ICS Magazine

Why E-mail Marketing Is So Wonderful

May 14, 2008

E-mail marketing is wonderful. It's cheap, it's super effective and you can use it to keep in touch with your most valuable asset: your prospects and clients. You can send professional-looking e-mails to your client base for very little cost. There are even some companies that allow you to send mass e-mails for free.

But before you can take advantage of this great cost effective tool, there are a few things you need to know about e-mail marketing to keep yourself out of trouble.

According to the Can Spam Act of 2003, you are allowed to e-mail someone you are in a client relationship with. When you e-mail, the subject of the e-mail must be relevant to the body of the e-mail. No deceptive information can be in the e-mail. Your physical address must appear in the e-mail. And, you must provide an automated way for the client to opt-out of your list.

Opt-in means to sign up for an e-mail list. Opt-out means to leave an e-mail list. Once someone asks to leave your list, you can't e-mail them any longer or you violate the Can Spam Act.

The process of opting out should be automated. An automated opt-out would mean giving your client the ability to click a button in order to get off your e-mail list.

Although I don't know of any cleaning companies who have been slapped with a fine yet, it has happened in other industries. The Federal Trade Commission can issue a fine of up to $11,000 and violations may even lead to imprisonment in some extreme cases.

(See the FTC Web site for complete information on the CAN SPAM Act.)

The good news is, there are companies who create most of this stuff for you for very little money. You can even get a free e-mail service at www.Zookoda.com. Some fee-based companies include www.ConstantContact.com, www.IContact.com and www.Aweber.com .

Another big consideration in choosing an e-mail marketing service is how users can opt-in. With a service like Aweber or Zookoda, you can automatically add clients to your list. However, they'll need to click a response link to verify their e-mail. If they don't respond to the first e-mail, they won't get on your list. This is called a double opt-in. The user is required to opt-in twice.

Constant Contact and IContact gives the ability for single opt-in. In other words, the user can opt-in on your Web site and not have to respond to an e-mail. As well, you can put the e-mails of your current clients on your list. Your client won't need to respond to an initial e-mail to get on the list. The one major drawback with single opt-in is, an average of 25 percent of your e-mails never get delivered. Even so, single opt-in is arguably best for cleaning businesses.

Once you're set up with an e-mail marketing or autoresponder service, there are three great ways to get e-mail marketing to work for you:

Put up an opt-in box on your website for prospects to sign up on your e-mail list. You should give web surfers a good incentive like a free report, promise for future special offers, or a discount off their next cleaning. Above your opt-in box, put something like, "Sign up for our e-newsletter now and get a $35 coupon good for your next cleaning."

When the prospect comes to your site, you catch her attention by making an offer to get her to opt-in to your e-mail list. If she opts in, you have verifiable proof through your e-mail marketing company that she wants to receive your e-mail. Now you have legal rights to e-mail her under the conditions of the Can Spam Act, even if she's never used your service.

Get e-mail addresses from your clients as they book an appointment. When they book, simply ask them if they'd like to receive special offers from you via e-mail. Now this is a little bit of a gray area, but according to the Can Spam Act of 2003, you are allowed to send e-mail to clients with whom you already have a relationship. But you still have to follow the Can Spam Act rules.

Get the e-mails of clients on your database. Simply mention you have an online presence or e-newsletter. Give them an incentive, like a dollar amount off their next cleaning, if they go to your Web site and opt-in.

A word of warning:  Sending a mass e-mail on your own through Microsoft Outlook to prospects or even your current clients is a violation of the Can Spam Act. This is because you can't set up an automated opt-out with Outlook. To keep things legal, use an e-mail marketing system.

Start collecting e-mail addresses from clients and prospects now. You'll reap the rewards of easy, cost-effective marketing.