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Spam vs Permission Based Email Marketing

Apr 2, 2008
I was talking to a client recently about why he should add a newsletter opt-in form on his website so that he can capture email addresses.

He said "but Sam I don't like spam".

In hindsight I probably should have worded that a little bit differently when I said capturing an email address. What I should have said is to offer something of value to the visitor for their email address - Permission Based Marketing.

But even before this conversation I was beginning to see a trend that a lot of businesses have the idea that sending out an email is akin to sending out spam. I can understand why they would think so. With so much spam getting into our inbox emails are getting to point where they'll soon have a negative connotation.

That's why you have to differentiate yourself and not spam your customers.

So What's the difference between Spam vs Permission Based Marketing?

First and foremost Spam often arrives without permission, it's not targeted to what you're interested in and often there's no way to opt out of it. They literally captured your email from a website or a forum.

If it walks like a duck...
If you start sending emails with nothing but your sales letter or an advertisement then it's going to come across as spam. There's no way around it. Just because a subscriber gave you permission to get their email address does not mean you can start sending them spam.

Why market to them then?
Just because you can't spam your email list doesn't mean you shouldn't sell to them. You just have to market it right.

So whats next?
Your first and foremost goal is to provide your list with information that they find valuable. Remember the email is about what they're interested in - that could be anything (news, your views, articles). Provide your list with targeted information about what you do, what are new changes that are in your field, a case study, a new idea -- just make sure you tie it back to what they're interested in.

Let's take an example:
Let's say you're a graphic design artist, and you have a website where people join your list -- people that are interested in graphic design services or are graphic design artists themselves. You could include information about why using dark text on light background is better then the other way around and explain why. Basically you could write an article about it.

Again, your goal is inform and educate your visitors. Keep providing them with information and the next time you have some type of special offer or sale then you can send out the information to your entire list letting them know about it. I would by no means consider this spamming because the artist has continued to provide me with information, hasn't tried to hard sell me every single day, or send spam. And for providing me with this invaluable information every now and then they send in a small offer or deal. Completely fine with me.

Who knows maybe I'll even take them up on the deal.

Please keep in mind this is just an example. There are a lot of variables that come into play if you plan on marketing to your list.

- First as I mentioned above - provide them with valuable information or up-to-date news
- Next don't spam them - Don't send them more than one email a day and if it is daily make sure it's informational. I'd recommend starting out with a monthly newsletter then weekly and so on.
- Third - Maintain consistency. Don't email them twice in one week and then the next email is 2 months later. No. Make sure you send out your newsletter consistently. Start off once a month and then if you can create content for twice a month then go for for it.
- Fourth - Don't lie. Subscribers hate when you lie. So just don't do it.
- Fifth - If possible try to get their name and email, and when sending out your email use their name in the email header
- Next provide them with a way to unsubscribe and if they unsubscribe honor their request
- Don't include the entire article in your email - make sure to include a click here to read the complete newsletter on the website type link so that they get a chance to see your website again.
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