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What you include in your e-mail to customers can help you. It can also kill you.....

See also - your web site, net start-ups, bizplan,  web design


Direct marketers have known about and exploited the advantages of mailing lists in the real world for years with enormous success.

It's a simple fact of life that people need an occasional gentle reminder to keep them interested. Modern life is too noisy and too hectic for people to remember you without one.

The situation on the Net is the same, with one marked difference. Running an e-mail list is essentially free.

If you run a small business or Net start-up the implications of this are staggering.

The costs associated with marketing a product using aggressive techniques like direct mailings were always one of the barriers that prevented small business from competing with larger corporations.

Add up printer's costs, postage and the cost of buying a mailing list from an information vendor - and you have a proposition that could easily run you into the tens of thousands of dollars if you try to do it the old school way.

E-mail lists are probably the most cost-effective and high impact method of advertising your web site that exists.

Using a service like Listbot, which provides mailing list capabilities to web sites and individuals free of charge, you can hold down expenses and reach the target audience that really counts - the people who visit your web site.

Done properly a good mailing list can publicize your site as effectively as a prime time tv spot. Over time this can mean tens or even hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to your web site.

The key to exploiting this opportunity is understanding how such lists work and how people react to them.

The first mistake many people make is assuming that users will read anything that comes into the inbox.

This is untrue.

Net users are by and large some of the more sophisticated people you might happen to meet. On the whole, they're better educated, better informed, and better able to see through amateurish attempts to manipulate them than the general public as a whole.

This means you're going have to appeal to their intelligence if you want to communicate effectively with them. Or you going to have to offer them something they really want. Either way, you can't afford to irritate them in such a way that they grow to hate you - a mistake made by a surprisingly high number of apparently clueless corporations and web marketers.

When you get right down to it, people are interested in only one thing.

(well...o.k. make that two things).

Sex and Information.

Unless you plan on sending your subscribers a kinky jpeg every week, you're going to need to provide them with information that they find at least marginally useful, or interesting, or informative in some way.

It's been said that the average web surfer will leave a web site in under five seconds if they don't see what they're looking for or something that really catches their eye.

The margin for error in your email is even smaller. When you're first starting out, you have about one second to get your point accross. That's the amount of time it takes a reader to process the subject line of your message.

This is where most people blow it.

With public attitudes towards spam and blatant advertising pitches overwhelmingly negative, you cannot afford to include anything in your header that even remotely sounds like a come on. Otherwise, you'll be deleted eight times out of ten. People will simply assume you're just another scumbag who's just discovered e-mail.

Even if you are trying to sell something, you should think very carefully about what you include here. Try to use something that's straight forward and to the point without being off putting.

Above all, (if you're up to taking advice on a topic like this from a guide named after a fictional cartoon creature that looks a lot like a bug) don't take yourself too seriously.

Sprinkle in a little humor.

Mix up your content with annectdotes and quotes. Remember, it will take time to build a solid list.

That leaves plenty of room for the occasional mistake - don't be afraid to make them.

Graze over to Listbot

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