In the direct marketing arena, email is surely the best thing that has happened since bulk mailing rates were introduced. The cost involved with sending thousands or even millions of sales letters by email is almost negligible, when compared to the cost of mounting a similar direct marketing campaign through traditional ground mail. Yet direct marketing by email can be dangerous territory for those who are not armed with at least some knowledge of the rules, guidelines, and accepted methods involved. Here are some accepted guidelines and a few tips that you can put into use in your direct email campaigns.
Rule #1 – No Spam
Avoid spam at all costs! email message that you send to someone who did not specifically request information from you can be considered Spam, or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email). Although the temptation may be great to send your sales message to any and every email address you can find, be aware that this practice can, and probably will result in the loss of ISP and webhosting service. You may also be subjected to legal charges and financial backlash from anyone who has been harmed by your activity. You should become familiar with the U.S. Federal CAN-SPAM Law that was signed into effect 16 December 2003.
Rule #2 – Choose Keywords
Choose keywords that reflect the benefits of your offer, and weave them into an eye-opening headline. Internet users have become somewhat numb to email offers, partly because of the huge influx of spam messages that flood the bandwidth daily. This makes it even more important to introduce your legitimate offer with a compelling headline. Keep in mind that the subject header in most inboxes is comparatively small. Limit your headline to 50 characters and spaces or less, while delivering an attention getting punch. Subject lines can not be deceptive or misleading in anyway. Please make sure you review all your subject lines. Make the appropriate changes if necessary. Some examples of possible deceptive subjects: If you actually have members making that kind of money then it is fine to use (Make $5,000 within 2 weeks!!) If you actually did call and left a message then that is fine to use (I called you last night but you were not home?) Unless you actually did send them $3,000 check this is deceptive ($3,000 paycheck is on it’s way to you by Fedex). The new CAN-SPAM Law requires that the subject line of your emails be directly pertinent to the content. In other words, you cannot title your email “Elvis Found ALIVE” and then promote your latest cookbook.
Rule #3 – Identify Yourself
Identify yourself at the beginning of the message and use the current date and a greeting line. Many mailing softwares enable the insertion of the recipient’s name into the subject line and the body of the message. Use this feature to personalize your message and make your reader feel you are writing directly to him.
Rule #4 – Format Message
Format the body of your message to be neat and easily read. Few if any people will attempt to read a dark and tangled mass of fonts. Limit your lines to 60 or 65 characters and hold your paragraphs to three or four sentences. Use one extra line of white space between your paragraphs for added ease in reading. You may also want to stick with text formatted email, even though it doesn’t provide the zing of a well done HTML message. Since most spam email is HTML formatted, it can be a trigger for some spam filters.
Rule #5 – Capitalize Subheadings
If your message is comprised of more than a three or four paragraphs, use capitalized subheadings to draw attention to specific points that you want to make about your product or offer. Keep in mind that few people will read your message word-for-word. Make it easy for them to pick out the most critical points you want to convey. Note however, that typing in ALL CAPS is not only considered a breach of Internet etiquette, it’s also a trigger for most spam filters.
Rule #6 – Explain Benefits
Again, when mailing a direct advertisement, stress the benefits of your product. Explain how it will solve a problem, make a tiresome task more efficient, increase sales, reduce risk, give pleasure and comfort, afford pride of ownership. Features are great. But chances are that your reader will not give a whit how many gizmos are tacked on. He wants to know exactly how your product or service will be of benefit in his own life.
Rule #7 – Use Bullets
Use bulleted lists to display the benefits of your offer. Many readers are skimmers and will only see the highlighted portion of your message. A bulleted list can quickly explain the benefits of your product, and why the reader should respond your offer.
Rule #8 – Simple Words
Simplify your wording and make your point in direct and clear language. Avoid making your reader run for a dictionary to understand your message. Remember, you are composing a sales message, not writing a novel.
Rule #9 – Check Grammar
Proofread your message for grammatical and spelling errors prior to distribution. An easy way to do this is to compose your message in Microsoft Word. You will be alerted to possible errors by red or green squiggled lines.
Rule #10 – Include Contact
End your message with a signature line and a valid email contact or URL to your website. The new U.S. Federal CAN-SPAM Law also requires that a physical address and a working removal link be included in any commercial email sent. Postal address must be within every email. You can also use a PO Box as your postal address. Put it at the bottom of every email that goes out. This will relieve fear and mistrust in your reader. He will be more likely to regard you as a sincere businessperson, and less likely to mistake you for just another spammer.
As little as one poorly designed email campaign can seriously damage your credibility with potential customers. A single campaign that is poorly or unethically distributed will likely produce little to no sales, and may even result in serious negative consequences and personal financial loss.