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Home > E-Business  
Speak, Don't Spam
Send out mass e-mail annoucements that are courteous, effective and — above all — welcome
By Russell Shaw

When it comes to marketing your business, there's a fine line between being enthusiastically persistent and being a pain in the neck. If not lower.

This is especially true with e-mail. E-mail can be a effective direct marketing tool, but too much, too often can make it a nuisance to the people you're trying to win over. When that nuisance goes over the line, it's called spam.

You already know the telltale symptoms of spam — exaggerated claims, repeated come-ons, teaser e-mail subject headings, ALL-CAPS and lots of exclamation points. Perhaps you've received such e-mail yourself, and you don't like it one bit. Yet your company makes the best drill bits, employs the most well-versed CPAs or does the best-quality furniture restoration in the whole metropolitan area.

You may be proud of your business. And there's a way to use e-mail to tell the world that. There's also a way not to.

Rather than simply recite a list of spammer sins, we've put together a more enlightened path for each misguided action. A "do" for each "don't."

Don't: Send e-mail out to all your customers, whether they ask for it or not.

Do: Afford them the opportunity to join your mailing list, whether it's over the phone, via your Web site or in person. That's called "opt-in."

Don't: Invite them to subscribe without telling them what they will receive.

Do: Be clear about what information your e-mail alerts will contain. Giving prospective subscribers this indication before they sign up will encourage more of them to do so.

Don't: Send them e-mail every day.

Do: Consider a monthly timetable. An e-mail once a month is much less invasive and immensely more helpful. Plan ahead to include all the information you want, lest you forget a key fact and be forced to hit the send button again.

Don't: Send lengthy attachments. These take time to read, especially by customers with slower Internet connections.

Do: Post the file on your site, rather than include it as an attachment. Within the e-mail message, list the URL where it can be found. Don't: Make your e-mail message too fancy. Not everybody's e-mail program can read Java-coded documents, for example.

Do: Keep the hopping animations for your Web site, not for the body of your message. At best, they are silly; at worst, they can crash e-mail readers. That's a sure way to tick off your recipient. Plus, some e-mail programs can only read plain text, so be sure to offer that as an option.

Don't: Make it difficult to unsubscribe. It may be a blow to your ego, but there's never been a mailing list without at least some turnover.

Do: Send all new subscribers a confirmation e-mail when they sign up, and include how-to-unsubscribe instructions within the e-mail. It's also wise to post unsubscribe information on your site.Don't: Respond with follow-up e-mail too soon after the original. For example, avoid sending a "last chance for our special offer" two days after you e-mailed the original message.

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A Dozen Don't's — and Do's — When Talking to Your Customers Via Bulk E-Mail     read
Yahoo's 'SpamGuard' Irks Direct Marketers     read
Direct Marketers Try to Discourage Spamming Within the Industry     read
Watch Out for Lawsuits     read
Check out a Spam Calculator     use
Visit the Direct Marketing Association     use
Read about the DMA's E-Mail Preference Service     use
See the latest news from Junkbusters     use
Do You Give Your Customers the Opportunity to Opt Out of E-Mail Announcements?     interact

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