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Email Marketing in the 21st Century

By Hector Cisneros
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Email marketing is one of the oldest online marketing mediums used on the internet because it does not require high bandwidth. It is far more cost effective than snail mail marketing. Email Marketing has evolved considerably since it uses began back in the 90’s. There is the problem with phishing attacks, anti-spam software that makes it easy to block email and there is now an anti-spam law in effect. Regardless of these challenges, email marketing is still thriving in the 21st century. There are many reasons why you should use email marketing and in this episode of Working the Web to Win we will explore them. We will look at why email marketing is doing well, how to properly use email marketing to connect with prospects and customers and how to convert your prospects and existing clients into new and repeat customers. So get ready to get the mail out without licking a single stamp as we delve into the world of  email marketing in the 21st century.

Email marketing is not new. We have written about it in the past. We try to stick to marketing principles that don’t change or evolve slowly so that the information we provide can be used for a long time without starting over. Take for example the article “ Going Postal - With Touch Marketing ” and our article called “The Evolution of Touch Marketing in the 21St Century”. These articles provide a wealth of information on email marketing. They provide a great overview of touch marketing which includes various forms of this marketing, of which email marketing is one. This article will solely be devoted to email marketing and how it can be used to gather leads, convert leads to prospects and to convert customers to loyal repeat customers. We will also discuss how you can use this medium to build trust, credibility and loyalty in a totally automated fashion. So, let’s get started.

Email 101 Stuff – First and foremost, to engage in email marketing you must have a list. Email subscriber lists can be purchased or built. Only
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purchase lists that are double opt-in if you want to get the maximum return on your investment. List prices can have a wide range. The more targeted and newer the list is, the more expensive it will be. Also, the size of the list is also a determining factor. Emailing a prospect or customer is considered a touch. Today, it is common that a sale requires between 5 and 12 touches. The exception to this is, if you have high credibility and if you have a very compelling offer that totally eliminates the buyer's risk. These types of emails can often convert in as little as one touch (but as many as three more may still be required).

If you are working with a large list (i.e., 2000+ email addresses), you will want to work with one of the companies that can handle larger lists. Companies like iContact, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, HubSpot and many others. Keep in mind that you will be charged by the volume of addresses you keep in your database and the volume of emails you send out each month. Pricing ranges from a free evaluation to hundreds of dollars a month, depending on your volume. Monthly fees can be massive if you're engaging in very large numbers of emails (like in the 100k+ range).

Building a list – as stated earlier, you can buy a list and upload it to your email service provider, or you can gather subscribers by providing a form
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where they will provide you with their contact information in exchange for providing them with some value-added item. This could be an eBook, white paper, free gift, temporary access, a trial version of a product or service; you get the idea. Today, most internet users will not just cough up their contact information without getting something of value in return. When a user subscribes to your email database, they are giving you permission to contact them within the terms you state in the subscription. Contacting them outside of the terms of your subscription is a violation and could result in them unsubscribing or worse getting you fined. More on this later.

Email Etiquette - It is considered bad etiquette to bombard a prospect or customer with too many email touches. Just how many is too much? The number should be decided by the prospect or client. We recommend asking your prospects and customers how often they want to be contacted. This should be determined at the time they subscribe to your list. Give them a few choices like once a week, monthly or quarterly. It's also advisable to make it so they can change their subscription contact frequency without unsubscribing. Make sure your provider offers this capability if at all possible.

Email Marketing and List Management Service Providers – There are dozens of email marketing and list management providers on the internet.  A 2018 article in PC Magazine entitled “The Best Email Marketing Software of 2018“ lists their ten best and Editors Choices. You will see prominent names like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and Hub Spot listed
Check out these provides on the Notes Page
along with some I had never heard of like Campaigner and Pardot. This is a very short list of available choices. My research revealed several articles touting the “BEST OF 2018” title and each article listed at least a ½ dozen products. These articles are listed on the notes page so that you can do your own research. I suggest you decide what you can afford as your beginning budget and look for a product that will manage your list. Your program needs to allow prospects and customers to subscribe and unsubscribe, allow you to create contact forms, come with templates for newsletters, allow some level of social integration, incorporate at least analytics and tracking tools as your bare minimum. Some of the higher end products allow you to create rules to automatically begin a touch campaign to new subscribers where the campaign will send them touches based on their product of interest. Many of these products offer trial periods, freemium versions and some even allow free use for very small list.

Spamming laws – Spamming anyone via email is against the law! If you do a search for email spamming laws, you will come across The Can-Spam Act which state the following:

“The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.
Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers
Georgewbush signs anti-spam law.
all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.
Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $41,484, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:
1.       Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
2.       Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
3.       Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
4.       Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
5.       Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the
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recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
6.       Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
7.       Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.”

I wanted to make sure I quoted exactly what the law states, especially the part about the $41,484 fine per incident! No Small
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business could withstand a fine like this. Imagine if you sent out 200 unsolicited emails that were not in compliance because you did not fully understand the law? The fine for this one email blast could cost you $8,296,800! I know that a lot of criminals play hide and seek with the law by setting up dummy companies, engage in spamming and then move on when the government gets wind of them. However, as a small business, you would be put out of business for your mistake. Take the spamming law seriously; it could kill your business.

Types of Email Marketing – There are many ways you can use email marketing. You can do email blasts that consist of a simple email sent to your Gmail group of prospects or business clients, or to a subscriber list if you're using a list managing service like the ones mentioned earlier in this article. You can create a newsletter from a template or from scratch and send it to that same list. One of the more interesting products I have run across are automated touch campaigns where your subscriber signs up to receive regular newsletters teaching them something about your business or product. You can even use hybrid emails that incorporate video, audio or are delivered via direct social messaging. Combining multimedia and automation can be a powerful tool to increase sales close rates for any product or service worth its salt.

If you sell products online, I suggest you use “Thank You and Introduction” emails. They can be very valuable, especially if you send them right after a customer makes their first purchase. We like to use
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these when customers purchase downloads, subscribe or follow us on social networks. A Drip campaign can be of immense value (automated or otherwise). These are used to deliver regular communications touches to keep you and your product or service top of mind with your customers. We find these to be very valuable if you are providing the information in accordance with the frequency asked for by the customer and that your email touches provide something of value. Just sending the sales pitches and coupons usually leads to a high un-subscriber rate. Drip campaigns can be done as an email blast, newsletter, direct social messages and even text messages.

Building an audience – Now that you have a handle on the rules and methods, it's time to devise a strategy for growing your subscriber list. If you're a small business, I recommend signing up with one of the “email marketing list management providers” like; IContact, Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. There will be a short learning curve, but your ability to manage your list and to create quality email pieces will greatly be enhanced.

I like to grow our subscriber list by providing a form on our blog where we give away a free eBook. Your offer has to be compelling and provide
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perceived value if you want people to subscribe to your list. This same method can be performed on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others via their pay per click marketing platforms. It's important to make sure that you're receiving a good ROI for your email marketing efforts. Paying 50 cents to 3 dollars per subscriber could be cost prohibitive for some. However, if your new subscribers start buying your products, it's possible that you could spend double the 3 dollars/click and still be in the black.

Lastly, you can buy a list of subscribers. You should always strive to buy double opt-in list if at all possible. A double opt-in list has required subscribers to agree that they understand they are subscribing and that their email address is valid. Any list you buy will need to be scrubbed by creating and sending an initial email to the entire list asking the recipients if they agree to your subscription terms. That’s right; you will still have to ask them if it's ok to solicit them even though you just purchased the subscriber list. Once they say, “it's OK,” and pick the frequency of being contacted, you can email them. On the other hand, if they don’t accept your subscription terms, emailing them again will constitute, you breaking email law and that could result in massive fines.

Email marketing usefulness predates the use of websites and many other forms of internet marketing. It still offers those willing to acquire the skill,
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spend the time and money needed to make it work, a strong return on investment. It is a marketing product that requires that you comply with government regulations and that you treat customers and prospects with courtesy and respect. Email marketing to your opt-in subscriber database can produce recurring sales, customer loyalty, branded awareness and much-needed marketing touches that can differentiate your business, product or service from any of your competitors. The fact is, email marketing is efficient and cost-effective when used properly. Snail mail marketing still has a place in our society, but it can never regain its popularity unless the internet comes to an unforeseen demise.  

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article provides a detailed overview of the current state of 21st-century email marketing, including that of email marketing tips, list management providers, methods of delivery and useful strategies to achieve your marketing goals. The article further includes links to various vendors, other articles, and resources as well.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.


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