When you start to build an e-mail marketing business, what you do is compile a mailing list. This is a list of e-mail addresses and names of prospects to whom you can send information about your product or service.
From this description, it should be evident that an important part of building your e-mail marketing business is finding people who you can add to your mailing list. As you will read a little later, there is a correct way of adding new prospects to your mailing list.
Unfortunately, there are also several wrong ways of doing so. Most importantly, it is absolutely critical that you avoid falling into any of these most common traps, because doing so can literally destroy your business and even your life in one fell swoop. As you are reading this article, you’re obviously a regular internet user.
You therefore undoubtedly use e-mail yourself, most probably two or three times every day. I am not therefore telling you anything of which you are not already aware by suggesting that the biggest threat to the effectiveness of e-mail (and therefore e-mail marketing) is spam.
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At a conservative estimate, I would guess that for every valid, valuable and informative e-mail that arrives in my inbox every day, there are a least two or three spam e-mails that have absolutely no value whatsoever and I imagine that you are not a great deal different.It is for this reason that there are anti-spam laws such as the CANSPAM Act of 2003, and that criminal prosecutions for those found guilty of sending mass spam e-mail are on the increase.
This is not particularly surprising, because spam e-mail is no longer just a nuisance or annoyance with more and more deadly computer viruses and malware programs being delivered as a ‘special bonus’ with the spam that arrives in your inbox.Furthermore, a legal clampdown on spam is to be welcomed, because it is not too ridiculous to suggest that without it, e-mail as a viable communication tool may cease to exist in the next decade or so as it is finally swamped by the tidal wave of spam mail.
So, as someone who is either using or planning to use e-mail as a method of marketing and business, what should this tell you?
The obvious answer to the question is, don’t spam, because if you do and you get caught, you could spend several years behind bars. Assuming that this is not something that you particularly want to do,avoiding sending spam e-mail is an absolute 100% essential.
Unfortunately, whilst this might sound very clear-cut and concise in theory, the practical side of sending spam e-mail is not always so easy to draw a clear, precise boundary around.
Sometimes, spamming is obvious…
As you’ll probably have noticed from your own e-mail inbox, there are certain products and services that are almost invariably promoted using spam e-mail tactics. Every day, you probably already receive dozens of e-mail messages from people you have never heard of recommending pornography and other ‘adult entertainment’ related websites, cheap pharmaceuticals, copy watches and jewelry and so on.
Then there are those messages which invite you to some distant country or other where you can collect your share of some deceased luminaries estate simply for helping out the widow, son, daughter,neighbor, cat or favorite soccer team of the sadly departed individual concerned.
All of these messages are absolutely 100%, ‘no question about it’ spam.The people behind these campaigns are using incredibly powerful software which goes out onto the internet each and every day to ‘harvest’ e-mail addresses from thousands of websites after which each of these e-mail addresses is added to their spam mailing list.
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Consequently, it is almost a given that as soon as you have an e-mailaddress that is more than a few days old, you will start receiving this kind of spam message because their ‘harvester’ has found you.
Assuming that you’re not interested in reading these messages, there are a few basic rules that you must follow in order to protect the viability of your own e-mail address and system.
Firstly, if you don’t know who the message is from, do not be tempted to open it, especially if it has any attachment. Secondly, do not be tempted to reply to the sender, even if you are telling them to remove your name from their list and threatening legal action if they do not do so. All you have done is prove that you are a real person and that you pay some attention to the mail that they are sending to you.
The software that spammers use to collect e-mail addresses is readily commercially available and often sold by people who will happily tell you that:
• ‘No’, sending e-mail to people whose name you have collected using the software is definitely not spam e-mail,
• ‘Yes’, using the software allows you to create an e-mail list in double quick time and
• ‘Yes’, everything you’re doing by using this software is completely legal and above board.
Tempting as it may be to listen to the second of these assertions (it is true, after all), unfortunately, the other two assertions are complete nonsense. Whilst using software to harvest other peoples e-mail address is not illegal in itself, sending e-mail to those people certainly is.
You should never for one single moment consider using spam as a part of your business marketing activities for a couple of reasons. In the first place (and as I hope you will have gathered by now), using spam could get you into an awful lot of trouble, and it is not going to be that easy to develop your online business from behind bars!
However, secondly and probably more importantly, spam does not work.Ask yourself, how many times have you knowingly opened a spam email message because you are actually interested in the contents?
Maybe in the early days, a few years ago, the answer might have been once or twice, but I would be confident that you haven’t done so for an awful long time. Once again, if my own experience is anything to go by,you probably delete everything that you were not expecting and any email messages from someone that you do not recognize.
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In short, buying software to harvest e-mails and then sending those people information about your product or service is going to land no business whatsoever. However, it could land you in a court of law because, trust me, there are some people out there who spend their whole life doing little other than reporting suspected spam e-mail to the authorities.
And sometimes it’s not…
If you are fairly new to the idea of creating a mailing list as a central business building concept, then you have probably seen many prominent marketers and online business experts quote the cliché that ‘the money is in the list’.
Whilst I would not wholeheartedly agree with this (as you will see later,I would suggest that this tells only part of the story), nevertheless, the basic concept of this is true.
Knowing this, it is undoubtedly tempting to shortcut the process of adding names to your list, and there are a few ways of doing this.One such way is using ‘harvesting’ software as highlighted in the previous section, but you already understand the dangers of this approach.
Another option is to buy a mailing list from a mailing list broker, which might seem to be a far more attractive alternative because the broker concerned will undoubtedly stress that there is little danger in buying and using a mailing list from them. On the face of it, this would appear to be a very attractive option. Many mailing list brokers will create dozens of different lists, all of which are focused on an individual market sector or niche.
For example, they might have a weight loss related e-mailing list, a dog training related list and so on.Furthermore, most e-mailing list of brokers do collect e-mail information using strategies that are at least reasonably ethical (but there are varying degrees of what is and what is not ‘ethical’) and they will almost certainly have confirmed with the list member that they are happy to receive information.
However, this is the critical factor that you cannot afford to ignore.The individual in question who has added their name to the mailing list has added their name to the brokers mailing list, not yours. Furthermore, they have agreed to receive information, but whose information is it that they have agreed to accept? Correct, the brokers,not yours.
Hence, when the broker who is trying to sell you a mailing list announces that the names on that list are verified and have agreed to receive information, they are telling the truth. However, from your point of view, it is not the whole truth, because the individual has agreed to receive nothing from you.
But let’s imagine that you decided to buy mailing list of this nature. The price of the e-mail address mailing list that you are looking at is likely to be extremely reasonable for the number of ‘leads’ you are provided with:
Thus, you might think that it is worth trying and that just two or three new customers will be more than enough to cover your costs, after which every else represents profits.
This is sound thinking, apart from one thing.Even using the best outgoing e-mail management software, you’re still going to spend an inordinate amount of time sending out this many email messages, and I would be willing to bet that you will get no positive responses and generate no sales from this mass mailing campaign whatsoever.
Added to this, you will probably find that your Internet Service Provider gets very upset if you use their service to send this many outgoing email messages because there is a very good chance that their servers might get blacklisted. This happens because an outgoing e-mail campaign of this size screams ‘spam’, hence their server is blacklisted for supporting a supposed spammer, which your ISP definitely does not want or need.
But, the trouble does not end there, because although you have bought this mailing list in good faith, you are nevertheless sending e-mail messages to people who have never heard of you or your products. They have never agreed to be on your mailing list, nor have they consented to receiving your information.
So guess what happens?
Bang on the nail, you don’t get any business whatsoever, but you do get landed with 100, 200 or 500 spam complaints. Many of these people will complain to all and sundry, including your ISP, anyone who is associated with a product or service you are promoting and possibly the local police and trading standards authorities as well.
Hence, your ISP closes your account, the people whose product you have been promoting for years cut you off and there is a very heavy knock on your front door.
So, have you really spammed these people? The answer is, probably not in the strictest technical sense, but they might have very good grounds for arguing that you have.More importantly, all of that time, effort and money that you have sunk into this campaign is completely wasted, because you haven’t made one single dollar from your efforts.
So, the moral of the story is, do not spam and do not even think about short cutting your business building efforts by buying a mailing list off someone else. Irrespective of how honest, legal and decent they might seem, using someone else’s mailing list is a recipe for disaster, not a recipe for making money.