Email Advertising

BY Brock Henderson

Among Internet users, spam is any “unwanted” email, the only problem is deciding what is unwanted and what isn’t.

We all get spam every day, and not just in email; there are the direct mail offers, telemarketing, and even those commercials on radio and television. In fact, in a recent post to the ISP-Marketing discussion list, one member actually referred to telemarketing and direct mail as forms of spam. At this rate, there wouldn’t be any form of advertising to escape the wrath of spam haters.

Now I understand the frustration of email spam. But you know what? My computer has a “delete” key, and I know how to use it. Plus Microsoft’s Outlook Express email platform allows me to block specific senders. Additionally, both service providers that I have accounts with also provide spam filters that I can turn on or turn off at will. Mass email marketing isn’t a bad thing — it’s the unethical use of mass emailing that is the problem.

Major companies such as Polaroid are using permission-based email to promote their products to thousands of potential customers. Is this spam? If you aren’t interested in Polaroid, then the answer is “yes,” but if you might be interested in Polaroid’s offers, then the answer is “no.” Only the individual receiving the email can answer whether the email in question is unwanted.

Another issue is just how I got on some of these “permission-based” mailings. The fact is that on some sites, about all you have to do is visit one time and they latch on to you like a Pit Bull. Other permission-based mailings ask if you’d like to receive information from them and their partners. But the part about “their partners” is usually buried in other information. The typical visitor assumes that any partner that associated with the site is going to provide information related to the same subject, topic, or theme of the site, when the partner could actually be offering anything from insurance to printer supplies.

Whether a mass emailing is based on a permission-based list of names or not, more and more major corporations are turning to email as a form of advertising. There are three basic reasons:

  • Cost. In traditional advertising, if a certain type of medium doesn’t work, the advertiser would simply stop using it. After all, it’s pointless to spend advertising dollars if they aren’t generating sufficient sales. However, email marketing costs are negligible; all you’ve really got is the cost of writing or developing the email message and paying someone to hit the send button. With such low costs of delivery, I can just about guarantee that more and more brick-and-mortar businesses will try, if not dive headfirst, into email marketing campaigns. Brace yourselves, email advertising is increasing and it’s going to continue to increase.

  • Tracking ability. According to a report by eMarketer, Internet advertising (which includes email advertising), is much easier to track than traditional forms of advertising. Marketers like to be able to track where sales come from. If a medium is easy to track, then marketers will definitely use it — unless the medium does not produce sufficient results.
  • It works. As much as I hate to admit it, and as much as you hate to hear it, mass email marketing gets results. Like any marketing effort, the more focused you can make your email list, the better the results. But even with indiscriminant mailings to hundreds of thousands of individuals, the sender gets results.

From a marketer’s perspective, these are overwhelming reasons in favor of utilizing mass emailing as part of the marketing mix. Low cost, easy to track, and effective — isn’t that what you look for in your marketing efforts?

Should an ISP business engage in email marketing? The majority of ISP professionals tend to think not, but not everyone agrees. While I understand that the ISP owner is deeply concerned about being labeled a spammer, you must realize that spam –like beauty –is in the eye of the beholder. As long as you are providing timely, relevant information about your products and services in a non-aggressive manner, I think it is going to be difficult to label your ISP business a spammer. After all, if you don’t tell your customers about new or improved services, who will?

Some ISP owners feel that they don’t have the right to email their customer base. But traditional businesses contact their customer base all the time. Your customer opted in with you when they signed up for your service, it is only logical and natural that you would communicate with them from time to time. Not daily, but four to eight times a year certainly couldn’t be considered intrusive by the average individual subscriber.

Your message could go something like:

Dear Customer,

Our ISP is always trying to provide you with the best Internet experience through the use of the highest quality equipment and extensively trained personnel. Now we have a new service that will allow you to enjoy your Internet experience even more.

We call it (name), you’ll call it fantastic.

(Put your product/service offer here)

Call us at (number), or email us at (address) to take part in this exciting new service.

Your Internet Service Provider

I do not mean to suggest that unethical mass emailing is appropriate marketing behavior. But I do suggest that like any form of advertising, it should be as well targeted and specific as possible, containing only the information that is relevant to your audience.

There is a difference between spam and mass emailing, and that difference is relevance to the targeted individual. When it comes to good and ethical marketing, the way it is done is more important than what is done.

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