A Publication of WTVP

Are you taking advantage of email marketing to your customers and prospects? If not, you’re missing out on one of the most inexpensive and powerful marketing techniques.

By creating an email list of customers and prospects with whom you communicate at least once or twice a month, you can create a valuable asset to your business. For between $20 and $30 a month and a little time to create messages, there’s virtually no reason to not use this type of marketing. The only extra thing you’ll need to start building an email list is an autoresponder.

There are two different types of autoresponders: one that is installed on your own host and one that is hosted on the company’s server for you. There are pros and cons of both, but for someone who isn’t technically oriented, an autoresponder that’s hosted for you is probably your best bet. An added benefit is that most autoresponder companies have spent considerable time and effort to work with the large email providers like AOL, Hotmail and Yahoo to ensure that your emails will make it through spam filters—one of an email marketer’s biggest obstacles. This is a big benefit; obviously, if your prospects don’t receive your emails, they won’t be very effective.

Another reason to go with a hosted option is that the host will often provide you with (and possibly require you to have) your email contacts “double opt-in” to avoid potential spam complaints. The double opt-in process refers to the prospect completing a form on your website requesting to be added to your list, then also requiring them to click a link in a confirmation email sent to the prospect to verify that they actually intended to subscribe to the list. That way, even if someone fraudulently submits their information, they will not be added to the list until they click on the link in the confirmation email.

Most hosted autoresponders keep a database of this information as part of your account to eliminate any question about how your email list has been compiled. Often, in order to transfer your list to another autoresponder, you are required to present this proof in order to import your data to ensure that your list is not going to be accused of spam.

By law, you are also required to include a way for people to opt-out (discontinue receiving your emails), in addition to a snail-mail address where they can send a request to be removed. Most autoresponders will include this information at the bottom of each email for you based upon the information you type in when your autoresponder was initially set up. They will also include a one-click link for people to opt out so you won’t have to do anything in order to remove them from the list—it will happen automatically.

Messages can be loaded into your autoresponder in one of two ways: via pre-planned messages based on how long ago the prospect subscribed to the list, or via a broadcast email that goes out all at once to everyone on the list. You may want to incorporate a combination of the two types depending on your goals. Pre-planned emails are a great way to set the stage for new subscribers. This is when you send out a message a day or a message every other day for a week or two to introduce people to your products.

The broadcast message is perfect to announce special events, such as an open house, sale or charity event. You need to be cognizant of how frequently your list receives messages from you—there is a happy medium. If you email them daily, they’ll probably get sick of hearing from you and not be very responsive or open your emails after a certain point. However, if you only email them once a month, they may forget who you are and why they signed up for your information in the first place. The best way to determine the right frequency is to make sure that when you send your prospects an email, you’re sending them something that is relevant and interesting to them.

By educating your prospects and being the person or company from which they receive valuable information on a regular basis, you’re establishing trust with those prospects without their ever stepping foot in your store or calling your office. What a great concept! If done correctly, it can be extremely powerful.

The automation offered via an autoresponder makes running your list a breeze, and the cost is peanuts considering how powerful a marketing tool it is. The only time-consuming task is composing your messages. Make sure to treat them like ads, not just emails to your buddy. Similar to your headline on an ad, the subject line is the most important part of the email. If people don’t make it past the subject line, they’ll never read the rest. Make sure to include a compelling offer or create curiosity—a topic which could be the subject for a series of articles in and of itself.

Be creative with the types of messages you send to your list—include a coupon or a special offer that only people who read the email will know about. If you’re trying out new products or services and you’re not sure which your customers will prefer, send them a link to an online survey (you can get a free one at for up to 100 respondents). iBi