Opt-In Email Marketing 101

SNA’s IMA webinar last week was a great primer for those interested in getting into email marketing. Mel Taylor, founder of Mel Taylor Media, a Philadelphia-based consultancy, presented a number of ideas for newspapers to consider when delving into this new revenue opportunity.

Mel Taylor, founder of Mel Taylor Media
Mel Taylor, founder of Mel Taylor Media

The Pros are many: It’s easy and inexpensive, you get an instant, measurable return, it allows you to drive people to your web site, it strengthens your brand, it’s customizable and email reaches virtually everyone. The Cons: Not having the resources, standards or a plan in place to make the most of your efforts.

Rule 1: You have to have a point person who will develop standards and work with department heads. This is critical because the database needs some TLC. Some of the things you have to think about — How it will be managed? How it will be cleaned/deduped? Was permission granted? How will you manage the number of emails sent? Are all the messages containing opt out opportunities to comply with SPAM laws?

The data you’re capturing is also very important. According to Taylor, “less is best” as people will give you a small amount of information, particularly if it doesn’t seem to infringe on privacy. The areas to capture: email address, first name, ZIP code, gender and age. Interestingly, Taylor mentions that people are willing to give more detail if the value is greater. For instance, if you’re giving away a car or a home, people may feel that it’s applicable to that particular prize to provide extended information.

Verification of this information is extremely important. A couple ways to make sure you’re receiving error-free information — have the person enter the email address twice — we’ve all had to do that at one time or another. Also, create a “double opt in” — this is where you opt in for something but have to do it again when the company sends you an email to verify that you want the service.

You may want to dabble and experiment with email but how do you get started? Taylor recommends starting with a free service like Mail Chimp that allows up to 500 subscribers for free and up to 3,000 emails a month without a charge. Other services out there include Constant Contact and iContact.

Remember to test, test and test again. Particularly because there are so many different email formats out there…AOL, Yahoo, Outlook, etc. — how that email appears in each system may be different. You don’t want someone to receive the dreaded box with an “x” in it.

Taylor suggests that you avoid punctuation, capitalization or anything like “Free” in the subject line that may attract a SPAM filter.

For more information on Opt-In Email Marketing, contact Mel Taylor at Mel@MelTaylorMedia.com or call (267) 625-5313.

About IMA

The Interactive Media Alliance (IMA) is an industry-wide initiative dedicated to providing members with timely information concerning all aspects of online publishing including content development, technical updates and advertising opportunities. The Interactive Media Alliance consists of publishers, editors, IT directors, new media developers and advertising personnel.

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Membership in the alliance will grant you not only access to a full year of IMA webinars, but also the recordings of all prior webinars since February 2008. Your membership also provides your newspaper or your group the opportunity for up to five different registrations for IMA webinars at the same cost as one member. For more information on IMA, contact Al Cupo, VP of Operations at al.cupo@suburban-news.org or call (215) 256-6801.