Never in the history of the Web has it been so easy to reach out to your loyal and potential customers via a professional-looking e-mail campaign. Relatively low-cost e-mail marketing companies have worked out the kinks of launching and sustaining permission-based e-mail campaigns and maintaining an e-mail database.
The services offer easy-to-use templates for newsletters, invitations, public relations announcements, and more. Users can add their company logo, pictures, or other graphics or create their own look-and-feel promotional pieces. Most importantly, the well-established e-mail marketing firms have what is known as “white list” agreements with the major Internet service providers, such as AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo, so e-mail sent via a professional system is less likely to get bounced as spam or filtered to a receiver’s junk folder. Systems allow users to track the performance of an e-mail (a 25 percent open rate is respectable) and click-throughs to any Web site addresses embedded in the e-mail. A good system will alert the customer if an e-mail is invalid and allows users to opt out. Many offer survey tools.
Pricing for the systems vary. Most charge a monthly fee that can be $10 to $25 for smaller businesses or $500-plus for larger businesses, depending on the number of contacts, combined with the number of messages you send. Some charge more for certain services, such as the survey tools.
Here are some tips for setting up and maintaining an e-mail campaign:
- Consider the subject line: Say something new and substantial in your subject line so that even if the e-mail is not opened, it puts a seed in your customers’ heads about your product, service, upcoming event, or sale. “Spring Sale Starts April 5!” “Join Us for Cocktails on December 10!” “New Lower Rates on Car Insurance Beginning This September.”
- Do not overdo it: Overuse of your list is going to result in negative marketing. No doubt you’ve been on the receiving end of relentless e-mail campaigns, whether it be from your favorite charity, Ticketmaster, a catalog you bought from once, or your child’s soccer league. Don’t become the bane of your customers’ e-mail inboxes, otherwise you’ll go from being a preferred vendor to a delete.
- Don’t get dubbed a spammer: Most e-mail marketing tools require you have a relationship with a contact prior to adding his or her name to your list (i.e., permission-based). Obviously, the e-mail marketing company cannot verify if you have a prior relationship, but do not take this demand lightly. Anyone who receives your e-mail can report it as spam through the system. They will immediately be unsubscribed and you will not be able to add them to the list again. E-mail marketing firms maintain their relationships with the large ISPs by limiting spam. If you garner too many spam reports, you will be precluded from using the system.
- Keep your lists clean: In most systems you can have multiple lists, with contacts overlapping. For instance, if you run a travel agency, you could have lists for your preferred customers, those who like to go on cruises, those interested in family vacation options, or your entire list. Be sure to regularly clean up the list. If an e-mail is dubbed “undeliverable” the system will alert you but not automatically delete it. Check to see if there is a typo or if the customer has a new e-mail address. Most companies charge based on the number of contacts, so you don’t want to carry those that are dated or incorrect.