How to Conduct Effective E-Mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is an effective way to market your product or service, if you take the time to use it properly. When done right, e-mail marketing is a powerful tool in reaching an interested audience. Knowledge Center contributor Simms Jenkins explains what separates legitimate e-mail marketing from spam, as well as the truths and lies about effective e-mail marketing campaigns.

/images/stories/70x50/bug_knowledgecenter_70x70_(2).jpgE-mail marketing is a vital part of any Internet user's daily experience. Whether it is sending pictures to a family member, communicating with colleagues or getting the latest offers from your favorite retailers, e-mail is the hub of most online communications.

In fact, according to research from David Daniels of Jupiter Research, the average number of personal e-mails we find in our inbox on a weekly basis is 274. That number jumps to 304 for business e-mails. 26 percent of the average inbox is filled with opt-in e-mail campaigns.

Many people don't know what e-mail marketing really means, yet have signed up for many e-mail newsletters and promotions. Therefore, to properly look at e-mail marketing, we need to separate the truth from the lies. Of course, spam clouds the mind for many when thinking about e-mail marketing, which brings us to our first truth worth mentioning.

Truth #1: Permission e-mail marketing is all about: permission.

This is what separates legitimate e-mail marketing from spam. When you opt-in to receive e-mails from a company, you are allowing them into your inbox and that should not be taken lightly. Spammers clutter up your inbox without any such permission and provide no value when delivering these e-mails. Remember this before you press the send button on your next campaign.

Truth #2: Relevance matters.

Assuming you have permission, you have an engaged audience. Most other marketing is hoping a part of the audience is interested in what you are saying. E-mail is so powerful because you skip this expensive process of trying to find and reach an interested audience. Because you have their interest, the ball is in your court. You just need to ensure that you deliver on your end.

If you are sending e-mails to your permission list that are not in line with what your subscribers signed up for (or, more often, different than what they expected), you are not delivering a relevant and valuable message. If that is the case, why would subscribers continue to receive your e-mails, much less act upon them? The best thing you can do is to send them information that they deem relevant and helpful.

Truth #3: The little things matter in e-mail.

Most e-mail marketers don't pay much attention to their "From" and "Subject" lines, the footers of their e-mails or their "forward to a friend" feature. But guess what? You should. These things can add up to a good or bad experience and make your e-mail much more effective. They don't add more expense in utilizing these, or even take much time. Yet the majority of e-mail marketing messages woefully under-leverage these areas, where cross promotion and customer service can be readily available.

Now that we've discussed a few of the truths about e-mail marketing, let's take a look at a few of the lies:

Lie #1: Frequency isn't important.

One of the most often heard complaints from e-mail subscribers is that they get too many e-mails from the companies with which they opted in. This often can lead to "unsubscribes" (that is, those who emotionally unsubscribe or remove themselves from your list), or it can lead to plummeting response rates. An opt-in isn't an invitation to blast away at your discretion. Most good e-mail sign-up forms articulate how often subscribers will receive e-mails. The best e-mail marketers stick to this. Too often, e-mail marketers force e-mail campaigns out the door when sales are slow and, while this can lead to a short-term gain, your long-term relationships with subscribers can really suffer.

Lie #2: E-mail marketing is easy.

E-mail marketing can be easy and even cheap. Effective e-mail marketing, on the other hand, is hard to do. Good e-mail marketing messages are rarely direct mail or newspaper ads transplanted to HTML e-mails. Take the time to assemble a solid team, partners or learn the tricks of the trade (and there are many) before proclaiming e-mail to be easy, or that it's a medium you have conquered.

Lie #3: What you design is what your e-mail subscribers see in their inbox.

Ask a designer if they enjoy creating e-mails. After they walk away from you in disgust, check your inbox and you will likely see a slew of e-mails that look quite differently than they were originally designed. Many people think direct mail and e-mail are very similar and I disagree. One of the biggest differences is that the direct mail piece you created will end up that way in everyone's mailbox. But with e-mail, that is not necessarily the case. Again, education is key here, as well as testing and adapting on a constant basis.

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/jenkins_simms70x70.jpg Simms Jenkins is Founder and CEO of BrightWave Marketing, an industry-leading e-mail marketing services firm specializing in the strategic optimization of e-mail marketing programs. He has extensive relationship and interactive marketing experience on both the client and agency side. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the e-mail marketing industry. In 2007, Jenkins facilitated a major industry partnership as BrightWave Marketing and The Email Experience Council joined forces to launch, the first centralized online repository of statistics and research specific to the e-mail marketing industry.

Jenkins is also the author of "The Truth about Email Marketing" which was published by Pearson's FT Press in August 2008. He can be reached at