In the earlier stages of email marketing, SPAM became so problematic that legislation was initiated to help remedy the problem. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was passed after Congress found that unsolicited commercial email represented half of all electronic mail traffic. The law is clear: it prohibits false or misleading header information and deceptive subject lines, requires senders to identify their messages as an advertisement, requires senders to convey their location, requires senders to provide an “opt-out” for future emails for recipients and prompt (within 10 days) respect of that request, and requires senders to monitor their email marketing activities even if they are outsourced to a third-party. So, the first rule of effective email marketing is to follow the law. From this point on, building an effective email list requires a certain discipline and strategy.

From the start, build your email list by asking those in your database to provide their email addresses so that you can provide them with valuable information and/or offers periodically. With this communication, you are asking them to “opt in” to your future email marketing. Another way to capture email addresses is on your website. Every website should have a sign-up area that lets visitors know that by providing their contact information, they will periodically receive email messages from the company. It should incorporate a mandatory double entry of the email address to assure accuracy and be promptly followed by a confirmation/validation email. Once these steps have been completed, the information can be automatically linked to the organization’s contact mail system for easy, efficient email marketing.

Brick-and-mortar organizations can also capture email addresses and other relevant information at the point of sale. Sales clerks and/or front desk staff should be trained to ask customers if they would like to receive information on sales, special promotions, special events, etc., and if so, to obtain this information at that time. Similarly, personnel working in a customer service call center also should be trained to let the caller know that by providing their email address they can receive special offers, information, etc. Likewise, nonprofits can ask guests to their events to sign a guest book which captures their postal and email addresses.

Another strategy for building an opt-in email list is to provide an incentive. For example, you can offer individuals who provide their email addresses a discount coupon on a future purchase, a free guide, entry for the chance to win one or more prizes, or free entry to an upcoming event.

Let’s go back to the organization’s website and its additional role in capturing and building an effective email list. Beyond the sign-up box, the website content is a definite factor in determining traffic compelled to a website and, equally important, will remain on the website long enough to consider signing up/registering for future communications, including emails, from the organization.

If the content does not draw the right target markets, the emails collected may be of little value. Therefore, the content of the website and in particular, the home page must be designed and presented to immediately resonate with the intended target markets. No organization wants a list of email addresses for individuals who are not representative of the audience it is trying to reach, regardless if the organization is a for-profit or nonprofit organization, a business or school, church or hospital, charity or trade association, etc.

Are you ready to build and promote your Internet business? You can do this successfully by following these successful email marketing tips.

1. Provide a Variety of Original Content – People will look forward to your emails if they are not purely sales messages. Providing even just a snippet of unique and valuable content will keep them opening up your emails. You can focus on your niche but it is still important to vary the content each time so it does not become stale. You will see click through rates increase just with this first point.

2. Be Careful But Do Not Obsess Over Spam Words – Spam filters may block your messages if you include too many words like sale, free, money, wealth, and such. Some filters will allow words like this as long as they are not used more than once or so. Some ISPs are moving away from keyword or content based filtering and are trying to institute a reputation based spam filtering. This is not fool-proof since even large companies like Target and Pennys still have some email blocked (and these are sent to opt-in lists). The subject line is the most important place to avoid spam targeted words.

3. Proofread Every Email – Whenever possible have someone else proofread each email before you send it. Most people will miss their own typos and grammatical errors but someone else will catch them. It always looks much more professional when the document is free of obvious errors.

4. Offer an Online Version – Be sure to offer online versions of your email to users who have image viewing disabled. It will be a very small percentage of people that go to your online version but they may turn into customers.

5. Remember Some Recipients Will Have Images Disabled – You should consider the appearance of each email without images or HTML. This is the default setting for many email clients. Unless it is changed many recipients will see your email in plain text only.

6. Grab Their Attention At The Top – Be sure that the top 350-400 pixels will grab the reader’s attention and is not broken up. Many subscribers may be quickly going through dozens of emails and deleting the majority of them. They will not bother to scroll down the page if they do not feel the email warrants their time.

7. Keep the Width at 600 Pixels – Many email clients have limitations, so it is in your best interest to keep your emails formatted to no more than 600 pixels wide. Few people want to scroll over if everything is not showing on their screen and they may just quickly delete the message.

8. Consider the Frequency of Your Mailings – It is claimed that it takes an average of 7 emails or visits to your website before most people will buy or subscribe to anything. For some products or services this is too frequent or at least may need to be spread out over several months. If you wait too long before sending another email your recipients may forget they subscribed and will have little interest in your message. You will need to tailor each email campaign to your particular business and your subscribers.

9. Remind Recipients to Forward to Friends – If someone is interested in your email they may want to share it with others. If your product or service is one that is often viewed with suspicion or doubt you may invite them to “forward this to a friend for their opinion.” Other potential customers are often very open to offers if a friend or associate introduces it. Include a subscribe link in the message so anyone that has it forwarded to them can easily join your opt-in list.

10. Build Your Brand – Your emails are also a good opportunity to consistently build your brand among your subscribers. Even those that never click-through or purchase anything will still benefit from your branding. If nothing else you will be building trust and recognition. Keep the look and feel of your emails consistent.

11. Make Clear Calls to Action – Each individual section of your email must contain a clear call to action. Let the readers know what they will receive or how they will benefit by taking this action. A simple “Click Here” is usually not as effective as a fuller description of the results of clicking.

12. Provide Value and Free Items – Keep in mind that too much outright selling will only lead to the quick deleting of your messages. It may simply offend your subscribers and they will not look forward to your messages. Always try to provide some really useful and free content in your emails. Subscribers will recognize good content and even if they do not purchase anything they will be eager to your next email. Some people will save good quality emails and may even purchase something months later when they are reviewing it. Including the occasional free e-book, report, or product can also be effective.

13. Find the Best Day To Send Your Emails – For some online businesses sending emails on Tuesday mornings always bring the best results. Some tests show that more people open email, click through, and purchase when it is sent then. Every eBiz is different, however, so it will take some experimenting to find the best day and time for your campaigns.

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