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Monday, February 18, 2008

The rules of the game for Internet marketing

If you send out "e-blasts" you may end up in The Spamtrap. The person who invented this device grinds up all the spam he receives, and then sends out automatic notices to spam-watchdog sites; causing more problems for the spammers. To stay out of this pile, you need to monitor and watch promotional emails: I would use them sparingly, and only in conjunction with real value-added content and/or with highly targeted and specific lists.

This weekend, my leading sales representative asked me to send two"email blasts" to former advertisers of our publication, to encourage advertising in a couple of future special features. As I set to work to fulfill his request, suddenly, I realized that we were entering dangerous territory.

Yes, these are former and current clients, and they may be more receptive to marketing emails than conventional third-party clients. But I sensed we would not achieve our objectives -- blatant e-selling rather than sharing and giving invites spam complaints and doesn't generate much worthwhile business (with some notable and valid exceptions.) Especially dangerous, I thought, is the fact that we would be sending two promotional emails to roughly the same list, in short order. This is absolutely the opposite of the Permission Marketing advocated by Seth Godin and other new-era gurus.

I asked the sales representative to rephrase things; to suggest things we could give our clients without pushing them aggressively to advertise any more. He came up with some suggestions, which I will adapt and modify. The new "e blast" will be a gift; it will have valuable information and allow our clients to benefit from their previous relationship with us, whether or not they elect to advertise any more.

In fact, the more I study the new rules of the game, the more I am impressed with the simple principal that you only "sell" on the Internet by unconditional giving; if you do, and you thereby establish a positive relationship and brand, you'll get the order -- at your price.

These qualities, especially valid for bulk emails, also apply to blogs and websites, of course. My goal in writing this blog is to share insights and marketing ideas with you whether or not you respond, request a newsletter, or even have any interest in purchasing anything from us. Frankly, most readers are outside our current service areas, anyways, but we're happy to keep in touch -- especially as the business grows.

You might look at your own email and website strategies in this regard, as well. Of course, include your essential information; the website is a truly impressive 'e brochure' and it doesn't hurt to tell the audience how good you are -- sharing testimonials, excellent graphics and the like. But I think you'll gain an extra edge if you share useful insights and ideas with your viewers; your expertise, if you wish, without worrying about whether you are giving away your trade secrets. I think this advice should be sincere, open, and perhaps if you feel confident enough, you could defy some of your own industry conventions. Then, with your sharing, you can invite readers to respond, either directly or (more softly) for an e-newsletter which again should be soft on promotion and high on reader value.

Aha, but you noticed at the beginning of this entry, I referenced there are exceptions. Here is one we use in our own business. When we arrange a supplier-supported feature, and have a list of qualified potential clients, we'll fax and email the invitation to do business with us. Many people respond to one or another of the invitations; even though the communication is purely a selling message. Why does this work? First, the message is highly specific and relevant -- it is to a modest list, tied to a specific project and existing relationships. We aren't doing an 'e blast' here -- we are emailing to a very focused group. Secondly, we only send the e-letter where there is a valid and relevant relationship already established and clearly defined.

P.S. If you would like me to review/critique your proposed emails or websites, please email me at Unless you give permission, the observations will be confidential -- but if we agree publicity is worthwhile, I'll post the relevant story on this blog.

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