E-Mail Marketing That Works Now

After weeks of spam forums, anti-spam legislation, and headlines such as “Spam Becomes Public Enemy #1” in trade publications, many marketers find themselves wondering if it’s a good idea to keep a distance from email marketing for a while.

For several years, email has enabled advertisers to reach consumers via the Internet’s popular application. They could inexpensively incite immediate customer response. Now, media planners’ attitudes toward email marketing are changing. Suddenly, we feel the need to distance ourselves from the controversy surrounding spam. We’re tired of trying to defend this marketing method to clients. Above all, we’re concerned with the effect renting email lists might have on clients we represent.

Some Web users see the enemy in every email marketing message, whether they gave the OK to receive it at their email addresses or not. Online marketers may know the difference between legitimate email marketing and spam. To many consumers, unwanted email is unwanted email. It’s dumped in the Deleted Items folder. With a daily spam flood that’s billions of messages strong and deep-seated resentment toward this sleazy online marketing approach, consumers have a new email mantra: Delete first, ask questions later. This hostility can not only result in poor campaign results but also engender a negative perception of clients’ brands.

Does this dismal state of affairs mean we should abandon email marketing until the spam problem is over, once and for all? Though some marketers might say yes, endorsing this approach would be absurd. E-mail has a lot to offer. Marketers can’t afford to turn their backs on a medium with so much proven potential. There’s still hope for email-based customer communications, and there are certainly ways to reach clients’ target markets via email without putting their brands at risk.

Thanks to ad vendors addressing the issue, we needn’t wait for spam to be eradicated before incorporating email marketing into campaigns. The solution is permission-based email newsletters, not just the banners and sponsorship placements we’ve used in the past.

When ContentSprinks, Sprinks’s new contextual advertising product, was introduced in early March, the company launched another tool that hasn’t received nearly as much attention. DirectSprinks, lauded as “the only pay-per-click advertising solution built expressly to extend into opt-in email newsletters,” offers the best of both worlds: performance-based advertising in an email newsletter environment. Pay-per-click advertisers’ placements can appear in email newsletters from branded partner sites such as iVillage, CBS MarketWatch.com, and Forbes.com. As with standard Sprinks keyword placements, the text placements look similar to search results.

Not only does this extend an advertiser’s audience reach, it also permits demographic targeting, something traditional paid search engine advertising can’t provide. By aligning themselves with these brands, advertisers can continue to promote products and services via email — on a pay-per-click basis, no less — without fearing their messages may be perceived as spam.

E-mail newsletters have long been a choice advertising vehicle for clients who cater to specialized markets and who recognize the value of promoting to a captive, attentive audience. It’s been said this form of advertising works so well because advertisers align themselves with brands that already have a loyal following. In theory, the trust and respect consumers feel for the site mailing the newsletter should extend to the companies advertising within.

If an email newsletter is regularly deployed and shows consistent increase in the subscriber base each month, advertisers can assume they’re dealing with a highly dedicated audience. This represents higher email open rates and more potential exposure to the target audience. If you’re on the side of those online marketers who feel list-rental campaigns are dicey at present, this combined pay-per-click and email marketing option is worth consideration.

Spam has reached the point of no return. Media vendors can no longer dismiss advertiser concerns with rehearsed speeches about double-opt-in processes and sky-high open rates. They don’t even bother trying. This industry must work together to deal with this issue without sacrificing our campaigns.

What’s your company doing to deal with spam? Do you still include list-rental email marketing in your media plans? Have you found an alternate approach? Tell me your experiences.

Meet Tessa at ClickZ E-Mail Strategies in New York City on May 19 and 20.

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