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Spam and You

Email Marketing Best Practices 2011

If you have decided to indulge in email marketing, chances are you have committed yourself for the long haul. No need to back out and call it quits when so many potential benefits are within easy reach. If you are indeed in it to win it, there is one perception you must constantly try to fight off – spam. These days the average inbox is on a hair trigger when it comes to new or unknown email, and this factor alone makes it much harder for you to have success with your campaigns.

Spam is a permission-based marketer’s worst enemy. The people (and bots) that fire off junk mail have bruised the eye of the email marketing community, causing recipients to give every message that isn’t sent by a friend or relative a questionable glare. The situation has spiraled out of control to the point where the entire perception of spam has shifted. No longer is it merely viewed as unsolicited bulk email that has been sent without obtaining permission. Spam is now anything the recipient does not want or find relevant.

In today's email arena, an offer that doesn't match the recipient's preference or interest can easily be perceived as spam. The same person who willingly signed up to your mailing list could click that dreaded button ISPs have made so conveniently accessible in their mail clients.

Your subscribers entered the email relationship with you for a reason: they want to hear from you. More importantly, they want to receive marketing content that benefits them. It is a game of exchange and you must play your part in the tradeoff. Fail to deliver and they will group you in the same boat with the rest of the nagging spammers who get ignored, deleted, and reported.

So how do you shake the perception of spam? Start fighting it from the beginning of the relationship. Here are some tips that will help you stand out from the crowd:
Deliver a Timely Welcome Message - If you wait a month, or even a week, to introduce yourself to a new subscriber they may forget all about you and assume that you are sending them spam. This perception can be avoided by immediately delivering a welcome message, preferably one complete with a brief overview of the benefits you have to offer, a frequency refresher, and a link that directs them to a location where they can manage their preferences.
Get in the Address Book - Getting your subscribers to include you to their list of approved senders can make your life as an email marketer much easier. A visible call to action that asks them to add your email address or domain to their address book is all it takes. This tactic is so effective that it is now widely considered a best practice. If the subscriber truly wants to hear from you, they will happily add you to their whitelist.
Brand Your Subject Lines - It is very common for email recipients to scan their messages before deciding if they will actually read them. Branding your subject line is an effective way to help a recipient make up his or her mind. Something as simple as including your company name in the subject line can make you stand out in the inbox and compel the recipient to open your message.
Differentiating yourself from pernicious spammers is a never ending mission, one that lasts throughout the duration of your relationship with your subscribers. There are many actions you can take, but all of them can prove futile if you go beyond your advertised frequency and contact your subscribers too often. If you initially told them to expect to hear from you twice a month, sending a sales offer every week is not the best idea. But giving recipients the option to receive more frequent mail (via signup form) is a better idea. Some actions in the fight against spam are complex and tedious; others are simple and straightforward.