Email is one of the easiest, cheapest and most direct communication technologies known today and allows businesses to communicate with existing and potential customers like never before. It can generate tremendous response – 20 percent to 30 percent – as opposed to direct mail campaigns, where typical response rates are around 2 percent. There are three main advantages of email – interactivity, speed and accessibility:
•Interactivity. Each individual has the opportunity to communicate with a massive network of friends, family, colleagues and associates all over the world.
•Speed. A message can travel swiftly from one person to the next and back again in a matter of seconds. This allows sales people and marketing departments to get quick feedback and information and finetune their offerings accordingly.
•Accessibility. We live in an age where almost everyone has, or will soon have, an email address.
In the beginning
Over the last couple of years, the main form of email marketing was unsolicited commercial email, also known as spam. Unscrupulous marketeers harvested the email addresses of unsuspecting individuals from Internet newsgroups and compiled them into lists to use and sell.
Spam continues to be a nuisance to individuals jamming email in-boxes with messages that simply are not of interest and the return addresses usually don’t accept replies. Many times they contain topics that consumers find offensive, such as pornography, offers to buy Viagra and get-rich-quick schemes.
Online users jealously guard their privacy. An overwhelming majority of people believe that businesses should ask for permission before using a customer’s personal information. If you are emailing without people’s consent then you might just loose a potential customer.
Viral and Permission Marketing
Two solutions to email marketing that have recently emerged are viral marketing and permission marketing.
•Viral marketing refers to the practice where consumer-to-consumer communication leads to widespread, rapid dissemination and quick adoption of an idea or product. Hotmail is a classic example of a successful viral marketing campaign. The free email service grew at an unprecedented rate by simply adding the tag line, “Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com” at the bottom of every email.
“ Take the time to use emails effectively. You will improve your chances of making the sale and staying on good terms with your customers”
Viral marketing is best incorporated as part of a larger strategy. It works very well when you are more interested in the quantity and not the quality of traffic you drive to your site. Limit your viral marketing to new and unique products that have a real value proposition.
•Permission or opt-in marketing is when consumers explicitly permit a few marketers to send them certain types of email. They usually fill out a profile that helps companies guage a consumer’s interest in particular products so they can receive targeted messages.
But permission marketing has led to new problems. Consumers do not always update or modify their profiles, and as their interests change, the messages become less targeted and effective. In addition, poorly designed incentive schemes have created an entitlement mentality among consumers. Many individuals believe they should be paid or rewarded to do anything on a Web site that requires them to disclose personal information. If you don’t plan your email campaign carefully, you may end up attracting people who are more interested in the incentive than your product. If you think this is all a bit over the top and people could not possibly get upset about emails, read the following results of a survey recently undertaken.
•94% think companies that violate their online privacy should be disciplined.
•86% favour opt-in policies or permissions based email marketing.
•54% believe that Web site tracking invades their privacy.
•27% would never provide their personal information in order to use a Web site.