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   Spam is Evil... But Bulk Email Can Be Powerful!

What’s Bulk email? Bulk email is one email letter that gets sent out to multiple (we’re talking dozens, hundreds or thousands) addresses.

There are two different types of bulk email: unsolicited and solicited. While unsolicited bulk email isn’t illegal (yet), it is annoying to most web users. It’s considered bad netiquette and it’s not a recommended practice. This is what netizens call "spamming".

Solicited bulk email is another story. It is often euphemistically referred to as "direct email advertising, e-zines, e-newsletters, or opt-in email." Direct email is the practice of sending your email content to multiple recipients that have given you permission to send them your email.

Your audience usually approves by clicking "yes" to an on-line query that asks if they would like to receive more information. This is known as "opt-in" email advertising. "Opt-in" implies that recipients also have an opportunity to "opt-out" when they no longer wish to receive email that they have previously requested.

Double Opt-in. And because spam is so flagrant, double opt-in is now the preferred method of developing an opt-in list. In double opt-in, not only do the people who signed up to receive your email give you permission once, but your very first email reminds the people on your list that they've signed up for your e-newsletter. Your first email will ask your readers to follow a few instructions before they're REALLY on the list, or that they otherwise have the ability to opt-out immediately.

Why should you try "direct email advertising"? Direct email advertising is appealing for a lot of reasons - one of which is low, low cost and high, high return on investment in terms of click-throughs to your site. The costs associated with traditional bulk mailing can be expensive -- and postage costs alone have been increasing every year. Direct email does not have this expense: but improperly executed, it comes with its own set of opportunity costs – loss of image, loss of faith and potentially loss of customers!

Done right, bulk email can actually enhance your customer relationships!

To determine if opt-in direct email advertising is for you, take a look at your customer base. Are they open and receptive to receiving regular email communications from you? Have you captured a good customer database to send out information? Do you have their permission to send them emailings?

You'll also need to evaluate your ability to deliver attractive, informative electronic coupons, e-zines and e-newsletters. In other words, are you delivering something your customers will look forward to reading, or a haphazardly designed and written promo piece that will get set to the e-trash heap? Remember, your email will be competing with lots of other email in the e-box. . . . what will you do to make sure that your email is the one that gets read?

Seven Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Decide to Begin a Direct Email Advertising Program Objectives. What are you trying to accomplish with your mailing? Do you want to increase sales? Generate awareness? Increase click-throughs to your site? State your initial objectives numerically, so that you can quantify the success of your campaign. Here are seven questions you must ask yourself before beginning an opt in campaign:

Size. How many emails will you send? What is the optimal number? To answer these questions, consider how many people you can effectively handle when people start responding to your email offer. Average response rates on targeted direct email generally tend to fall between 5 and 15%.

Brokers. If you don't have your own opt-in list, make sure that you are renting an email list. You should never, ever buy a list of names and addresses. One sure-fire way to know if a "broker" is unethical is if they offer to sell you names or email addresses. A good broker is concerned about sending only quality emails that customers will be interested in receiving (opt-in is the key term).

Creative Brief. Targeting HTML customers with interactive and graphic-oriented e-mails will get you 2-3 times the response rate as text e-mails. However, only 35% of all email is set to receive in this format. This is where renting a list from a qualified broker can help with developing your brief and your content.

The Subject Line. Many people delete messages without opening them. Thanks to spam, there is often too much e-mail and your potential readers have too little time. That means your email piece has to have a subject line that makes people want to read more. I've found that people want "me-mail", not mere e-mail. Use a bulk email program that easily allows you to personalize: insert your prospect's name in the subject line and body text.

HTML or text. When developing your opt-in list, ask your customer base whether they prefer to receive your missives in HTML or plain text, and develop a newsletter format for each type of client. Create a text-only version for clients that may prefer text, and for people whose e-mail systems do not accept HTML.

Length. The more frequent the newsletter, the shorter it should be. Keep dailies to a page or less and weeklies to five pages or less. Biweeklies and monthlies can be longer — but only if you're interesting. If you're going to have a long newsletter, consider a table of contents at the top. Tell your readers what is in the newsletter, so that they can scroll down to the section they choose.

Issue Number. Add an issue number to your e-newsletters. This will help your clients find and request pertinent information. It is also a good reference tool for your company.

Personality. Where appropriate, make your newsletter's tone personal or casual. Whenever possible, get rid of offensive corporate-speak, and use a casual approach. Be professional, but first and foremost, be a human being with personality and style.

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Laura Bergells is an internet attraction and distance learning specialist. To learn how to be extremely attractive, visit to learn more about "attraction vs. promotion." Download free PowerPoint Templates!


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