Many companies have attempted to use electronic mail for advertising -- only to receive a deluge of abuse and retaliation from infuriated Internet users. A Harris poll of computer users reveals that, out of those who are receiving unsolicited bulk email, 42 percent want to stop receiving it. According to Time Magazine, "Unsolicited junk email now accounts for 10 percent of all Internet traffic and up to 30 percent of the 26 million daily messages on America Online."
So are there ethical ways to use email to reach your audience on the Internet? Yes. I recommend the following spam-free methods for getting your message out without making enemies:
- Build your own house email lists.
Collect email addresses at your Web site, at trade shows, on product registration cards, during sales and telemarketing calls, or at other points of contact with customers and prospects. Make sure that everyone on your list knows exactly how you will use his or her email address. Your own in-house email lists are a valuable asset.
- Start an announcement list.
This is a simple in-house email list designed to keep you in touch with your Internet audience. Use it for distributing company news, new product releases, special promotions, announcements of personnel changes or other items of interest to your company's contacts.
- Publish a free email newsletter.
An email newsletter, or "e-zine," is a way to keep your company's name in front of your target market. Be sure to offer value -- industry news items, how-to articles, analysis and commentary about your industry niche. Your e-zine will position your company as an expert in the field and will enhance its reputation.
- Advertise on opt-in and voluntary email lists.
Opt-in email lists are now available "for rent" from many companies. In contrast with the bulk email spammers, the opt-in list providers have built their lists on a voluntary basis. The Direct Email List Source, a Web directory I started, provides links to many permission-based email lists.
- Advertise in e-zines and email discussion lists.
No doubt you will be able to find numerous email newsletters and interactive discussion lists that reach your target audience. Many of these will accept advertising or sponsorships. If they don't already sell ads, they might -- if you make an offer.
Spam is such a controversial subject right now that I urge marketers to stick with permission-based email only. The risks to the company's business and reputation are just too great. What constitutes true permission-based marketing? Simple. Make sure that nobody is placed on any email list without their explicit permission. No one should have to ask to be removed from an email list they never asked to be on in the first place.
Understanding the request form...
- What are you selling: Most email campaigns are selling a product or service. Name that product and/or service in this field. (for example: security services, accounting software)
- Target Market: Name here who you see as the market or potential buyers of your product/service. (for example: home owners, accountants)
- Size of your mailing: How many emails do you plan to send -- this will affect your potential revenue and cost. (for example: 100,000 to 250,000)
- Your Time Frame: When do you plan to do your mailing? (for example: mailing within one month)
- Campaign Details: Give a more complete description of what you are planning. (for example: I plan to do 3 sequential mailings to homeowners in New Jersey in order to sell a new security system.)