At one time, there was a lot of talk about spam. The term “spam” comes from the canned meats of the same name, and in 1970 the British comedy group Monty Python did a sketch in which diners were served Spam with practically every meal. The term was thus adopted to describe electronic messages that are sent randomly to a large number of people.
A reason we don’t talk about spam so much now is that we can control it better. Filters on email servers often eliminate a large portion of it, and desktop email programs have easy-to-use “junk mail” facilities.
Another reason is that legitimate organizations are learning the rules governing spam, and use programs for sending email that make it easier for them to abide by these rules.
Canada has anti-spam legislation which you can find on the Industry Canada website. One sentence sums it up for the purpose of this article: “Businesses must get consent prior to sending commercial email or have a pre-existing business relationship with a consumer.”
Regardless of regulations, that should be your motto if you want your marketing to work. Email marketing, when limited to people you have a reason to be contacting, can be very effective. Many tools exist that enable you to do that, and some of these report on messages that are refused by spam filters.
If too many messages bounce back, then these facilities will shut you down as a customer because it’s their reputation that’s on the line. Not only do they not want to be associated with spam, but they want campaigns to be successful for people using their tools.
I work every day with Kera McAllister, who is an expert on marketing, and in particular online marketing. She has recently done a review and has found numerous programs that you can run on a limited database of recipients (usually 2000 or less) for free, or you can use the same programs with larger databases at very affordable rates.
These will enable you to do things such as creating appealing HTML-based emails, using templates to get started, imbedding web links, measuring who has clicked on the links, and integrating with social media programs such as Facebook and Twitter.
We are currently working mainly with MailChimp because of its unique features such as mobile friendly templates, unlimited volume of image hosting, and its integration capabilities with some specific content management and analytics software.
Regardless of which program you use, an email campaign is something that needs to be managed for it to be effective. The first step is to define your objectives, the target audience, the messaging strategy, and the actions you would like recipients to take.
Then, you draft up your message and thoughts around supporting visuals. If you’re lucky enough to have an experienced marketing and communication resource at your disposal, you then get that person to “buff and shine” your message, as McAllister puts it. This person will then select an appropriate template and incorporate the text into it. If a web designer is available, the message could be made more attractive with a unique and appealing design and layout.
Once this is all approved, some tests are performed to make sure it all works technically on all anticipated user devices, including handheld devices.
Once that is done, the campaign is launched, and the campaign tool is used to monitor and report on recipient behaviour.
Keep in mind that this is only one step in the business development cycle. You still need to do all the other activities that business development professionals do every day, but it can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal.