Online marketing has been around since the beginning of the Internet. Although many firms have used it over the years, they often selected this approach more on the basis of low cost and personal preference than effectiveness. This no longer need be the case; online marketing can now be effective, too. Today there’s wide acceptance by prospective clients who use it in their own businesses. There’s also less concern about spam, and broadband coverage is universal among businesses
Bulk e-mailing, the oldest form of active online marketing, has gradually become better accepted and more effective. Anti-spam laws, firewalls, and filters have greatly diminished offensive and irrelevant messages (which can be fixed by storytelling for business). Moreover, many prospects and clients use this approach for their own marketing, and unsubscribe or opt-out links (required by law in the United States) are readily available. All these factors provide e-mail marketing with the legitimacy it previously lacked.
Bulk messaging software and services make mass transmissions easier and more effective, and they overcome the limitations of regular e-mailer clients (i.e., e-mail software). Two types, standalone programs and Webbased subscription services, are available. Pricing ranges from free to several hundred dollars depending on feature sets and the number of messages sent monthly from subscription services. It is a good idea to check with your Internet service provider (ISP) first if messages are to be sent using standalone software. To control spamming, many ISPs have limits on the number of messages they allow to be sent in a given period without special dispensation. (For home-based firms, sending bulk e-mails might require a commercial versus a residential service contract.)
Much more than with postal mailings, the major limitation to bulk e-mailings is the address list. Unlike postal addresses, which are public record, e-mail addresses are private and thus more difficult to come by legitimately. Lists are available to purchase and are inexpensive, but seldom are they the high-quality, targeted ones a firm desires. Organizations that freely sell members’ postal addresses rarely do the same for e-mail addresses. The upshot, at least for now, is that about the only way to get a good e-mail address list is to compile your own (opt-in) from clients and prospects who have contacted you.
As for what to include and when to send e-mailings, anything that shows or summarizes what a firm has recently been up to is appropriate—new projects, clients, personnel, awards, activities, and the like. So is any information or tips recipients would find useful. Probably the best strategy is to create an “e-newsletter” or “e-zine” containing interesting and informative material presented in a distinctive style and sent out on a regular basis, ideally every month.