I’m one of those email-centric people who prefer an email over a phone call any day — but I hate spam just as much as you do. If you’re thinking of adding email marketing to your mix, how do you get those email addresses to send your message to without being a spammer?
One-off vs. bulk email
You can send an unsolicited email to anyone without it being spam — as long as it is an individual email (not a generic “Dear Sir” message) from your email account (not a mailing service), from your email client (not a mass emailing tool), which invites the reader to opt in for communication from you (more on that below).
NOT SPAM: Look through a business directory and target companies you want to do business with. Hunt online to find email addresses of people in those companies who you think might be good contacts. Send individual one-off messages to each of those people inviting them to go to your website to download a white paper in exchange for their email address.
SPAM: Look through a business directory and target companies you want to do business with. Hunt online to find email addresses of people in those companies who you think might be good contacts. Send a bulk email with a generic message to all those email addresses with a sales message and hope for some sales.
Opting in for communication
Unless you have an incredibly compelling product or service, people are not going to just hand over their permission for you to send them emails unless they see some value in it. How do you get someone to opt in for communication? Here are some ideas:
- Offer a white paper or other document in exchange for the opt-in
- Offer a regular communication such as an email newsletter that has information they would find valuable
- Have a contest or giveaway on your website open to those who opt in
Of course, you must always give people the option to opt out again. Someone can opt in, download their white paper or sign up for the free prize, then opt out again.
While you’re asking for those names and email addresses, you should only ask for as much information as you need. Asking for too much information up-front is a guarantee that few if any people will give you any information at all.
Professional email services
There are free or inexpensive ways for you to manage your lists and mailings if you want to do it yourself. Some web hosts (including 1&1) offer free email marketing modules to their customers for small lists–small being under 1000. There are also several reputable email marketing services with free and inexpensive options, such as Mail Chimp, Emma, and Vertical Response to name just a few.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are many agencies (including Miller & Mattson) who can not only handle your lists and the mechanics of distribution for you, but can also help you with the writing and design — even for regular newsletters.
The moral of the story
What separates legitimate email marketing from spam is the opt-in. Be careful not to over-communicate, make sure to consistently demonstrate value, and you just might have a successful email marketing campaign.
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