E-mail can reach customers cheaply, quickly

Small businesses can use E-mail to communicate with their customers and differentiate their messages from junk mail, according to a presentation given to the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce membership on Thursday.

“If you want to make your business grow, then e-mail is a tool you should investigate,” said Michael Clark, the Seattle representative for Constant Contact, Inc.

Clark pointed out how e-mail marketing differs from unsolicited commercial messages, or “spam.”

“Something that is sent to you without your permission qualifies as spam,” Clark said. “A marketing message is something that the recipient has asked for. Even so, you may need to remind them of your previously existing business relationship, and offer them the opportunity to opt out of receiving the messages.”

Clark said that spam has certain tell-tale signs, such as misspellings of key words and the lack of a physical address at the bottom of the message.

A successful e-mail marketing effort, which coincidentally is what Clark’s company provides, is able to get around spam filters and placed in front of the recipient.

At that point the job only begins. The messages strive to gain a high “open rate,” where they are actually read by the recipient.

A capable e-mail marketer can tell exactly which messages are opened and for how long.

The “unsubscribe” option, which also differentiates marketing from spam, is also an important indicator.

“If I get more than one-half of 1 percent of unsubscribe requests, then I know I’ve done something wrong,” Clark said.

Clark provided seven tips (and one bonus suggestion) for successful e-mail marketing. This included setting objectives, determining the format and targeting the audience.

While the message is important in and of itself, it will be ignored if the return address and subject line are not compelling.

“In a lot of cases the ‘from’ line determines whether someone opens a message or not,” Clark said. “So you might want to ditch your cute e-mail address. And the subject line is also very important, because it is where you need to give people a reason to open the message.”

Clark said that messages need to be short, with the more important information at the top. Anything that forces people to scroll down may never be read.

“You need to constantly justify your place in the inbox,” Clark said. “And offer something of value.”

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