Make the Most of E-Mail Marketing

Internet gurus emphasize the power and necessity of e-mail marketing.

With a well-screened mailing list and a series of solid, targeted messages, webmasters can create marketing campaigns that keep current customers loyal and draw new clients at little to no cost.

There are solid reasons for webmasters to use e-mail as one of the tools in their marketing arsenal.

email marketingFirst, crafting an e-mail flyer, newsletter or advertisement is relatively easy to do. For webmasters who are skilled in html and scripting, an e-mail advertisement can be designed using the notepad feature of a PC and cut-and-pasted to the user’s e-mail program. Add a distribution list and with one click, the advertisement is in a few hundred mailboxes. For businesspeople with few to no html skills and small (200 or below) mailing lists, low-cost or free mailing programs are available that provide templates that allow anyone to create and mail a simple e-newsletter. One such program (GroupMail) also contains a user-friendly mailing list management module and a few metrics (e.g. what percentage of the mailers were opened, how many links were clicked, etc.) as well. Individuals with large lists who require more complex mailer designs can subscribe to an online mailing service such as ConstantContact.com.

A second reason to use e-mail marketing is that e-mail offers customers the opportunity for immediate gratification. Vendors bring their specials directly to the consumer by way of e-mail, who then purchase these bargains with a few mouse clicks. Customers who may otherwise spend hours searching for seasonal items on the shelves of brick and mortar stores, for example, are taken directly to the sales pages for those goods. Customers benefit from the convenience, time savings and ability to buy immediately; sellers benefit from increased inventory turnover.

Finally, ezines and other content-rich marketing can attract new visitors and customers to the website in a way that print material cannot.

The ezine that encourages its readers to “forward to a friend” allows like-minded individuals to market favored websites to one another. Word of mouth advertising has always proven to be influential in building a loyal customer base, and current customers who receive and forward mailings are beneficial to the webmaster working to build their customer base.

The greatest challenge in e-mail marketing is building the mailing list.

The last thing any webmaster needs is for their domain to be associated in any way with the term SPAM, and if a mailing list is built without the double opt-in feature, a very clear privacy policy and an unsubscribe option that is not only honest but acted upon immediately, the webmaster’s marketing efforts may put him or her on a blacklist. Building a good list may require offering a “bribe,” such as a free sample, coupon or promotional pricing on a popular item offered only to subscribers, or the utilization of safelist marketing in order to promote subscriptions. Purchasing a mailing list may sound faster and easier, but many email lists have never been culled of bouncing addresses, and there is no guarantee that the broad interest categories list members fall into truly encompass the niche markets many websites represent.

Mailings also need to be consistent, and their quality also needs to stay consistent. Many mailings go out on a daily or weekly basis, and if a webmaster doesn’t have the time to consistently create a good mailer, the customer may conclude the business and its merchandise is as shoddy as the mailings. E-mails may be the only way prospective customers form an impression of an internet business, so it is better to develop a strong mailing every other week or once a month than to crank out something mediocre more often.

The final challenge of e-mail marketing is that e-mail is a very temporary medium.

Unlike print catalogs that potential customers may save for weeks or months, readers tend to glance at e-mail and then hit the “Delete” button if they aren’t immediately intrigued. For this reason, e-mail marketing efforts should contain enough interesting content that readers would choose to save the mailing, or contain a special offer that is short-lived and demands immediate action, such as a “day after Thanksgiving sale.”

E-mail marketing is an integral member of a website’s marketing mix, but like all tools, should be used carefully and in a way that enhances the relationship with a website’s customers and prospects. When e-mailings are perceived as intrusive, time consuming, boring or annoying, the end result to the webmaster is a loss of prestige and credibility. Making the most of e-mail marketing starts with building a good list, finding a design that works, and scheduling ample time to develop and craft the mailing. The rewards of gaining a highly targeted, loyal market for the investment of time and a few dollars a month make using this tool an excellent choice for websites of any size.

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