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MARKETING: E-mail Marketing
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altE-mail was one of the first uses of the Internet and it is still the most popular use, by far. 
 
E-mail marketing is a growing field within marketing and is becoming more popular across industries and so a larger portion of the marketing budget is allocated to the development and administration of e-mail marketing programs. E-mail marketing has become an increasingly effective way for companies to reach out and engage prospects. Simply put, it is directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using e-mail. It usually involves sending an ad, request business or solicit sales or donations. The main purpose of e-mail marketing is to increase sales, build loyalty, trust and brand awareness. 
 
The three main types of e-mail marketing
E-mail marketing strategies and tactics can vary but most of the activities fall into one of the following three categories:
- Acquisition: this is promotional e-mails sent to encourage potential customers to buy a product or service or to convince current customers to keep buying.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): this is regularly sent e-mails to strengthen the relationship between the business and the customers and encourage loyalty to a product or service.
- Newsletter/Promotional: this is advertisements for a product or service that are placed in e-mails sent by other people or companies (typically found in banners above or to the side of the e-mail’s body of text).
 
Best practices within e-mail marketing
Even though e-mail marketing has proven to be an effective marketing tool and its popularity is growing, there are some very important things to be aware of and to treat with the upmost respect. Otherwise, the company can end up hurting the company and the brand significantly. 
 
The following are some of the most common best practice advices given in the literature:
1) Knowing your company’s e-mail privacy policies. Many companies have formulated policies that govern the sending of e-mail. These policies should clearly state how you should use your customer’s data. The company’s policy should be clearly stated on the web site and in all e-mails that ask individuals for information. If the company does not have e-mail privacy policies, then set them up before starting any e-mail marketing program. 
2) Always gain permission. Opt-in e-mail marketing is an absolute must today. An individual opts in by specifically subscribing or registering to receive information from the company. 
3) Encourage ’legacy’ customers to opt-in. Unless you have obtained permission, you should not send marketing e-mails to names in your database gathered prior to permission gatherings. If you do, then stress the value of the future communication, indicate each item for which you are asking permission and provide clear and easy ‘unsubscribe’ options. Always keep the customer database up to date.
4) Provide valid ’to’ and ’from’ header addresses and accurate subject lines. Always let the receiver know who is communicating and state accurately the content of this communication. 
5) Proactively manage your bounces. Bounce management helps keep your data clean. An e-mail may bounce from an address for various legitimate reasons, such as a system’s temporary availability. To confirm this type of bounce, use your software system to resend the message more than once during a set time period. If the e-mail continues to bounce, mark the individual at that address and automatically unsubscribe the person. 
6) Include an easy, automated method to unsubscribe. In all marketing e-mails, include an obvious link to an unsubscribe page and make it easy to opt-out or change preferences. 
7) Follow up on complaints – quickly. When conducting e-mail campaigns expect that a number of people will reply to your message with a question, suggestion, complaint or some other interaction. You must have resources in place to respond to such communications. It can be beneficial to have an individual monitor responses and complaints and publish the policies on how complaints are managed.  
8) Buy or rent clean permission-based lists. It is best to use in-house permission based lists because you have no guarantees as to the integrity of rented or purchased lists. However, if you do rent or purchase a list, make sure it is ’clean’ by obtaining independent verification from the people listed, to make sure that they have given their permission for their information to be rented or sold. 
9) Be aware of new laws. Make sure you stay on top of the different legislations in the different countries in which you are operating. 
10) Use technology to help manage permissions. Technology can provide an easy, automated way for e-marketers to manage permission marketing. There are a number of products available to effectively implement and manage permission based e-mail practices. Furthermore, products to build and manage customer profiles are available. Here users have access to their profiles and can update them at any time and marketers have confidence that their e-mail campaigns are going to users who have given permission. Through segmentation and profiling, these solutions can deliver personalised e-mails based on the user profile and test offers and other variables to find out what works for certain customers. 
11) Ability of E-mails to identify themselves. Any e-mail sent to customers or potential customers needs to identify itself as an advertisement.
 
altWarnings – e-mail scams
E-mail marketing is proven to drive better returns for marketers and deliver more targeted, relevant content to recipients; however, the news is not all good. There are still businesses that continue to distribute unsolicited, irrelevant e-mail at a cost to the recipient. Spam is an intrusive and sloppy marketing tool that does not take advantage of e-mails strongest capability. 
 
In many cases, avoiding e-mail scams and internet fraud can be achieved by being aware of the different methods that scam artists use. Here are some prime examples of e-mail scams along with tips on how to avoid becoming a victim:
1) Phishing. This scam involves thieves trolling the internet with fake e-mails, web sites, chat rooms and other devices while illegally using the names of trusted financial brands in an attempt to convince victims to divulge personal information such as credit card or social security number. 
2) Money handling. This scam involves recruiting a third party to receive funds stolen through another e-mail scam into an account before then transferring the money overseas, minus a commission. 
3) Lottery scams. Potential victims are notified via e-mail that they have won a large prize in a foreign lottery. In most cases, the victim is asked to provide either an up-front fee, or bank account or social security number so that the lottery can transfer the money.
4) Internet auction scams. In this case, scam artists pick victims from those using sites such as eBay. They contact those bidding by e-mail asking to work with them outside the auction to make a deal. As usual, the perpetrator asks for payment up front, often in cash.
 
E-mail marketing in China – standard rules do not apply
All of the above is important to know and is valid information going into the Chinese market of e-mail marketing. However, as with many other topics, there are some things to be aware of, which differ in China compared to other markets. 
 
In short, China has less developed anti-spam technologies, greater volume of mailboxes, different tech specs, more involved parties (consumers, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and the government), strict advertising rules and culturally sensitive content related issues. In order to succeed in China, with e-mail marketing programs it is recommended to invest in relationships. Make time to meet and develop good personal relationships with leading ISPs (e.g. mailbox partners). Localising the e-mail marketing material is very important; make sure your website, landing pages and any other links you use are in local language. Make sure not to pick a date where everyone is on vacation, or that the colour scheme, use of numbers (lucky and unlucky), symbols etc is culturally appropriate. On the technical side, it is being recommended to set up the e-mail servers in China, so that you do not have to go through an international gateway, and following local anti-spam and advertising legislation. 
 
To complicate matters even more, recent surveys have shown that the number of advertisement related e-mails that are opened and even delivered are very low and getting even lower. Both relevance and permissions will help improve these numbers.

By  Heidi Skovhus
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