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I found a very interesting article today, through NPR.  It’s talking to Bob Garfield, and references to his book The Chaos Scenario.  Essentially, the article was covering the changes in marketing we’re seeing today.

The world as all advertisers knows it is changing.  Changing drastically.  Marketing is not dying – it’s being reborn.

Most people are moving online.  Using the internet for almost everything now.  I know that I can count myself in with this – if I’m looking for an address to meet with a business, where do I look?  The internet.  If I want to find out when the next showing of the new movie I wanted to see was out is going to be at, where do I look?  The internet.  If I want to BUY a ticket to said movie without worrying about waiting in line?  The internet.

Everything is becoming available online, so it is becoming apparent that everyONE is going to move online.  Newspapers are losing customers, magazines, even TV as we’ve known it.  (Ever heard of Hulu?)

For companies who advertise in any sort of fashion to keep up, they’ll have to go where the people go.  This means moving their marketing online.  This is also going to also mean a change in the people using online advertising, and the difficulty it will be to be seen in different markets.

As Bob stated in the article, the times, they are a’changin’.  If businesses don’t start changing with the times, then it’s only a matter of time until they go extinct next to the old forms of marketing.

So what exactly is email marketing?  Well, this is a broad term that can cover a lot of material, but the basic idea of email marketing consists a method of internet marketing using a list of email addresses.

Bad email marketing is what everyone knows (and despises): spam.  This is mail that is untargeted, sent out to every email address acquired, and not always from a specific location.  Some people sell email addresses to companies who use the addresses for this purpose.  And a lot of it is sent.  More than most realize – in June of 2007, the estimated amount of spam per day was just under 100 billion messages.  That’s a lot of spam.

Why so much spam?  Because a percent of it actually converts.  Maybe not you and me, but there are people out there who see something in their spam and decide they need to buy that product.  And since the cost of spam is essentially null, the ROI is more than enough excuse to send out millions (or billions) of emails a day.

So yes, that’s BAD email marketing.  What’s good email marketing?  Good email marketing is having a highly targeted market and offering quality information through email to individuals in this market.  For example, if I had a dog food site, I might offer important information about which dog foods cause health issues in dogs, for anyone who joins my email list.

This is targeted email – the people who sign up actually WANT to receive information from me, and are happy when I give them quality information.  To do email marketing well means you should send out good information.

A lot of internet marketers use email lists as a means to sell.  While this can work, if this is the only thing they use their list for, it can turn away many customers.  If you do this, in the eyes of some people on your list, you’re becoming more like spam.  To avoid this, quality information that is FREE should be offered moderately frequently.  Consider it – if you sign up for a list, you’re not getting in because you want to be sold things, correct?  You sign up because you want information.  So give your list information!  Good information, if you want to be seen as an authoritative source.  Then, when/if you choose to market a product of some kind, they will be more open to this, as you’ve established a level of trust.

To do email marketing, one of the major techniques is by using what’s called an “autoresponder”.  This is a tool that allows several email addresses to be placed into a group, and each email can be sent individual messages, addressed to each individual (instead of an anonymous group).  In some cases, the individual’s name can be identified, to make the mails you send more friendly and personal.  The benefit is that once you’ve written your emails, they can be sent to all your list, as well as to anyone who joins your list.

With autoresponders, you can schedule each email to be sent out immediately (with a broadcast) or at set times, or you can have a number of emails that can be sent, spaced apart by a certain number of days.  So if I had five emails that I wanted sent to my list and all new list members, I could write these emails, set them to each be sent three days apart, and then not have to worry again.  When a new list member is added, they are sent the initial email, then the next three days later, and so on.

One of the best ways email marketing can be very effective is by setting up a relationship with your customers.  If you demonstrate that you truly know what you’re talking about, and that you’re just a normal person, a level of trust can be set.  From that point, it’s much easier to interact with your list members.

It’s been said that the best way to make a sale is through personal one-to-one interaction – using autoresponders comes very close doing this in an online way.  Treating your customers well will always make them value you as a merchant more than one who treats their customers just as numbers.

For me, I personally prefer using an autoresponder system called Aweber.  I’ve used them for several years, and they are a high quality system – they can handle several thousand members (if you have a list that large), but work just as well for smaller lists.  I recommend considering using email marketing for your business, if it’s applicable.  Usually there are ways you can establish a relationship with your customers doing this, and then you’ll have customers you’re happy with, as well as having customers who are happier with you.