Hundreds of time a day I get email from companies with whom I have no relationship. I not only don’t read their offers, I am annoyed by them. These companies fall into several categories.
I have no relationship at all with the first two types, and they are the kind of email that everyone recognizes as spam:
- They have scraped my email from my website. (I am changing my website email address and requiring visitors to complete a captcha for my new one.)
- They have rented my email from a company with whom I have done business or with whom I’ve entrusted my email, perhaps to open an account of some type. I voluntarily gave my email online and didn’t read all the fine print (who does?), and that vendor sold the rights to my email.
- The third type sometimes is not recognized as spam, but it still is spam. This may be YOU, so listen up. I get this kind of email at least once a week, and I try to nicely explain to people (sometimes friends) when they send it to me that it is a federal offense and is hurting their business. This is the email sent to people who are added to business email lists without their permission. You may have gotten the address from your club membership list or from downloading all of your LinkedIn contacts (a favorite source), but it is ILLEGAL.
Not only can you be fined $16,000 per violation (that’s $16,000,000 if you sent a mailing to 1,000 people without their permission) but the more likely scenario is that you are damaging your reputation with those 1,000 people. You certainly are NOT helping yourself. People HATE spam. They are the junk phone calls of the Web.
- Only send email to people who want it – Meaning they have subscribed on your Website, put a card in a basket at your trade show that has a sign saying “join our mailing list,” or they have purchased something from you in the past two years or so.
- Make sure your email has a very visible “unsubscribe” form on it – And it must be easy to do so. You can’t ask for any information beyond their email to do so, and you certainly can’t charge them to do so or make it confusing.
- If they unsubscribe, don’t email them again – You have 10 days to get them off your list, but if you’re smart, you will take them off immediately. It really irritates people to send them another email after they have opted out.
- Don’t buy or sell email lists – You should only use one kind of list – your own.
- Don’t use false or misleading header information – It must be accurate and reflect the sender.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines – It must accurately reflect the content.
- Tell recipients where you’re located – Put your business address somewhere on the email.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf – If you have hired others to send email for you, you are still accountable. If an email services provider breaks the law while sending your email, you both are held responsible.
Using creative marketing to build your email list
When your customers have asked to subscribe to your list, your list is much more valuable. Your email to them is no longer spam – it is welcome email. How do you accomplish this? Through creative marketing.
When you give your customers something they want and need in exchange for their information, they will gladly exchange their information for your gift. For example: on my website, I offer several gifts to visitors in exchange for their emails:
- Free guide — Turn your Website into a lead generation machine.
- Free white paper – How to scale your blog to produce powerful marketing results.
- Free report – Learn to create marketing that people will love.
These offers begin with calls to action on the front page of my website or sprinkled into the middle of blogs, which lead to landing pages with forms where visitors enter their information. You can also place calls to action on Facebook, Google+ or other social media sites. You just need to make sure that you are driving them to a landing page where you can collect their information, and you are offering them something of value. This is sometimes called “an ethical bribe.”
Once visitors provide their information, I can then send them emails to let them know about additional free offers or market to them. I am not a stranger to them any longer. They have downloaded a free report, giving me permission to email them additional information.
This is the essence of inbound marketing, which is more effective than other kinds of marketing. According to Hubspot, eads generated through inbound marketing are 61 percent less expensive than traditional marketing. In its 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report, Hubspot said that their survey showed that SEO leads are eight times more likely to close into customers than outbound leads, and leads from inbound links (referrals) and five times more likely to become customers than outbound leads.
So, as you are marketing your products and services during the holidays or at other times throughout the year, don’t be tempted to take short cuts. Put in the time and effort to do some creative marketing and earn those emails. Create some ebooks, white papers, tip sheets or other goodies and put them behind forms on landing pages. And once you get your prospects on a list, continue to delight them by creating new offers. That’s how you establish trust and eventually convert them into paying customers.