“Spam” – unsolicited email – has gotten a bad name, to say the least.
Spam isn’t fundamentally different than “junk mail” – both are unsolicited bulk mailings for commercial purposes. The difference is, bulk email can be very inexpensive, and easy to hide where it is coming from. The result is a huge volume of fraudulent email traffic.
Three years ago, to deal with this, the U.S. Congress passed a law, the “CAN-SPAM” Act, which regulates all commercial email and has specific requirements intended to reduce the amount of spam clogging the Internet. It hasn’t been very effective, mostly because major spammers are usually located somewhere else such as China or Eastern Europe.
These days, any email in passing through the Internet gets screened multiple times – by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) as well as the receiving computer – in an effort to cut down on the glut. And where once a legitimate business could for a relatively small fee, get a broadcast done to millions of emails, there is no longer any such legitimate opportunity available. In fact, for the relatively rare case that, say, a magazine, will rent its email mailing list, it is often more expensive on a per piece basis than a postal mailing. Any inexpensive method of obtaining a large email list is not going to be legal or legitimate.
All this means there is usually only one useful form of bulk email for most businesses to engage in: Email newsletters and announcements to their own past and prospective customers. But this is a VERY useful promotional tool.
Chances are, if you aren’t sending out regular communications to past customers (or clients or patients) and prospects – you are missing out on a lot of business. Email newsletters cost next-to-nothing to send. If your newsletter is interesting, and going to customers or people who have expressed an interest in your products or services in the past, they probably won’t consider it spam. In fact, many of them will appreciate your communication, may even pass it along to others. At their best, this type of broadcast can create a real “viral” buzz that spreads your message and word about your product or service far, wide and fast.
To make it work, you have to accumulate email addresses. Always get your customer or prospect’s email addresses as one of the first pieces of information. These days that is more valuable than a postal address.
You have to have a means of sending bulk email out. Most ISPs restrict the number of emails you can send at a time. You have to know how to comply with the CAN-SPAM regulations, and you have to scrupulously follow those rules. You have to write and design or have someone do it for you, the newsletter to go out. An “HTML” email (one formatted, with graphics and colors) is most effective, but has to be done right to get past spam blockers and to actually be seen. Most importantly, you have to keep them going out regularly no matter what else is going on, and continue to increase the size of your mailing list.
It’ll pay off. Do it and you’ll see.