1 Introduction to e-mail marketing
What is e-mail marketing?
e-mail marketing is, as the name suggests, the use of e-mail in marketing communications.
What sort of e-mail?
In its broadest sense, the term covers every e-mail you ever send to a customer, potential customer or public venue. In general, though, it's used to refer to:
- Sending direct promotional e-mails to try and acquire new customers or persuade existing customers to buy again
- Sending e-mails designed to encourage customer loyalty and enhance the customer relationship
- Placing your marketing messages or advertisements in e-mails sent by other people
Give me an analogy...
You can think of these three main forms of e-mail marketing as the electronic equivalent of:
- Direct mail
- Sending people a print newsletter
- Placing advertisements in subscription magazines and newspapers
There is, however, one extremely important difference - the issue of permission (see later).
Why is e-mail marketing so popular?
e-mail marketing is so popular because:
- sending e-mail is much cheaper than most other forms of communication
- e-mail lets you deliver your message to the people (unlike a website, where the people have to come to your message)
- e-mail marketing has proven very successful for those who do it right
For more information, see the article Why do e-mail marketing?.
Let's briefly review the three types of e-mail marketing:
Three types of e-mail marketing
1. Direct e-mail
Direct e-mail involves sending a promotional message in the form of an e-mail. It might be an announcement of a special offer, for example. Just as you might have a list of customer or prospect postal addresses to send your promotions too, so you can collect a list of customer or prospect e-mail addresses.
You can also rent lists of e-mail addresses from service companies. They'll let you send your message to their own address lists. These services can usually let you target your message according to, for example, the interests or geographical location of the owners of the e-mail address.
2. Retention e-mail
Instead of promotional e-mail designed only to encourage the recipient to take action (buy something, sign-up for something, etc.), you might send out retention e-mails.
These usually take the form of regular e-mails known as newsletters. A newsletter may carry promotional messages or advertisements, but will aim at developing a long-term impact on the readers. It should provide the readers with value, which means more than just sales messages. It should contain information which informs, entertains or otherwise benefits the readers.
3. Advertising in other people's e-mails
Instead of producing your own newsletter, you can find newsletters published by others and pay them to put your advertisement in the e-mails they send their subscribers. Indeed, there are many e-mail newsletters that are created for just this purpose - to sell advertising space to others.
Where's the catch?
This all sounds great of course. Imagine how much cheaper it is to send a message to thousands of e-mail addresses, rather than thousands of postal addresses!
It's not that simple, unfortunately. Quite apart from the complexities of designing and delivering e-mail messages to the right people, getting them to actually read and respond to your message, and measuring and analysing the results, there is the issue of permission.
Responsible e-mail marketing is based on the idea of permission. This is a complex issue and the subject of intense debate in the marketing community.
Essentially, you need an e-mail address owner's permission before you can send them a commercial e-mail. If you don't have this permission, then the recipients of your mail may well regard your message as spam; unsolicited commercial (bulk) e-mail.
You do not want to send spam!
If you are accused of sending spam, then you may find your e-mail accounts closed down, your website shut off, and your reputation in tatters. In some parts of the world, you may even be breaking the law.
Quite apart from these practical considerations, there is also a strong argument which says that long-term successful e-mail marketing relationships with customers and others can only work anyway if they're permission based.
The big question, of course, is what constitutes permission...and that is the main subject of debate. It's important to remember that it's not your views, or even the views of the majority, that count, but the views of those receiving your e-mails and those responsible for administering the infrastructure of the Internet.
An example of permission is when your customer buys something from your online store and also ticks a box marked "please send me news about product updates via e-mail". You now have "permission" to send that person product updates by e-mail, provided you also give them the opportunity to rescind that permission at any time.
It's important to stress that anyone considering e-mail marketing must read up on the subject of permission and spam. If you don't understand the importance of permission and the risks of ignoring it, then you could be heading for commercial disaster.
Don't panic, though. It's actually relatively easy to ensure that the address lists you use or build yourself are permission-based.
Use of permission marketing from Skitch.com