterly email newsletter, having a predictable schedule will help readers anticipate communication from you. People are less likely to unsubscribe from your lists when they come to expect communication from you on a particular day of the week or month.
While your readers may not read every newsletter, they know they can catch the next one as it will come right on schedule. If your schedule is unpredictable so too will be your results. Special promotions or announcements outside of your regular schedule can be used to grab additional attention.
This is one area where businesses are easily confused and that can lead to bigger problems. Building an email list is not done overnight. It takes time to get people to subscribe to your list. While you may want to go out and a buy a so called "Opt-In" list to boost your subscriber base, that's a big mistake. Those email lists are often harvested from Internet sites using an automated program.
You've probably had this happen to you if your email address ever appeared on a Web site, in a chat room, in an online membership directory, a message board or newsgroup posting. Even if someone did "opt-In" to a list at some point, they didn't opt-in specially to your list if you had to buy it. Using a purchased list can get you labeled as a spammer.
Legitimate email marketing providers will not allow the use of purchased lists (BannerView.com included) for use in your email marketing campaigns. While you can comply with Federal Laws, specifically CAN-SPAM (point #6) by purchasing a list, you can be deemed a spammer if someone complains to your provider.
Getting shutdown by your provider can be a killer to credibility, especially if someone tries to visit your Web site while it's offline!
**STANDARD DISCLAIMER** The following is not considered legal advice. I'm not a lawyer and any use of the following information is at your own risk. Do not hold me liable for not properly understanding the law!
CAN-SPAM is one of those laws that confuses many. The reason is that most people think it was made to can (as in put a lid on) spam. Instead, what it really means is that you are free to spam as long as you follow the rules of the law. That may seem counter intuitive to pass a law that says, yes, you can spam people, but essentially that's what it says.
Here's a rundown of the law's main provisions:
In theory, you could buy a list, harvest email addresses, steal them from others or do whatever you need to do in order to collect email address as long as you let people unsubscribe, don't deceive the recipient and provide your valid postal address to spam them under the law. The law isn't useless by any means as most people who spam are trying to deceive, can't provide legitimate physical mailing addresses and don't honor unsubscribe requests.
There have been prosecutions already under the law. However, simply complying with CAN-SPAM laws can't protect you from having your Web site shutdown by your provider and not hurt your company's credibility by being labeled as a spammer (point #5).
7) List Building
So how do you go about building your list if you can't buy one and still comply with federal law? Provide an easy way for people to subscribe directly from your Web site, provide great content so people will refer your email marketing messages to others and exchange business cards via networking. When networking, always make sure to ask for a business card when you meet someone. Most people have their email address on their card. If they give you their business card, it's an invitation to contact them as long as you comply with CAN-SPAM.
I've never had anyone complain about me adding their email address to our list as they can easily unsubscribe, know the message is of a commercial nature and have access to our legitimate physical mailing address. If you happen to exchange business cards with someone more than once or have multiple representatives within your company that network, be sure not to add the same email address twice or add the person again if they've previously unsubscribed.
Our systems are automated so when we import into our list, it knows those that are duplicate and flags previous email addresses that have been previously unsubscribed. With any successful email marketing campaign, the goal is to keep existing subscribers and grow your subscriber base, not tick off people by sending them garbage.
Properly planning your email marketing strategy, selecting the right partner for the technology and creating something worth reading are the keys to success.
8) Third-Party Email Marketing
Third-party email marketing can be a great way to utilize email marketing to reach an audience in which you don't already have a direct relationship. Here's how it works. A company has a list of people subscribed to their newsletter that fits your target audience. They offer to sell you ad space in their newsletter or send an entire email to their list on your behalf promoting or endorsing your products, services or even the existence of your own email list so they can subscribe directly.
Just tread very carefully on how this arrangement is structured making sure that this third-party company is sending out an email to a list where they already have an existing relationship with their subscribers. The email needs to come from that third-party company directly, including the from address, unsubscribe information and full contact information. The last thing you want to do is hire a company to spam for you because that can cause a world of trouble.
Companies (specifically editorial publications) do offer advertisers or partners to sponsor an email to their database when the content will be relevant to their audience. Their database is never seen by the advertiser so they still maintain complete control (and responsibility) for their list.
If the customer (you know who you are) that requested this article found value in it, others probably will as well. Comment below to take credit for your inspirational request and you can be the newest owner of the official BannerView.com T-Shirt!
Resources Utilized in Writing this Article:
Federal Trade Commission Web Site
March 6, 2002 BannerView.com Newsletter - Email Newsletter Marketing
January 22, 2003 BannerView.com Newsletter - Company Credibility - How to Achieve it on the Web
April 28, 2004 BannerView.com Newsletter - What Can Be Done About Junk Email?
First Prosecution Under CAN-SPAM Act Returns Guilty Verdict
|About the author
Mark Cenicola is the president and CEO of BannerView.com, developers of BannerOS, the software that helps companies turn their websites into powerful business tools. Mark is also the author of the book "The Banner Brand – Small Business Success Comes from a Banner Brand – Build it on a Budget." Read Mark's full biography. You can find him tweeting on Twitter and starring in videos for the company's YouTube channel.
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