Opt-In Email: Getting Started

The hot thing in online marketing is opt-in email. Everyone is starting, promoting, or developing opt-in email newsletters and lists. Why? Because online publishers know that’s where the money is. With CPM rates of banners and other web-based advertising components dropping through the floor, publishers are looking for a way to make up the difference.

So if you want to be a part of this phenomenon, you need to implement this new revenue source. Hopefully, this two-part article will help you formulate a plan. This article covers the logistics and technical considerations you must tackle, and the next article will cover the actual software solutions out there for you to implement and manage the technical side.

Newsletter or Total Sponsorship?

There are two different opt-in email approaches publishers can use to attract revenue: newsletter and total sponsorship.

With the newsletter approach, people subscribe to your list to receive valuable information about a particular topic they’re interested in. They then periodically (daily, weekly, or monthly) receive an email message that has snippets or discussions about the topic. There are usually several sponsorship areas within the newsletter that represent the space the publisher is selling.

The total-sponsorship approach is a little different. People still sign up for topics that are of interest to them and then receive an email with information about that particular topic. But unlike the emailed newsletter, the total sponsorship is one large ad for the sponsor, that is, the content is just an ad. The other subtle difference is that total-sponsorship emails usually run on a sporadic basis, when an advertiser has actually paid for a run.

What are the upsides and downsides of these two different approaches from a publisher’s standpoint?

If you follow the newsletter approach, you have to be able to develop content that is appealing and interesting to your readers. That means you should write about topics that you have some expertise in. At the same time, you need to develop lists on topics that advertisers are willing to sponsor. This is a Catch-22 that causes problems for many would-be newsletter publishers.

A disadvantage for the total-sponsorship approach is that it can be difficult to generate large lists. People are less inclined to sign up to receive email if all they know they’ll be receiving are marketing messages from advertisers who will rent the list.

HTML or Text?

Once you’ve decided on your approach, you need to tackle the other major logistical issue: HTML or text?

HTML emails allow a marketer to publish web pages within an email, giving the message a lot more flexibility in presentation and capabilities. The email client (software tool used by the audience) and the individual’s personal preferences determine the choice of delivery method. Most email clients are capable of reading and delivering HTML via email, yet many people still prefer to receive text-only emails because HTML emails have a larger file size and therefore take longer to download. Many people, especially those still on dial-up connectivity, do not want the extra file size, preferring the speed of text-only email delivery.

Online publishers should offer both options. HTML emails tend to be more successful and more compelling to solicit action. They make a company look like it is in tune with the times and understands technology. But be user-friendly, and respect the wishes of those preferring text-only emails by providing this low-bandwidth version of your email marketing messages.

Doing this means that you will need to separate your lists into two groups, HTML and text. Many email-delivery solutions offer this differentiation capability, so it’s not a difficult task.

Once you have covered these two major logistical hurdles, you are left with the last major decision: How do I deliver the emails to my list of recipients? That’s the major emphasis of Part 2 of this article, which will be published in a couple of weeks. I’ll be analyzing many of the leading software and service providers you can use to implement and manage your email campaigns.

If you have any firsthand experiences with any software or service-based solution, feel free to share them with me. I’d like to incorporate your comments and observations in my next article. Please email me at tom.kuegler@clickrebates.com by November 10.

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