By Ryan Allis
For the last 100 years, companies have relied on traditional advertising in the form of catchy jingles, TV commercials, billboards, print ads in newspapers and magazines, direct mail, hot air balloons, and waving mascots. The technique is to interrupt a radio listener, TV viewer, or magazine reader with an attention grabbing ad that compels the consumer to buy the company's product or at least have the product closer to the forefront of his or her mind next time the individual is making a buying decision.
In most instances, advertising is acceptable to the consumer. Most people don't mind seeing ads while watching television, listening to the radio, or reading magazines-or at least they understand that these ads are necessary in order to receive the content they are seeing, reading, or hearing. While technologies like TiVo, DVR, and satellite radio are challenging advertisers to come up with new methods of advertising, other technologies such as Internet television require users to watch a 30-second advertisement prior to the start of a show. The point is, as long as value is provided, consumers will be willing to be exposed to a few advertisements.
This same axiom holds true online. As long as your web site provides content that people value, visitors will continue returning to the site even if there are a few banner ads or Google AdWords boxes within the page layout. While some web sites, such as WSJ.com, have successfully switched to a subscription-based model, many more web sites rely on banner, box, skyscraper, and contextual advertisements to earn the bulk of their income.
The same axiom, that as long as value is provided, consumers will be willing to be exposed to a few advertisements, also holds true with email. As long as one provides value-whether by providing content on a topic a recipient is interested in or a discount off a product related to one purchased previously-people will allow you to continue to contact them. Each and every email you send of course contains your logo, information on your products and services, and links to your web sites. These items are the advertising and should be surrounded on all sides by the items which make the communication actually add value to the lives of your readers.
Spam however, by its very nature, breaks the axiom. Unsolicited bulk email very rarely has any value. Spam is usually irrelevant, always impersonal, and rarely helpful. Everyone with an email inbox knows how aggravating it is to sort through forty new emails to only find two that are from persons you know. While spam may make money for persons in Eastern Europe promoting fake drugs, I feel strongly that sending spam will always have a net negative impact on any legitimate organization.
For this reason, we strongly recommend only sending permission-based email, also known as opt-in email. Permission-based email marketing can be an extremely effective way to increase visitor-to-sale conversion rates, build strong relationships with your customers, and turn your one-time buyers into lifetime product evangelizers who recommend your organization to everyone they know. Permission-based email marketing allows companies to develop and sustain relationships with their prospects and consumers by creating value. Permission marketing is about "turning strangers into friends and friends into customers" as Seth Godin likes to say.
The nature of permission marketing-building a relationship with a prospect or expanding the relationship with an existing customer over time-allows you to concentrate on the prospects and customers who are really interested in what you have to sell and are more than willing to become repeat customers.