Kevin Holland describes the pros and cons of e-mail marketing for the ACCA convention attendees.
NEW ORLEANS - Kevin Holland said there are smart ways to market your business via e-mail - and some not-so-smart ways. The latter could be very damaging to business. Holland, vice president of Communications and Membership Services for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), gave some pointers to his audience at ACCA's 36th Annual Conference and Indoor Air Expo.

"When done wrong, e-mail marketing can do irreparable harm," he said. "You can lose a potential customer forever."

Holland said that any kind of uninvited e-mail is very obtrusive and it doesn't have to contain any type of explicit graphics or verbiage to be deemed inappropriate. To emphasize his point he pulled out a can of Spam, the popular lunchmeat.

"Spam e-mail violates the personal space of users," he stated. "Make sure you ask your customers if they would provide their e-mail addresses and tell them why you need the addresses."

He said that uninvited e-mail simply does not work, and recommends contacting only those people who voluntarily provide their e-mail addresses.

Do not send "one-shot e-mails," which go out one time only and show no continuity. Maintain a consistent communication without trying to sell something, Holland advises.

Holland said that when done right, e-mail can work well for customer retention. This can be done by being an information source and by "engaging people to react."

He added that if you choose to send out an e-mail newsletter, it should come from a person, not a company. "It sounds like an ad if it comes from a company," Holland said. "And personalize the greeting."

Holland suggests maintaining consistency by sending out a monthly newsletter. "If it is quarterly, they might forget about you," he said.

Other e-mail newsletter tips include keeping it brief and providing links to your own Web site. Holland also recommends providing some type of coupon for e-mail newsletter readers only.

Holland said that e-mail marketing allows the sender to instantly track the e-mail and learn who read it, when they read it, and if the person clicked through to other pages or links.

He warned attendees that if they use terms like "free" and "limited time only" - especially in all capital letters - many spam filters will read those words in the subject line and block the e-mail from getting to the recipient.

Publication date: 05/03/2004