Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Bulk E-Mail Doesn't Have to Be Spam. (Personal Computing)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Bulk E-Mail Doesn't Have to Be Spam. (Personal Computing)

Article excerpt

E-mail is a hugely successful phenomenon, letting ordinary people communicate with far more people using far less effort than any previous communications medium. But this facility has its dark side--the incessant bombardment of e-mail in-boxes with ads for illegal "Make Money Fast" pyramid schemes, pornographic Web sites, quack healthcare remedies and other come-ons.

As a result, some people misguidedly regard all bulk e-mail as "spare," a derogatory term for untargeted, unsolicited bulk e-mail. But if you flip the spam concept on its head, you have a powerful tool you can use to reach a lot of people quickly and inexpensively, for business as well as personal purposes.

To make it work, you keep the bulk part--sending many messages out. But instead of flinging out untargeted missives, you target your messages to the interests of your recipients. And instead of heaving them unsolicited--this is the crucial part--you ask your recipients' permission before encroaching upon their e-mail in-boxes. You make sure they "opt in."

One of the best uses for opt-in bulk e-mail is e-mail newsletters. But as with bulk e-mail in general, there are pitfalls here as well as promises. To sort out one from the other, I talked to the queen of e-newsletters, Debbie Weil. Along with running her own Washington-based consulting business that specializes in helping businesses set up e-newsletters, Weil publishes her own, WordBiz Report, at .

"The biggest mistake business people make with e-newsletters is thinking like a promoter, not a publisher," Weil says. "Hypey, direct-response writing doesn't work with e-mail newsletters. It's a turnoff."

Even if your objective is marketing, you need to provide information that's useful to your recipients, not to yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of typical recipients. Provide them with substantive, accurate and comprehensive information that meets their needs, and present it in a lively fashion.

"If you blast out gaudy graphics and promotional copy that shouts, `Check out the widget we have for sale this month!' the response you'll receive is, `So what!' "Well says. "People are tired of e-mail promotions jamming e-mail in-boxes."

Whether you send your e-newsletter to customers or prospects, if you do it right by being truly useful, it will be time-consuming. That's why Well doesn't recommend doing it more than once a month.

She also recommends keeping e-newsletter issues short, no longer than 1,000 words. …

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