How do you go about sending email or marketing yourself online without crossing into the “SPAMmer” category? First and foremost, know who you are sending your email marketing to. You don’t have to be familiar with each recipient personally, but you’d better know whether or not they really want to hear what you have to offer. Always keep that in mind when sending an email marketing to anyone, especially if it’s an email meant to market your product or service.
Building An Opt-In List
For anyone with an established website and a known web presence, building an opt-in list is generally an easy affair. The best type of list is the “double opt-in list.” This simply means that the subscriber to the list was required to complete at least two steps – apart from one another – to join the list. Usually this means that the user filled out a web form (name, email, etc.) and submitted it. They were then emailed with a “click here to activate your subscription”-type link. Once they click on the link, they are subscribed to the list. This strategy prevents those who aren’t sure what they’re doing from joining and, more importantly, keeps Bob from signing up his friend/enemy Larry without Larry’s consent. I recommend you find someone who specializes in newsletter list keeping and delivery (email marketing: mailchimp.com) to do this for you.
Whether your website is brand new or well established, you should be collecting customer contact information (email addresses in particular) for further contact. You can provide a free newsletter, periodic updates via email, or “exclusive opportunities” for those who join. There must be some kind of incentive or you won’t gather many email addresses. For an established website, this is usually enough. You already have traffic to see your offer and sign up. You need do little more.
For the new site, though, this is only a portion of the battle. The real effort comes in marketing your offer to drive traffic to your website and build your opt-in list. There are a LOT of great ways to do this without causing much of a stir. My favorite is to participate meaningfully in discussion lists related to your business. I spend a lot of time in Web Design and Development forums speaking with others in the business as well as amateurs just looking for tips and help. Doing this without pushing myself down people’s throats has gained me both fame and website traffic.
Another way to gather fast results is to advertise in newsletters/e-zines related to your business. Every business has trade, gossip, or news-related publications both on and offline. An advertisement in an e-zine online can get you 3,000 people looking at an ad you only spent $10 to list! The best thing about the Internet is that these ads can usually include a hyperlink so that they can read your ad (which hopefully contains some kind of call-to-action) and immediately click through to your website!
In addition to all this, there are some great tools at Roving Web (email marketing: constantcontact.com) for the email marketer. They offer free trials on many of their services and give top-notch service to their customers.
A slower and more time-consuming way to get the word out is to talk to the publishers of these e-zines, the writers who write articles for them, and even to the website owners of related websites and tell them about your product, service, or offer. If what you have seems interesting enough, they may write an article or include a “blurb” free of charge! Or even trade links with you so you can help each other promote your individual websites.
You Have The List, What Now?
Now that you’ve got a list of those interested, you’ll have more considerations. The first is the question of how each individual subscriber will remove themselves from your list if they so desire. Most list maintenance programs allow for this. At the very simplest, you can make sure they know how to email or contact you for removal. Make sure that EVERYTHING you send to this list of subscribers includes instructions for removal from the list. Not doing so immediately places you into the “SPAMmer” category (spamming).
What will you use to email to this list? There are a lot of options, including online email services, server-based bulk mail handlers, and PC-based software that does the same through your Internet connection. Each has pros and cons to consider. For instance, the online service may or may not store your list for you and therefore you may have worries about them stealing the list and selling it. This can happen. Another example is the PC-based system. If you routinely send out several thousand emails from your Internet account, your ISP may start to wonder just what it is you’re doing. Many will shut you down and ask questions later. Make sure they are aware of what you’re doing and don’t have a problem with it. This will keep you out of hot water.
Again, a great way to keep out of hot water is to use a professional service to handle your list, email your newsletters, and even write the newsletters for you! I recommend for this service: email marketing.
What and When To Send (Email Marketing)
Don’t send things willy-nilly to your list. The more often you send things, the more often you will have people wanting to unsubscribe to avoid your constant barrage. As a general rule, sending twice a week at maximum is acceptable. The shorter your emails, the less likely you are to receive complaints or unsubscriptions.
Don’t send more than you have to. If you are sending your emails using an HTML format, make sure the design is simple, clean, and uses few graphics. The more you use, the larger the email. The larger the email, the longer it takes to download and view. Whatever you do, DO NOT include browser-control “features” or code that automatically redirects the browser to a website. Very few people like these and it’s not widely supported by many email clients, so a lot of your readers may see only garbage in their email.
Only send useful information for your readers. Don’t send information that you wouldn’t want to read if you were a prospective customer. Your email recipients probably don’t want to read about your dog Tilly, your son’s graduation from Webelos, or your new-found love of dirt farming. They want to know how you’re work/offer is going to benefit THEM. And they want to know this in as little time as possible. Try not to ramble. This is my biggest struggle. :
When You’re Accused of SPAMming (Example of Spamming)
Despite the horror stories you may have heard (usually perpetrated by SPAMmers who don’t want SpamCop or similar services to exist), you will NOT be blacklisted after only one or two complaints. It takes several complaints about the same instance and issue to get blacklisted. Even then, these lists are generally temporary and will only last a few months at the longest. Unless you are a REAL SPAMmer or are ignoring one of the fundamental rules of non-SPAM emailing, you will never get yourself listed on one of those lists.
In the end, email is still a great marketing tool when used properly. If you take the time to do the research, learn what you need to know, and employ the tools you need to use; you will benefit greatly from this powerful marketing tool. If, instead, you rely on purchased “safe lists” and use nefarious tools like “header screens,” you’ll eventually reap the painful rewards you’re due.