Spam is any message that you send electronically to lots of people who have not specifically requested mail from you -- in other words, junk email. Like a telemarketing call during dinner, spam almost always annoys, and sometimes offends, those who receive it. Though sending spam may result in a sale or two in the short run, it will almost surely damage your reputation, so it's best to stay clear of it. There are many better ways to use email to keep in touch with current and potential customers. Here are a few of them:
- Invite people to subscribe to an email newsletter instead of sending unsolicited emails. Have a sign-up form on your website and explain that you'll send only timely, informative email to subscribers.
- Include late-breaking, useful information in the email you send to subscribers. Because it can be delivered so quickly, email is a perfect vehicle for alerting people who are already part of your community to new and interesting developments. Even a modestly self-serving message will go over well if you package it with enough truly unique and valuable content.
- Make it easy to quit receiving email. Every message should include brief, friendly instructions for getting off your mailing list. Even people who keep subscribing will appreciate knowing that you've made it easy for them to say, "Enough already!" when the time comes.
Here are a couple of good email newsletter examples. Both are basically promotional, but their content is so interesting that each has collected tens of thousands of volunteer subscribers. And of course, that's what we all want to do! To see these emails, go to the authors' websites and subscribe.
- Web Marketing Today (www.wilsonweb.com) is a free weekly email from Ralph Wilson, who sells design and marketing services to people who own and operate websites. This newsletter combines Ralph's gentle self-promotion with useful information about developing and promoting websites. And the newsletter always includes links to free, in-depth articles posted at Ralph's site.
- Web Reference Update (www.webreference.com/new) is a free email newsletter from Andy King who offers technical services to website developers. It offers short, newsletter-style articles, and each one is hyperlinked to more detailed information posted at websites, including Andy's and others. You could spend 20 seconds or 20 minutes reading Andy's emails, depending on how much of the linked information you want to explore.
To Learn More
For commonsense solutions and guidance on marketing your business, see Running a Side Business: How to Create a Second Income, by Richard Stim and Lisa Guerin (Nolo).