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A Commerce Department report, "A Nation Online," released February 5, reveals that most people use the Internet for two primary purposes, email and product research. This data supports the idea the email marketing is the most effective use of the Internet for marketing purposes today. Web pages are static and require users to go searching for them. Once found, the page must be bookmarked, or it will be lost again. Email, however, lands directly on a user's machine and must be actively deleted to be lost. If the email satisfies the second most common use by supplying valuable information to the reader, then the marketer will achieve great impact.

Email marketing fuses email and research into a single channel and provides marketers with a powerful, yet affordable tool. Never before has marketing been so inexpensive, supple, and easily tailored for any given demographic. You might think that email marketing reaches a small audience, and other more traditional marketing channels will provide better saturation, but that is rapidly changing.

More than half the nation, 143 million people, goes online regularly. Two million new users sign up for Internet service each month. Email is the most common use. The second is product research with about one third of Americans going online to search for product or service information. When a newsletter full of valuable information arrives in the user's inbox it capitalizes on these two main uses; email and information.

When applied in a business-to-business application, email newsletter marketing is even more power. Almost sixty percent of employed people have Internet access at work. Eighty percent of professionals and managers use the Internet, and seventy percent of those in sales, technical, or administrative support. Email newsletters in a B2B application therefore miss only a small percentage of your target market, decision makers. And even this small gap is rapidly closing. Internet use in the workplace is growing at a vigorous 54 percent rate annually. Soon email newsletters will saturate a market as completely as direct mail or print, radio, and television advertising.

Not all email newsletters are effective, however, despite the impressive demographic support.

Marketing Through Email Newsletters

The key to an effective email newsletter lies in a notion known as Permission Marketing. Your newsletter should build communication and good will, not annoy your reader. Therefore you should always obtain a person's permission before putting them on your mailing list.

Bulk, unsolicited commerce E-Mail is known as SPAM, and users despise it. Spam can cause serious and expensive overloads to both ISPs and individual recipients. Since it is poorly targeted, it is also ineffective. Therefore you should build your mailing list by asking people to opt-in to receive your newsletter.

"Opt-in e-mail lists" ask a user to agree to become part of an e-mail list, and they are not subscribed unless they take specific action. Opt-in lists are very powerful since everyone on the list has given permission to have their e-mail address included in the marketer's database.

The second most important hallmark of an effective email newsletter is its content. People will opt-in to receive your newsletter if your give them something. Therefore distribute newsletters that have information that is relevant to your audience's lives. When you do, your emails will be anticipated and eagerly read.

Many marketers, whether they be professionals or otherwise, reflexively want to begin touting their own company's achievements. They want to climb onto the mountaintops and scream about how great they are, how many sales their company made, the partnerships they are forming, and how their product is the best thing to happen since sliced bread. The problem with this is, of course, that these marketers are distributing information that is important to them, not to their reader.

Therefore, make your selection of articles or other content pass the following litmus test: does the content provide value to my customers, or is it self serving. The average business person receives over fifty emails a day, so if you don't want your newsletter to wind up in the trash bin, you better make sure it is full of articles that are interesting and valuable to your reader.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Kassel is a founding partner in InternetVIZ (http://www.internetviz.com), an Internet marketing firm helping companies find, acquire and retain customers through email newsletters. He can be reached at jason@internetviz.com.