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The Three Secrets to Profitable Email Marketing

The Three Secrets to Profitable Email Marketing Legitimate email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and prospects. It's inexpensive, fast, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Email marketing allows you to target your customers and prospects by their particular interests, it allows you quickly announce special promotions (either planned promotions or impromptu promotions based on changing conditions). Email is the perfect way to send a monthly newsletter. Email marketing's efficiency was underscored in a study by the Direct Marketing Association which found that in 2005 email marketing returned an amazing $57.25 in revenue per dollar spent on it!

How can you get started with email marketing? Start by collecting your customers' email addresses. Even if you don't currently do email marketing, gather your customers' email addresses now so that, when you decide to start communicating with your customers via email, you'll already have a good list. Have a sign-up sheet at each of your checkout counters or at your reception desk. Be sure to include a sign-up form on your website. Offer an incentive such as a monthly drawing from the collected email addresses. Be sure to include a privacy statement on your forms and sign-up sheets such as, "Privacy notice: We don't share your information with anyone." (Of course, that means you can't share that information ever.) Remember, email addresses are free (or very inexpensive) to gather.

Now, the three secrets to making email marketing a winner for your business.

Secret number one: Do only "permission-based" email marketing. In other words, only send email to people who have requested your email messages and make it easy to opt-out of future emails. There is a slimy side to email marketing thanks to spammers. Obviously, you want to be associated with the reputable side of email marketing. If a customer, a prospect, or a site visitor willingly provides their email address, you're not spamming. If you get it any other way, you're spamming. A commonly used technique for dealing with subscription requests from your website is called a "double-opt-in". A double-opt-in requires the individual to first request your email marketing, then a confirmation request is sent to their email address. They must click a link in the confirmation email or otherwise confirm their desire to receive your email before they're added to your list. The rule is simple: If in doubt, don't send it out.

Secret number two: Make your email marketing messages compelling for the reader. Keep them short and to-the-point and ensure that the recipient will see the value in whatever you're saying. Increasingly, people are becoming distrustful of "hypie" messages that sound like they were written by an advertising copy writer. Make your message real, make it personal, and make it deliver a benefit from the readers' perspective. If there's nothing in it for them, they'll just delete your message or possibly even report it as spam.

Secret number three: Be consistent. Whether you choose to send an email campaign every week, every month, or every quarter, be consistent. One very successful email marketer even includes these words at the top of every email he sends: "Sent the third Tuesday of every month..." Your consistency in your marketing efforts reflects your dependability as a company.

What about the mechanics of email marketing? Many very small businesses just use their regular email accounts. Such a solution can work, but it doesn't scale well as your email list and business grow. It also requires you to manage your new subscribers and unsubscribe requests. A better solution is to use a commercial email marketing service. Such companies provide templates to make your messages look professional. They also provide tracking information on how many messages were actually opened and read, automatic opt-out links on your marketing messages, tutorials, assistance in complying with the CAN-SPAM act, and more. Costs start at about $10 per month and go up from there based on various criteria such as the size of your list and the frequency with which you send messages. Most such companies provide a free trial period so you can get familiar with their service. There are many email marketing companies, but here are three for you to consider: iContact (www.icontact.com), GetResponse (www.getresponse.com), and Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com).

Make sure you're compliant with the CAN-SPAM act. Of course, this is not legal advice (I'm no lawyer!), but compliance means being honest in your subject lines about the content of the message, including an easy opt-out method in every message, and including your complete contact information in every message.

Regardless of how you decide to do your email marketing, now is the time to start gathering email addresses. Email marketing, done properly, is flexible, affordable, efficient, and potentially very profitable for your business.

About the Author:

President and chief technologist at Seattle, Washington-based IT training firm soundtraining.net, Don R. Crawley is a speaker, writer, and veteran IT guy with over 35 years experience in technology for the workplace. Today, he delivers keynote speeches and seminars to business people on how to go digital without going postal. Call him at 206.988.5858. He's online at www.doncrawley.com and blogs at www.digitalnotpostal.com .

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