Tonight we’re gonna email like it’s 1999

Email marketing is one of the oldest options in online marketing, but in many ways one of the least sophisticated, especially in scientific and engineering companies. Far too many companies seem to use it to throw out odd sales messages at random intervals to any old list of names they can put together, a practice which has been shown over and over again to be a waste of time and effort. You still occasionally hear people talk of “email blasts”, a term which otherwise came and went some time in the late nineties.

Of course, cobbling together some sales message, and BCC-ing it out to a few hundred prospects and customers, takes very little time and costs even less. So the return on investment, even if you just get a single folorn reply, might seem worthwhile. But that’s such a waste. Email marketing can do so much more. Email marketing needs regularity or frequency, and it needs to develop familiarity. What’s more, it should only go to the recipients who ask for it. Many marketers seem to think that because it costs nothing to send an email to an extra 500 people who’ve shown no interest in such things, they might as well do so. Let me tell you that of those 500, probably 450 will delete or ignore it, and 50 will get positively irritated with you. And just because you don’t see those people getting irritated, doesn’t mean they’re not doing so.

As many companies are finding, the best way to send out nicely branded emails which tick all the boxes is to create a blog, and use that to generate and distribute the content. That way, recipients can opt in and out, the whole thing is easy to set up, and you get a powerful web-based copy of everything you send out. Even if you can’t or don’t want to set up a formal blog as part of your website, it makes sense to set up a free blog with WordPress.com or Blogger and to use Feedburner, Feedblitz or MailChimp to then distribute the content as emails.

Using some emailing program to “blast” out inconsistent messages to untargeted audiences is not only outdated, it can be positively counterproductive. Leave it to the spammers.

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