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A direct approach: get beyond spam with these e-mail direct marketing tips from the experts.

It's a basic rule of business: The more interest you can generate, the more new customers you can gain. And when it comes to attracting new clients, e-mail direct marketing is a great way to reach thousands of potential clients at a much lower cost than the traditional paper-and-postage system.

But while direct e-mail can save time and money, getting a campaign up and running requires a good strategy that avoids common mistakes and pitfalls.

By far, the most effective choice for e-mail marketing is known as "opt-in" direct e-mail. This means that every person on the list has agreed to receive marketing information electronically. Opt-in's evil twin, known as "spam," can annoy consumers. It's also illegal.

Two main methods exist for facilities or businesses to obtain a list of interested recipients for their marketing material.

1. Personal contacts. This means the facility creates a list using its Web page, various registration forms or community events. By compiling its own list, a facility ensures a willing audience and, ultimately, a higher response rate. While this is the least costly way to get started, it's not the quickest.

2. A purchased list. This list comes from companies such as NetCreations, TKL Interactive and E-mailChannel. Internet users indicate areas of interest and their willingness to receive sales information.

Buying a list from a reputable e-marketing company not only protects businesses from accusations of spamming, but it also ensures a certain level of recipient interest. Additionally, the list contains many more names than most people can get on their own. This option, however, requires a higher initial investment. NetCreations sells targeted lists to small companies beginning at $1,000.

Still, done right, e-mail marketing campaigns can be quite effective. Just ask Adolph Kiefer and Associates. Mark Blank, marketing communications manager for Zion, Ill.-based Kiefer, says the company has enjoyed great success with its e-mail efforts. "We plan on doing it more, but ... [e-mail marketing] is best used for relationship building," says Blank. "We'll e-mail [customers] telling them that 'you've bought a swimsuit from us and you indicated that you swim often. Now, it's six months later, and we think you may need a new suit.'"

Blank believes this type of marketing approach results in customers feeling attached to the company--when used properly.

"We don't want to abuse e-mail," he says. "We want to use it responsibly in a way that helps, and doesn't bother, the customer."

Kiefer and Associates acquired its e-mail list from customers who had requested a catalog or had made a purchase online. Additionally, if a customer places an order through the mail, the order form contained a line requesting the customer's e-mail address.

As with any marketing strategy, direct e-mail might not suit every business. For aquatics facilities and smaller supply companies, the sheer distances covered by e-mail campaigns may mean that potential clients reside outside the areas these businesses serve.

Sherri Jones, vice president of sales and marketing at TKL Interactive in Seal Beach, Calif., has learned to work closely with each client. "Our ability to provide a truly successful marketing list depends on the client," she says. "It's possible we won't come up with a long list of e-mail addresses for a business located in a rural setting. But we can target a geographic area as small as a single zip code, so our clients aren't buying random lists.... [Business owners] should get concrete information about their options before ruling out this form of advertising."

Robert Petrausch, sales director at New York-based NetCreations, agrees with Jones. "We are working very hard to collect the kind of data that will help the smaller businesses in the less-populated areas," Petrausch says. He advises owners of small businesses to stay up-to-date. "E-mail advertising may not be right for some businesses now, but soon it could become their best tool."
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Title Annotation:electronic mail
Author:Leonard, Kait
Publication:Aquatics International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
Words:640
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