--------------------------------------A typical day at the inbox-------------------------------------
Today, I received 374 e-mails total.
A pretty light day considering some days I get more than 1,000.
To clarify what they were--35 were for business, 4 were personal in nature, 11 were from groups I asked to get information from like Neiman Marcus and Urban Outfitters, VH1, and a PR Newsletter.The balance of 324 was unsolicited (UCE-unsolicited commercial e-mail)--in other words spam.
If I extrapolate the UCE I’ve gotten in the last six hours alone, I find I must be missing something about myself on some spiritual level.. I am a balding, fat man with a small penis that doesn’t work. I am in debt. I am looking for a lower interest rate on my mortgage while at the same time making thousands of dollars with no effort on my part in the privacy of my own home—filling out surveys, stuffing envelopes and not selling something that miraculously sells itself. Even better, I can be a travel agent without wrinkles; obtain a college degree while waiting for my 1500 advance to show up in my bank account; I can restore my credit rating legally while watching my free satellite TV and munching on my drugs sent courtesy of an offshore pharmacy that has a doctor who will write me a prescription… HMMM…definitely something to consider. NOT.
I’ve also discovered that I am a prime candidate to help an African Prince transfer funds into the US. He trusts me. All I have to do is give him my bank account information.The problem is that I am a woman who doesn’t suffer those ills. Someone thinks I do…There is something wrong with this picture.
--------------The future of bulk email and why it is likely to remain dead----------------
Now, you might be asking why I, who was dubbed the “Spam Queen” in the “Wall Street Journal” three years ago, am even bothering to say anything about e-mail? Just to set the record straight, I have never advocated spam or sending spam. One reporter said to me, "Some people consider all bulk email as spam. What do you have to say about that?" to which I replied, "Then I guess you'd call me the spam queen," as a joke.
In our sound byte media world, one editor turned this little quip into a buzzword and I became known almost instantly, all over the world, as representing what everyone, including myself, hates about email. The media as usual emphasized sensationalism and missed the point. I am not complaining because my marketing business skyrocketed as a result.At that time I advocated email as a very effective medium for small business, which because of its low cost lets small businesses level the playing field against big corporations.At no small personal risk, I visited the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC, and spoke my peace about small businesses and not throwing out the baby with the bathwater before even the very term spam could be legally agreed upon and defined to the satisfaction of marketers, ISPs and the government jointly.Small businesses are the lifeblood of the US economy, and entrepreneurs with their dreams are what have made the US the economic powerhouse it still is today. Email that is sent to people who WANT to receive it, and that is in accordance with their preferences, still gets a high response. It allows many small businesses to get ahead. I didn't want to see big corporations or the government take over email and bar entry, filter, and extort everyone else while still sending their own advertising messages freely. And then came the Can-Spam act, which I and many other legitimate marketers welcomed, because it had a great promise of getting rid of the noise while keeping the signal.As it turned out, the opposite happened. Email filters from ISP's now block a large amount of legitimate messages, which they call "false positives". Marketers can't send the text they would like to send to their subscribers, so they have to resort to filter tricking tactics such as spelling the word spam as sp@@@M so that they can get past the filters that were intended for another purpose entirely. In a climate like this, legitimate companies that had been diligently following best practices, and keeping their lists clean for years, suddenly did not want to stay in business with ambiguities in the law and the potential litigation that might ensue even if all the rules WERE followed, so many companies just folded.However the people that continue to send email illegally did not fold. Often times sending from outside the US borders, they stepped up their operations even more, to the point that there is almost no truly legitimate bulk email left. In other words, the signal has become lost in the noise.The simplicity is this — bulk commercial e-mail has gotten to the point where it isn’t effective. We just don’t do it anymore. What’s the point? It doesn’t get a response, and we found people are overloaded with advertising messages and no longer willing to receive more, especially in their inbox, unless they specifically asked for it. As a marketing professional, the only thing that should count for you at the end of the day is effectiveness. Bulk commercial e-mail has turned into the above, a bunch of unprofessional, ineffective scams. In other words, Spam is a four-letter word. Legitimate marketers are staying away in droves and it’s easy to see why. First of all let’s look at some facts. In the United States, it is legal to send unsolicited commercial e-mail. The CAN SPAM act allows for this. You have to provide a way to opt-out and not hide who you are, and a few more simple but ethical rules. Although it is legal, there isn’t an internet service provider in the United States who will allow you to send unsolicited commercial e-mail. Larger mailers have opt-in information from lists they purchase which imply consent but those lists aren’t originated from the mailer, but from other sub-mailers—you get a free thing or access to a particular site and the user checks a box that it is okay to get information from their “affiliates and partners.” The “affiliates and partners” they are referring to are those who pay for the e-mail addresses and opt-in information. These guys are sending you mail legally, but the fact is, they are not getting into your e-mail box for the most part. Blocking, filtering, and doing it the “legal” way bulk wise, is just not working. Not to mention, there is no way to prove that the recipients opted in or are willing to get the message since they opted in at someone else’s site, not yours. The response rate is pathetic and when that mail does get through, you have many disgruntled individuals who never remember opting in, so in their view, the mail is unsolicited. The only way to get e-mail into inboxes en masse is by not following the rules, so the only messages getting through are the scams, including the pornographic, illegal, and objectionable. It is ironic that the very thing people want to rail against, they are getting more of in the aftermath of Can-Spam.So where does that leave us? What can a small businessperson do to get their message out, and not break their bank?
--------------------How to market effectively in the new internet wave---------------------------------
If you are a small businessperson, there are 3 alternatives that you should consider, which are described in this next section:What is effective you might ask? (Ask away, it’s kind of the point here..) 1) First party offers that impart some value added (a tip; some information, something the consumer is interested in.) Lets say John Q. Consumer gave his e-mail address for a newsletter, or for more information on a particular subject, or to play a game.Chances are he probably would not be angered to get an e-mail from your company especially since he asked for you to contact him. He would recognize your domain name since he spent enough time on your site to actually ask the info. Additionally, your internet service provider would not shut you down for violations and you’d start to build a small but effective list of people who are actually interested in what you, as a business owner, have to say. This has been effective since the beginning of the internet. The only problem is, how do you reach people the first time, to get them to your site? How do you find a target market for your products that is likely to be interested in what you have to offer and sign up for your newsletter, visit your site, and hopefully buy your stuff?Is there anything less costly than television, radio, and (ugh!) banner ads?Yes there is. Drum roll please…..Search Engine Marketing. If you write good ads, and compete with the right keywords, people who are already searching for an answer to a question, doing research, comparison shopping will go to a search engine and type in their parameters. If you know how to market well, only people who are interested will go to your site. If you have a web site that is compelling and you are offering a value added, they will ask for more information or sign up for your newsletter, or get your free download. Now, getting to this point can sometimes take a little time, but if you are persistent, and know how to interpret your statistics, you can do this. If you want the result without the learning curve, hire a Search Engine Marketing Firm.So the new tools for small businesspeople to stampede traffic to their websites in 2005 and beyond are going to be:1) Search Engine Marketing2) Publicity, including press releases that provide meaningful news3) Providing quality content and expert commentary for radio, TV, and internet hubs in your fieldYou can be successful on the internet and these tools help to establish you as an expert in your field, as well as attract the very people who are looking for your product or service at the same time. These are the tools of a new form of marketing, which people are calling "In Touch" Marketing, or "intelligent marketing" and is one way to cut through and actually get you the most possible business, at the lowest possible cost, with laser precise targeting. In future articles I will teach you how to use them with deadly precision. This is the new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed in 2005 and beyond. Remember, you heard it here first :)
CEO, In Touch Media
About the author:
Laura Betterly is the CEO of In Touch Media Group, (OTC:ITOU) and has successfully launched many ebusinesses for herself and others.
More information is available at http://intouchmediagroup.com