There are many business advantages of using e-mail as a form of marketing….
Firstly, email provides almost instant delivery. Consider, for a moment, how valuable email is to your potential clients. Email is central to most internet users communication needs. It has changed the behaviour of everyone in modern business. When employees log on at their desks in the morning, most habitually check they have not missed an urgent message from a customer or their employer. Messaging has opened up a world of almost instant discussion, accelerated business rumours and social networking activity. For time sensitive offers, this kind of marketing is invaluable. For example, offering last minute tickets or discounts on clearance stock is best communicated through email.
Secondly, email return on investment is measurable. An accurate return on investment amount can be measured and understood, by tracking each email campaign against a specially set up destination web page. When the user clicks on any links contained in the email message (to find out more), they can be taken to that specially set up ‘special offer’ webpage.
For instance, the costs that make up a campaign can be added up. These may include the cost of webpage graphic design, increases in stock and dedicated call centre staff. These can all be offset against profits generated from that tracked email campaign. The exact return on investment can then be easily calculated. Similarly, new products and marketing messages can be tested and re-tested to see what offerings work and to which interest groups.
Thirdly, email is an extremely low cost delivery of marketing communication. Webmasters can send thousands of e-mails a day, and at only the cost of an email marketing software tool. Whereas a small fixed cost per expensive brochure, leaflets or flyers mean large mailshot bills for large campaigns. Whereas, an e-mail message, can be created and distributed to an unlimited number of people virtually for free.
Lastly, email can help to stay in touch with existing clients. Many people prefer opt-in to receive communications tailored towards their buying interests. For example, customers who have opted in to receive a regular newsletter, on issues of interest to them, may find huge value in receiving information in their inbox and not having to trawl the internet to find it themselves. If an existing customer receives regular notifications from a company their memory is jogged. They are more likely to re-purchase from a trusted supplier than risk buying something from a company they know nothing about the company.
Business Drawbacks of Email Marketing
The main drawbacks of using the email as a primary method of marketing are two fold….
First, many potential customers perceive email as spam. Most Internet users today are deluged by huge volumes of unwanted spam e-mail. Despite the introduction of anti spam laws and anti spam software, spammers technology constantly changes. Consequently, it is highly likely a valid business message sent to a user who opted to receive it, may get automatically moved into their anti spam email box. Users have become suspicious of al email for fear of virus. Lots of genuine messages get accidentally deleted by nervous users.
Secondly, it is practically challenging to create an opt-in list. If customers choose to receive messages from your website in the future, they have usually ticked a box on your website (and may even have chosen to receive customised emails in the areas of interest to them). However, if you are creating a new website for the first time with no opt in list, you will have to spend time, effort and money in getting a list built up. You can encourage people to subscribe to your online newsletter, by posting interesting articles or offering the chance to win a prize. This can be very time consuming. Alternatively, if you choose to buy the list of thousands of e-mail addresses. However, this is very risky. It is very difficult to know where these originally were collected.
Unfortunately, some spammers simply ‘harvest’ email addresses and unethically market them as an ‘opt in list’.
Legal Issues of Using Email Marketing
It is illegal and certainly unethical to send unsolicited e-mail. The legal framework across the world varies by country. Yet common principles seem to apply across these frameworks. Even an email sent by you by mistake, it may still break local Data Communications laws. Therefore, it is critical that when you send email you:-
Ensure no email is sent to a personal email addresses (unless they have opted to receive it);
Email sent to a businesses email address is properly addressed, with a physical reply to email address;
Clearly relevant to the business recipient i.e. you are selling ‘nuts’ and the recipient is selling ‘bolts’;
An ‘opt out message’ or instructions on how to opt out exist at the bottom of the e-mail;
Ensure it is customised to the individual, according to their opt in requirements i.e. any special offers relating to a specified interest.