Helpful guidelines to business e-promotion that will enable you to steer clear of unethical Spam.
If spam (unsolicited commercial e-mail) is unethical and should NEVER be used, then what are the acceptable methods of promotion using e-mail that don't resort to spam.
1. Use Opt-In E-Mail Marketing.
PostMaster Direct Response (http://www.PostMasterDirect.com) rents targeted e-mail lists to companies seeking specific target markets. They claim response rates as high as 9%. The Direct E-Mail List Source (http://www.copywriter.com/lists/) and ReplyNet Solicited E-Mailing Services (http://www.reply.net/solicited.html) are other examples of opt in, solicited e-mailing services that rent targeted lists.
2. Newsletters, Url-Minders, Etc.
Many sites encourage users to sign up for an e-mail newsletter, finder service, web site update notification service, etc. If visitors sign up for an e-mail reminder service, you can encourage the visitor to come back to your site. The messages you send via e-mail must contain something of value and be free to be effective. But in this context, a site can encourage return visits by "reminding" visitors of the offerings at the site.
C|Net's Digital Dispatch (http://www.cnet.com) sends e-mail to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Embedded in each e-mail message are URLs directing the browser back to the company's web site for articles and additional information. Amazon Books (http://www.amazon.com) offers the Eyes service, which notifies visitors via e-mail of new books that meet specified criteria. The Online Travel web site (http://www.eurorail.com) notifies subscribers via e-mail every time the discount travel fares between Europe and the United States change. With each of these three examples, users "sign up" for a newsletter or reminder service and give permission to be contacted again via e-mail. It's a great way to keep in touch with your target market.
3. Personalized News Services
5. Create A Virtual Community
Products that are of interest to these communities can then be subtly marketed via e-mail (see Adam Boettiger's excellent articles on this subject, located in the ClickZ archives at http://www.clickz.com/archives/122297.html http://www.clickz.com/archives/122397.html http://www.clickz.com/archives/122697.html
The key here is soft marketing. A real-life example: In conjunction with Amazon.com, I have sold a lot of books about Brigham Young University sports through an e-mail discussion list I run devoted to that topic (http://www.cougar-net.com). While I do include banner ads for these books on my site, the majority of interest in the books has resulted from online discussions and soft promotions on the discussion list.
If you develop a virtual community, you can occasionally send out messages with information about your service to your subscribers, and ask participants to forward the e-mail message to like-minded friends and acquaintances who might also be interested in your community and/or product/service. This is a very credible way to drive traffic to your site or to your discussion list/newsgroup because participants, not you, are spreading the word.
5. Use Signature Files
If you run an e-mail discussion list or newsgroup, you can also automatically append a message footer to the end of each message sent to your newsgroup or discussion list.
6. Use Autoresponders
An autoresponder address is a good thing to include in your signature file, especially when participating in newsgroups/discussion lists that may be global in nature. Again, many people outside of the U.S. do not have ready, easy access to the Web, and e-mail communications are very important.
That's all I have come up with. What other e-mail marketing/advertising strategies are you using that do not resort to spam?
Newell Wright is Assistant Professor of Marketing at James Madison University. His web site is http://cob.jmu.edu/wrightnd/