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Advertise effectively through e-mail

July, 2001

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The Internet is no longer a free resource. Access to and a presence on the 'Net comes at a cost to the participants, the service provider, and the recipients of those services made available by the Internet. Due to the rapid growth and "mainstream" acceptance of the 'Net, new opportunities have been found for the distribution of information to the vast and ever-growing community of Internet users. For this very reason the Internet is a very useful medium to access a large audience. However practices sending of Unsolicited Commercial and Bulk e-mail messages, posts to Netnews groups, or other unsolicited electronic communication has caused an awakening on the part of the Internet community-at-large. This is because every recipient of every e-mail message bears a cost, either direct (cost per message received, an incremental increase in connection charges) or indirect (higher service fees to recoup infrastructural costs associated with the additional 'Net traffic which such mass-mailings create). In addition, other resources, such as the disk space and time of the recipient, are consumed. Because the recipients have no control over whether or not they will receive such messages, the aforementioned costs are realized involuntarily, and without consent.

It is this condition (the absence of consent to bear the costs of  receipt of a mass-distributed message) that has shaped the Internet Community's viewpoint - that the act of sending spam constitutes a willful theft of service, money, and/or resources. However the Internet provides a tremendous opportunity for businesses, both large and small. There is certainly money to be made using the 'Net as a resource. But the idea is not to use the Internet in a parasitic manner. So here are some tips on how to use the email wisely and for your benefit:

Avoid Spam

While it may appear to be financially attractive to advertise via the use of Mass-Messaging ("spam"), as a responsible Internet user, ADVERTISERS SHOULD AVOID THIS OPTION. The possibility of income generation and market or business expansion are minuscule when compared to some of the risks, which include:- The alienation of the vast majority of the recipients of an advertising message, damage or loss of credibility in the advertisers, Loss in advertiser's and/or seller's Internet connectivity (most service providers have strict "zero tolerance" policies which prohibit the use of their systems for the sending of spam, or for encouraging or enabling such activities), Civil and Criminal litigation.

Targeting the Audience

Advertisers have something to sell. It may be a product, service, or other tangible or intangible item. And, of course, the advertiser needs to get the word out to the market - quickly. After all, neither the seller nor the advertiser are making sales and earning profits if nobody is buying the product. However, before advertisers can advertise the product, they must first determine to WHOM the product will be advertised. The advertiser's first step should always be to determine which avenues are appropriate for advertising. Then, advertisers must determine which avenues are appropriate for EACH SPECIFIC ADVERTISEMENT. Advertisers are faced with the task of determining which Netnews groups accept ads, then of those, which groups are of a topic to which the proposed advertising is relevant. Similarly, the same work should be done for mailing lists. Advertisers should take some level of comfort in the fact that there *are* Netnews groups and mailing lists which welcome advertising -finding them is a worthwhile investment of the advertiser's time and resources. For assistance in locating such advertising-friendly websites, mailing lists, and Netnews groups, advertisers can consult existing ethical and responsible Internet advertisers. Alternatively, any low- or no-cost research resource or search engine can be employed to find those groups and lists. BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD AN ADVERTISER PURCHASE A MAILING LIST AND START MAILING! This is a sureshot way of missing your audience. In short, it is in the best interests of the seller and advertiser to ensure that the proper audience is targeted, prior to any further steps.

Reaching the audience

Once the prospective advertiser has determined a target market for a specific advertisement, a manner of advertising must be selected - A dedicated website or web page - Advertisement placed on a "shared" advertising site. Such advertisements can take the form of text, links, "Click-Through Banners", or Netnews posting, Targeted e-mail messages etc. Once the advertiser has determined the medium for reaching their target audience, there are key points to be considered, each being specific to the medium of advertisement. Dedicated website or web page, advertisers have the option of creating a dedicated website, or a page within another site for their advertisement. Advertisers also have the option of placing their advertisements on a website operated by a third-party. For advertisers with an immediate need, such sites (also called "Electronic Malls", "E-Shops" or other names) have several advantages. In some cases, a shared site can be more cost-efficient than building a dedicated website. Many sites will target a specific market and by using existing resources, advertisers can avoid the cost
and burden of owning their own site. Regardless of what method an advertiser chooses to use for advertising on the Web, there are some specific caveats regarding customer interactions: First, the advertiser must ensure that their contact information - name, phone, e-mail address - are all clear and available; Second, advertisers should take care in creating forms which gather information about customers. Information should only ever be gathered in a voluntary and informed fashion, as opposed to the use of cookies, forms, or other methods that may be available; Third, if advertisers DO gather information about people and plan to use it for marketing in ANY way, advertisers must be VERY clear to specify their plans as people submit their information.

Netnews and E-Mailing list group postings are another effective way of reaching out to an audience. If an advertiser has selected newsgroups as a targeted medium, there are critical preliminary determinations to be made. It would be advisable to read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to determine what is specifically permitted or prohibited on that particular group. Ask the group by posting a message which briefly notes how you intend to advertise your product. Send an e-mail to the group's moderator. Many group moderators will have a specific preference for how to deal with advertising, through compilation, "digest" formats, or other. In the case of compiled e-mail Lists advertisers should understand that they bear the responsibility for ensuring the proper targeting of their recipients; the proper display of their or their seller's identities; and the use of resources or systems only with the express permission of the owners of those systems.

The basic fact of Internet Marketing is that the advertiser bears the responsibility of their actions; there will always be recipients of that advertising who do not wish to receive it. Given these considerations, the opt-In mailing lists provide the prospective Internet advertiser with the control they need over the list of their prospective target audience (validity of e-mail address; applicability to the intended product; willingness to receive advertising via e-mail). Opt-In mailing lists are consistently shown to be more effective in starting and maintaining customer relationships than any other type of Internet advertising; studies have shown Opt-In mailing to be Eighteen (18%) Percent more effective than Banner advertising [10], which has a response rate of only 0.65%. It is so successful because the recipients of those E-mailed advertisements made a specific effort to receive them, thus indicating their interest in receiving information about products which the recipient felt were of interest to themselves. Ofcourse the advertiser has to grant his lists privacy, and give them the “opt out” option. Also when generating confirmations, the following information must be provided to the subscriber:- the e-mail address subscribed, the manner in which it was subscribed (website or mailing list address), the Date and Time of the subscription request(via NTP, for uniformity in future reference), the IP Address of the host which submitted the request, the Name, website address, and contact e-mail etc.

A successful email advertiser should endeavor to create a lively signature which tells the minimum about the product/service and above all be security and privacy conscious.

Aru Srivastava

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