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Five steps for ongoing e-mail marketing success.

There was a time, not so long ago, when e-mail marketing was the Golden Child of the internet. Early adopting smart marketers realized the power of this new medium--personalized communications that were immediate, measurable and relatively inexpensive to deploy.

Unfortunately, the spammers of the world also recognized that power and exploited it. Even some traditionally ethical marketers were lured by cheap "optin" lists that could reach a million people or more overnight.

Have spammers ruined the medium? For those looking to use e-mail marketing as a first point of contact, yes. For those practicing relationship marketing, definitely not. People continue to sign up for e-mail newsletters and appreciate invaluable information they can rely on--especially information they may otherwise not be able to easily and consistently obtain in print.

However, like any maturing communications platform, the rules of the game are increasingly complex and require careful planning and strategic execution. Here are five recommendations for creating sustainable e-mail marketing success.

1. The internet is Darwin for information. Don't be a dodo bird. More than ever, people have countless choices when seeking information. Our information-driven economy has created an environment where people have limited time and attention spans. They can Google, Yahoo! and MSN, and once they find the sites containing information they're seeking, they can sign up to receive the e-mail newsletter. If that newsletter doesn't provide remarkably good information, unsubscribing is a mere click away.

Further, it doesn't take long to reach the e-mail newsletter threshold. There are only so many e-mail newsletters any one individual can reasonably consume. People have become loyal to newsletters that provide consistently good information and have little tolerance if a newsletter begins to lose focus or lack the quality of information they've grown accustomed to.

2. People have no time. Keep it short. Great e-mail newsletters are very digestible. Articles appearing directly in the newsletter should be relatively short, and longer articles should appear as an abstract or contain only the first one or two paragraphs with a "Continue" link that will take a reader to the publisher's website to read the full story. This practice allows people to scan the contents to quickly determine which articles appeal to them.

3. Avoid the spam trap. When you distill the legalese, the CAN-SPAM law provides some pretty common-sense ground rules for practicing e-mail marketing. However, this law will do very little to curb the spam onslaught. Therefore, don't expect corporate America or major ISPs to relax their spam filters anytime soon. Some tips for getting the e-mail to the in-box:

* Use a recognizable name and e-mail address in the "From" field.

* The "From" address should match the sending domain.

* Use an e-mail marketing provider or software that collects undeliverable e-mail and records this information so undeliverable e-mails are not reattempted on subsequent campaigns.

* Use an e-mail marketing provider or software that will scan your newsletter before sending to identify words or phrases that could trigger spam filters, giving you the opportunity to edit these terms.

* Ask recipients to place the "From" e-mail you use for your newsletter in their address book. This will bypass filtering rules created in Outlook 2003, AOL 9.0, and other e-mail clients and providers.

4. Get permission. All of your website forms (sign-up forms, customer log-ins, registrations, and check-out pages if you use e-commerce) are opportunities to ask people if you can e-mail them. Leverage these resources wisely. If you're using print-based direct marketing, direct them to the web so you can capture their interests.

5. Don't abuse your lists. Be respectful of how often you're e-mailing your recipients. It's important that you aren't sending e-mail too frequently with too little to say. Less is more. Unless your recipients expect a daily or weekly e-mail, one or two per month is tolerable. Depending on your subject matter, a quarterly might work better.

David Albert is president of Publishing Dynamics, a strategic e-mail marketing firm, whose system, ReachMail, helps marketers produce effective e-mail marketing campaigns. 710 E. Ogden Ave., #420, Naperville, IL 60563, 630-717-6285,
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Title Annotation:Online Promotion
Author:Albert, David
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jan 31, 2004
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