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Email marketing is cheap - get people signed up to your newsletters

Consumers and business clients alike have lost all tolerance for spam. Software applications and ISPs now police junk mail. Families and businesses are installing filtering devices. You need to be careful when you use email to market your business, or you could antagonise more customers than you impress.

Quote�You have one chance to make a first impression.�End Quote
Mitch Meyerson

"You have one chance to make a first impression," says Mitch Meyerson, CEO of Guerrilla Marketing Coach. "Once you lose your reputation on the internet, it's very hard to undo."

To effectively harness email marketing, you need to secure the recipient's prior consent to receive your email. You should only use permission-based, "opt-in" lists, where the people on the list have explicitly agreed to receive email communication. So how can you build up such a list yourself?

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There are many smart ways to motivate customers to sign up for your email marketing newsletter or messages. These strategies can build the kind of lists that fuel results.

Identify the customer need — and then fill it. People will give up personal information only in exchange for something they value. That could be your must-read, in-the-know newsletter, the chance to buy your latest hot product before the general public, or something different altogether. You need to research what your customers consider valuable, and deliver it.

Quote�Every time a salesperson talks to a customer, ask for an email address.�End Quote

Target your messages. If you sell motorcycles, you wouldn't advertise in a quilting magazine. So don’t send bulk messages to bulk lists. Email marketing is cheap, but that doesn’t mean you should follow the "get it out there and see what happens" mentality. That can hit your credibility and your results. Segment your lists and messages accordingly.

Make it easy to sign up. An invitation to join your email list — along with the benefits it offers — should appear everywhere your marketing does. Put an opt-in form on every page of your website - not just the home page. Every time a salesperson talks to a customer, ask for an email address. Include the invite on direct mailers, at live events, and in all media advertising.

Be consistent in look and tone. If messages are intermittent or look different every time, customers will forget who you are and that they signed up to receive your offers. Do test several messages and designs, but then settle on one that customers like and stick with it.

Regular and automatic

Send your emails on a regular schedule. Stay in front of your customer. Email may be working harder than it seems. Many consumers research online but purchase offline. In 2004, a study conducted by The Dieringer Research Group showed that consumer online product research drove more than $180 billion in offline spending in the US. Your email messages may be building trust and cementing the relationships you need that lead to sales offline.

Quote�Project a clear company identity by using a strong, simple logo and consistent design on every message.�End Quote

Automate messages and responses. Email marketing eats up a lot of time and resources, what with personalising responses, updating lists and creating content. You can cost-effectively manage the process by using list-managing software like Microsoft List Builder. With software like this you can target campaigns based on subscriber information and track the results to see what worked and what didn’t.

Time your messages. Pay attention to when you send your emails and how people respond as a result. Often businesses find that emails received on a Monday are not opened and acted upon at nearly the rate as those that arrive on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Why? On Monday, everyone's inbox is overloaded with a weekend's worth of spam. People delete messages fast.

Build a strong brand. Remember to project a clear company identity by using a strong, simple logo and consistent design on every message. That will help your subscribers remember you and strengthen their confidence in your company's value and stability.

Consider your audience, then make the HTML versus plain text decision. If you send your messages as HTML then you can include graphics, different fonts and colour. Plain text is just that – you don’t get any fancy fonts or design. Both HTML and plain text have their merits, but it's your business and your customers – so find out what they prefer. Your email software may allow you to ask customers their preference and send the right format to each individual – that way you can keep everyone happy.

Just get what you need. If you ask for lots of personal data when customers sign up, you'll scare them away. All you really need is a name and email address. Once you have that, you can build on the relationship over time.

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What next?

Email newsletters are one part of your online marketing. Having an effective internet site is another - read our guide to building your first website.

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