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When Opt-in Direct Email Doesn't Pay          Print the current page
by Brian D. Chmielewski

Just as it is true that a man is only as good as his word, it is also true that opt-in email lists are only as good as their subscribers. Audited demographics are used as the benchmark for spending in most postal mail campaigns, so why is it that the facility of direct email has yet to identify with the importance of deepening understanding of who is being reached. The answer is in the numbers. Large quantities of subscribers are a way to boast about marketing prowess and tempt advertising dollars to be spent on sending announcements to that list. Here are some additional numbers: 82% have been spammed and over 50 percent of people have more than one email address. It seems that Internet users abandon email addresses quite periodically too, not canceling them as they move on. However, the numbers game doesnít always pay off. Here are some facts about the opt-in direct email industry that you may have overlooked, but should be aware of if youíre going to participate in it.

Acquisition Location and Targeting
The location chosen for acquiring lists can devitalize its gross effectiveness even before a single message is mailed. This is not as true with lists garnered from oneís own web site, assuming the list topic corresponds to the siteís niche, but when a list broker reaches out to other sites to acquire subscribers, list quality has the potential to decline. Letís suppose a list broker places banners throughout an affiliate network or on a free web site network. By nature, the traffic to these sites is comprised of people who are looking for free products or services or for an opportunity to make money without having to make an investment. After one year of acquiring email addresses throughout the Internet from these types of sites, the list owner now has a legitimate opt-in list of people who have registered for updates on everything from Internet services to financial services to real estate and travel vacations. Targeting these recipients by category simply because they have opted to receive information may not improve the chances for a marketing message to convert to sales. This is why the location where a listís names are gathered is pivotal in reaching the types of people who make online purchases.

Acquisition Method and Targeting
The model for subscribing and removing names to an opt-in list is also vital. Communicating clearly the intent of the types of mailings to be received improves the likelihood that list subscribers will get what they are asking for and that advertisers are closely matching their messages with recipient requests. For the business that has a tightly-defined demographic, lists that only obtain email addresses can be problematic. Hereís a method for choosing wisely:

1. To determine the real demographic capabilities of a list, visit itís subscription form to find out how they qualify their audience. The more related the demographic questions being asked to your email campaign, the better you should be able to perform in targeting your audience.

2. Lists that allow multiple methods for a subscriber to opt-off the list are probably more accurate in the numbers of subscribers that they allege. Sending your message to a subscriber who cannot be effectively removed from a list will obviously not benefit your bottom line. Look for a remove email address and/or a form for subscribers to choose an active or inactive status.

3. Join the list yourself and test it.

You should be careful when using lists that have one or several checkboxes pre-selected on a subscription form. On the fast-paced Web, people often overlook this and unintentionally add themselves to a mailing list. If you are thinking about building your own list, act ethically and donít pre-select checkboxes.

List Composition and Sales
Advertising and marketingís main thrust is to drive sales. If an advertiser wants to make a sale via opt-in or spam lists, then they should know in advance if the recipient has the economic means to afford the product or service being solicited. Messages sent to a users work email address or to student may fall on deaf ears. And with the recent and swelling tide of free Internet tools - free PCís, free hosting and free dial-up connections - your advertising message could be viewed by a person without the disposable income to buy your product.

Crafting an effective message
Marketers have covered this topic to the point of hyperbole. Rather than re-write some of my old prose, Iíve elected to share some statistics that come straight from the mouths of end users to help you in understanding who youíre writing to. Since messages attempt to sell different products and services to distinct groups of people on the Web, each of you may come away with a different experience from these numbers.

Q. What are the main reasons you use the web when purchasing products/services?

Reasonpercent
Convenience21.0
Save Time18.8
Vendor Info18.7
No Pressure16.0

Q. I like receiving mass electronic mailings.

Reasonpercent
Disagree Strongly75.9
Disagree Somewhat14.4
Neither Agree or Disagree5.4
Agree Somewhat 2.3

Q. Complete the following statement. Most of the time upon receiving a mass mailing, IÖ

Answerpercent
read the message3.7
delete it 64.0
send it back12.3
retaliate in some manner3.0
I have not received any mass mailings9.1

A FINAL NOTE
Donít feel bad if you didnít recognize these points about direct email before. The industry doesnít readily observe or acknowledge these weaknesses in public. When you see claims that 'direct email is the e-marketing tool of the future,í know that it could be if we take the necessary precautions now to grow this industry properly and steadily.

Knowing these truths to be self- evident, if you are going to use the direct email medium successfully, keep your message short, keep your price point under US $20 and market your message consistently. This is your best approach to accommodate recipients at the lowest common denominator - those who skim messages, who have little disposable income and who want to know that youíre legitimate and not a fly-by-night business.

Want to learn more? Stay tuned to uPromote Marketer or earn university accreditation from uPromote by successfully completing the Certified Internet Marketer Workshop.

If youíre interested in Opt-in Email, take a look at the uPromote Messenger Service.