In 1867 the Pony Express made its fastest delivery - 7 days and 17 hours. The route: St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California. The average speed: 10 miles per hour.
The message was President Lincoln's Inaugural Address.
The riders were from 11 to 40 years old and all weighed less than 125 lbs. To make this delivery, horses had to be changed every 10 to 15 miles.
By contrast, the US Postal Service delivery now takes at least a day, longer the farther away from the destination, Federal Express can get it there overnight by 10am the next business day.
Chances are many of you will leave this meeting and go back to your office where you will open an email that was sent from across the nation, maybe even around the globe within a matter of minutes. Only a fax machine can compare to the speed of email.
The simple truth is that of the 94 Million American Adults that use the internet every day, the number one reason for going online is to check their email. According to a DoubleClick survey, 81% of internet users go online daily to check email. That's too big a number to ignore.
Why is email so popular?
Because it's easy, fast, cheap, direct and it elicits and immediate response. When you add email to your marketing mix you spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles like direct mail or print advertising.
From a marketing standpoint, email was initially primarily used for gaining new customers - often via spam techniques. It has since shifted to promotional and customer relationship marketing.
Consumers expect emails to confirm transactions and shipping, and they are open to the ideas of their email addresses being used to promote ancillary offers.
Customer service is another area of opportunity for email.
According to an October 2004 Doubleclick survey, nearly 8 out of 10 consumers have used email for customer service. A consumer expects a service inquiry response immediately but up to 24 hours is acceptable.
More than that, businesses spend 80% of their marketing budget on gaining new customers but cultivating the current customer base costs less and generates greater revenue. Every email contact with a prospect or customer is a marketing opportunity in that is it a brand building and relationship building tool.
So what is the difference between an effective email marketing campaign and one that is tainted?
The email recipient is the sole decision maker of what constitutes spam. And the recipient pays for the email. Among the top reasons an email is deemed to be spam: Deceptiveness and unknown senders (of course), frequency and irrelevancy (even though permission was granted).
You must have some relationship with the recipients. Relationship is a broad term in the eyes of the FCC.
If, for example, you have a list of email addresses belonging to people who are members of the same affiliation or organization as you that can constitute a relationship. If you have a list of email addresses belonging to people who have previously done business with you that constitutes a relationship. If someone has emailed you asking for information about your product or service, that constitutes a relationship.
The ultimate relationship is the opt-in list, people who have specifically requested or "opted” to receive email from you.
When you email these groups, it's a good idea to make it clear what the affiliation or relationship is to lessen the risk of being considered spam.
Bottom line: relevant, valuable emails sent to people who asked or agreed to get them are the best people to market to via email.
Second, you must have an opt-out on each and every email. The best way to handle it is an automated process so you won't have to deal with finding each address one at a time to remove them from the list. This is one of the reasons why many companies use a broadcast email service to handle email marketing.
Use a Broadcast Service
Another reason to use a broadcast service is that the email sent does not disclose the addresses of the people to which the email was sent. This an important privacy issue.
Many professionals are under the impression that Outlook will hide the addresses to which the email was sent. This is not the case.
Design for the Recipient
When designing an email for marketing the first thing to consider is the recipient, of course.
Different email programs will interpret your message differently. For example, there are web based email programs like Horde and SquirrelMail that will not read images so the email is either garbled or filtered out as spam. (sckansas email handout)
Other email programs offer the option of viewing or not viewing images. So your email may show up with several blank spaces.
The solution is to have 2 versions of the email that are sent in tandem. That way the email program of the recipient can determine which version to display.
Know What Words to Use
Another thing to consider is the subject line. Because of the words that trigger spam filters, the subject line as well as the message needs to be free of these words - in fact the word free is often a trigger. The header cannot be misleading either.
When structuring the message, again you have to remember to stay away from certain words, phrases or dollar signs. Now this part can get to be challenging. This is why you may see legitimate emails with special characters.
Email messages should be concise, to the point and carry a strong call to action. The idea is to get the recipient to interact with your company so give them plenty of opportunities and incentives to do so.
Remember, email is a brand building opportunity so be sure that you reinforce brand messages, encourage communication and interaction through links to the supporting website and reply to email addresses.
Track the Results
Be sure to track performance of your email marketing program. This is yet another reason to use a broadcast email service. Through third party services you have the ability to see how many people opened the email, how many people clicked the various links in the email etc. This also allows you to better target your emails to a specific audience or give more information that the recipients are genuinely interested in.
Like any advertising, email must be done consistently. And, like many marketing strategies, the program must flex to any new challenges or new opportunities. Don't be afraid to vary the format, timing and offers to find the email that works best for your company. And definitely integrate email marketing along with any other marketing - loyalty programs, print ads etc. "join our email newsletter and get even more discounts, savings etc."
This article written by Teajai Kimsey, Interenet Marketing Strategist, Ideas That Work - May 2005
It may be reproduced and reprinted provided the author's information including web link is kept intact. First presented to the Wichita Professional Communicators, May 2005