Believe it or not, people responded to this new-fangled idea, and the campaign generated around $13 million in sales for DEC - and with a resounding Ka-Ching, the bread-and-butter of the digital marketing world was born.
Since then, the popularity of email mass marketing has only grown, and with the majority of companies (whatever their size or speciality) attempting to grab a sliver of online-audience pie, email marketing is here to stay.
The very simplicity of sending an email to a mass audience is what makes it so appealing to marketers (both professional and amateur), but simplicity is also what makes it so important to do it right and so easy to get it wrong.
Websites, social media, and even traditional print media represent a "broadcast" method - send your message out as widely as possible and hope to snap up a few customers in the process. An email or newsletter is different.
In a digital age, your inbox is your digital "safe space", carefully curated and reserved for private use. The act of direct email marketing is an intrusion into someone's space (they probably don't even remember signing up), and you'd better make that intrusion worth their while if you don't want to lose their attention for good.
Social media is casual and conversational - anybody in your company can handle a Facebook page with little difficulty. Emails and newsletters are more formal, and you can take it from us, they have to be perfect each and every time. After all, "Unsubscribe" is just a click away, and it's permanent.
Here are our top seven reasons you should leave your direct mass emailing to the professionals instead of taking it on yourself:
- Following the rules
Gone are the days when you could spew out spam like the digital equivalent of projectile vomiting. Every country has a stringent set of rules governing your behaviour when it comes to reaching out to mass audiences online. It is critical that, before you fire off your mailers, you read and understand the legal nuts 'n bolts of South Africa's spam laws.
Handing your mass emailing over to a professional agency ensures that your company adheres to rules you've probably never even heard of, and cements your company's reputation as a professional and law-abiding entity.
- Tracking and statistics
The whole point of your email campaign is to reach more people and forge stronger customer relationships. If you don't have access to statistics and reports about your emails, you're flying blind. Professional email marketers are able to provide you with valuable insights, allowing you to hone your message with each new mailer that goes out, and to test its performance.
- Formatting and design
Graphic emails catch eyes. Depending on your industry, good images and beautiful formatting can mean the difference between enjoyment and annoyance. Even though Outlook claims to be able to send perfectly formatted HTML and text messages, there are no guarantees your formatting will look the same once it gets to the other side. A professional email marketer bases their reputation on being able to do this correctly, every time.
- Database management
If you've got hundreds or thousands of names in your database, keeping your contacts' details up to date can become an impossible task for the average Joe or Jane. Manual updating takes hours, and is a recipe for typos and other human errors, but professional marketers make use of sophisticated data management solutions designed to automate your database's "housekeeping" needs.
- Protecting your contacts' privacy
The need and desire for greater online privacy is a hot-button topic at the moment, and many people view unsolicited marketing emails (quite rightly) as an affront to that privacy, as well as an infringement of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI). Customers are likely to be far more trusting if you are able to guarantee that their details are safeguarded and used only as promised. Signing a deal with a professional marketing firm will provide both you and your prospective clients with peace of mind and the knowledge that their information is safe.
- Device compatibility
The percentage of South Africans who access the internet via a mobile device is estimated to be over 85%, and is growing rapidly with the ever-decreasing prices of mobile technology. Emails and newsletters designed to be read on desktop computers often create a serious problem when opened on a mobile device, a problem only a seasoned professional would know how to tackle. With most people reading emails on their phones within seconds of receiving them, the last thing you want is difficulty navigating, broken images and a messy layout. Professional marketers check and recheck each email they send out and ensure compatibility with a wide range of both desktop and mobile devices.
One of the greatest advantages of a well-managed database is the unique insight you have into the nature of your prospective clients. An email greeting the recipient by name is sure to grab attention, and tailoring your content for relevance to those particular groups is a proven way to generate better results.
With your company's reputation at stake, reaching out to potential customers by email can be a make-or-break influence in your marketing strategy. With "block sender" and "unsubscribe" literally a click away, an amateurish emailer (affordable as it may be), will most likely end up hitting your pocket in a very real way.