Four common e-mail marketing misconceptions

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Talk to enough marketers, said John Arnold, regional development director for e-mail service provider Constant Contact, and you’ll hear some pretty outlandish ideas. Arnold, who is the author of “E-Mail Marketing for Dummies” and teaches business owners how to effectively use e-mail marketing, said he often walks away from seminars shaking his head.

“I put a stat up on the board and hands go up questioning what I’ve said,” he said. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to e-mail marketing.” Here are four of the most common things he said people are still getting wrong.

1) Misconception: The reason to use e-mail is because it’s cheap.

Reality: The reason to use e-mail is not because it’s cheap, but because it creates revenue, Arnold said. E-mail marketing returns far more than a dollar for every dollar spent, he said. In fact, the DMA says e-mail returned $57.25 for every dollar spent in the fourth quarter of 2006. "The truth is e-mail works, and it works so well it beats out every other type of advertising,” Arnold said.

2) Misconception: You can build your list and get new customers by e-mailing total strangers.

Reality: You would think that by now this misconception would have been put out to pasture, but that’s just not the case, Arnold said. “I’ve always got people quoting CAN-SPAM back at me during the sessions telling me that if someone bought something from them five years ago they should be able to market to them, or that they are a member of the local chamber of commerce so they can market to everyone on that list. I always tell people that spam is in the eye of the beholder.”

Bottom line: Businesspeople and consumers alike hate spam. E-mailing total strangers will result in disgruntled recipients, spam complaints and decreased deliverability.

3) Misconception: Only 20% to 25% of commercial e-mail gets opened and read.

Reality: “E-mail opens are only trackable when the reader enables images to display or clicks a link. People can read e-mails without enabling images in their e-mail account. A better test of whether people are responding to e-mail is to track click-throughs, which is a real indication of action, and to use a sender reputation service to test for deliverability,” he said.

Arnold suggested watching your open rates over time; one-time deliverability rates are rarely indicative of the success of your marketing program. In addition, make sure there’s a call to action in every message you send.

4) Misconception: You want to send as much information in an e-mail as possible so everyone who gets your messaging will find something that interests them.

Reality: “I call this the spray-and-pray approach,” Arnold said. “A better strategy is to send very short, very targeted e-mails that contain two-sentence paragraph summaries and links to a longer story. E-mail newsletters are not like a paper newsletter that’s going to sit there all month and act like reference material. People want to read e-mail and press delete.”

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