Can E-Mail Still Be Used Effectively?

John Geiger
 


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We have looked every which way in recent articles at protecting ourselves and our data from the outside. Now that we have our networks and connections locked down, filtered and alarmed, the question arises: Can e-mail still be an effective tool to reach our intended clients, members, associates, staff and prospects? Well luckily yes it can if we heed to common sense, and a few tips from the experts. E-mail still reigns as the most effective marketing and communications tool to come along since the telephone.

Few can argue the incredible power and cost effectiveness of e-mail. In just a few years it has grown to be the daily communication mode of choice for business, civic, social, academic and political organizations. In short we find it hard to live without e-mail’s convenience, it’s speed, it’s low cost, and it’s increasingly inherent multimedia capabilities; sending letters, orders, pictures, reports, invoices, manuscripts, coupons, and on and on.

Yet, as we increasingly find it necessary to protect ourselves from nuisance, so of course to others which make getting our messages out all the more susceptible to the same protection measures we are using. In addition, public, competitive, and even governmental pressure on our service providers have caused them to introduce an increasingly broad array of tools to monitor and manage the spam problem.

"Three or four years ago, [e-mail marketing] was quick, easy and cheap, " says Loren McDonald, vice president of marketing at e-mail service firm EmailLabs, speaking during the recent Internet Planet Conference and Expo in New York. “Now, it requires a lot more sophistication, knowledge, and dedication . . . CAN-SPAM took a lot of practitioners by surprise . . . some large companies actually put their e-mail projects on hold. "

Fortunately for those businesses and organizations that depend on e-mail as an efficient means of communicating with their targeted audiences, there are a few simple things that when kept in mind will increase your e-mail effectiveness.

With E-mail more than any other communication means, the customers have more control over the relationship than the sender; deleting e-mails without the guilt of hanging up the phone on someone. The single most effective tool with which organizations can see potential improvement in their e-mail marketing is through list segmentation. Many network providers have triggers that look for the number of addressees on a given message. Too many, and it blocks the transmission. The trigger can be set anywhere and is typically in the range of 200-500. Segmenting your list into sub-groups can easily cut through this filter. If you have a web-site that manages customer opt-in subscriptions and lists (highly recommended), make sure you demand the ability to segment the list. This provides the added benefit of more accurately serving individuals’ needs and personalizing the correspondence.

Additionally it is prudent to examine your e-mail copy itself to avoid being misidentified as spammers. There are several free tools available on the web, which are as simple to use as common spell checkers which evaluate your content for possible spam filters. Innocent words like “free” if used too many times in a piece can cause it to fail a spam blocker for example. Let your subscribers know how often to expect your correspondence, and of course the courteous and professional thing to do is make sure that your list is 100% permission based. A properly thought out web-site is the most convenient way to manage a permission based or opt-in mailing list, but other ways can include simply asking them when you have their attention such as at point of purchase, registering for a free or discount offer, in your statements and so on.

Avoid renting lists, as these cause confusion, have extremely low conversion rates and can detract from the professionalism you hopefully have earned in other areas of your business or organization.

Yes, E-mail continues to provide fast, economical and increasingly flexible ways to communicate. Keeping this tips in mind along with a good dose of courtesy will allow it to continue to be increasingly effective for both business and personal uses.

John Geiger owns and operates the local affiliate of WSI Internet Consulting and Education, a Toronto based global network of consultants, developers and production centers providing turn-key internet business solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises to include web-site design, development and hosting; site maintenance and upgrades, full e-commerce solutions, on-line training and education, and other cutting-edge internet technology and solutions. For questions, comments, free consultation, or ideas for future articles contact John at (828) 328-5929 or http://www.webmasters-wsi.com

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