The Fine Line between Internet Marketing and Spam

Savvy business owners who take advantage of Internet marketing realize there is a fine line between marketing and spam and orchestrate their marketing campaigns to gain the maximum amount of exposure without running the risk of being viewed as spam. The definition of spam is open to interpretation but most people agree on the fact that spam is equivalent to junk mail you receive at your residence.

In general spam is unsolicited emails which are part of an advertising campaign. The term spam can also apply to message board postings which are posted solely for advertising purposes. This article will examine the differences between effective Internet marketing and spam.

First we will consider the use of message boards for the purpose of Internet marketing. Message boards are essentially online meeting places for Internet users who share a particular interest to exchange ideas, ask or answer questions or just socialize. These message boards allow users to register and post messages. Most message boards have a set of guidelines which the users must follow when posting comments of any kind. These guidelines may vary widely with some being very strict about acceptable content and others not being nearly as strict.

It is important to follow these guidelines because failure to do so may result in the moderators deleting your account and other members not paying much attention to your posts.

Message boards are ideal for Internet marketing because they can provide a business owner with access to a specialized target audience. If you are in the business for finding jobs for employees who wish to telecommute, you might join a message board dedicated to working from home to find members who may be interested in your products. Here you may learn a great deal about the concerns of your target audience.

You can also take advantage of available permissions to post links to your website when appropriate and in accordance with message board guidelines. This is considered smart Internet marketing. However, if you opt to respond to each and every post with a link to your website, even when it is not relevant and do not offer comments of value to other members, they are likely to view your posts as spam which can be damaging because these members may opt to avoid your website even if they have a need for your services.

E-newsletters and email advertising are one area of Internet marketing which is most likely to be viewed as spam if not done properly. Most Internet users to not appreciate unsolicited emails especially when these emails do not pertain to a subject that interests them. This is often the case when business owners buy email lists and send their advertisements to everyone on the list. This is not effective because you are not likely to reach a large population of your target audience.

Additionally, recipients of the email may block your email address so future communications are automatically sent to a spam folder. Some recipients may even report you to their Internet service provider who may investigate the claim that you are a spammer. A better way to approach the concept of email marketing is to only send e-newsletters and advertisements to past customers who have specifically asked to receive such emails and potential customers who have requested additional information.

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When Email Marketing Yields Unexpectedly Great Results

The basic concept

Sometimes the benefits of email marketing are quite different than anticipated. Most Web marketers understand the basic concept of email marketing which is to email promotional materials to a large group of Internet users in an effort to promote interest in particular products or services. This concept is easy for many to understand, but we will attempt to describe and, perhaps, elaborate on a few of the more beneficial aspects of email marketing.

In the following paragraphs we discuss the basics of email marketing, but we will also explain how – sometimes – email marketing can encompass much more than originally planned. This additional reach can be either a positive or negative influence depending on the quality of original emails and the reactions of subscriber list recipients.

Simple & cost effective

Email marketing is a very simple concept which can also be extremely cost effective; but the general idea behind email marketing can be narrowed down to this simple characterization: An email is sent to an email subscription (or distribution) list with the single purpose of creating an interest in the products or services being offered by the originator of that email. In theory this concept could not be simpler but email marketing can get significantly more complicated when being implemented.

One of the biggest complicating factors is the potential for emails used in a marketing campaign occur when one or more of those emails are misinterpreted as spam, either recipient of such emails or a spam filter provided by the Internet service provider. This potential alone creates a major complication because Web marketers have to make a significant effort to ensure that their messages are not trapped by a spam filter or immediately deleted by the recipients for appearing to be spam.

After clearing initial hurdle

Once the misinterpretation hurdle is cleared and email messages get through to recipients, they have a small window of opportunity to make a positive impression on those recipients and influence them to make a purchase or at least visit the business owner’s website. One effective method of getting such a result is to provide quality content while keeping advertising subtle and at a minimum while making sure to feature a clear call to action. These are all factors which have been proven to help get the message across and entice potential customers to make a purchase or at least visit a website to get a closer look at those products and services.

As previously stated the goal of an email marketing campaign is to subtlely persuade email recipients to either make a purchase or visit a particular website for more detailed information; and when an email recipient performs either of these actions, it is considered a huge success. However, thanks to the power of a forward button, email marketing can actually be much more successful than even the business owner intended.

Better than word-of-mouth

One of the great aspects of email marketing becomes evident when email recipients receive an email that they think is worthwhile and are likely to make a purchase, but may also forward the same information on to a friend or family member they believe may also be interested in learning more about the particular product or service. This ability to forward email messages can be compared to satisfied customers in the offline world using word of mouth to tout the quality of products or services they have bought and like.

However, the ability to forward a worthwhile email message is exponentially more effective than using word of mouth to spread the word; because with just a few clicks of the mouse the original email recipient can forward any message to several of his/her friends simultaneously. This can result in significantly better results than the business owner had originally expected with no additional effort and time being exerted or money being spent.

Key to Building a Subscriber List: Trust!

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Trust earned begets loyalty

Let me begin by saying that there are many elements of a home-based business that are specific to that business type in the same way that there are those elements of a Web-based business that are specific to that business type; but there is a set of elements shared by both business types in today’s business landscape and many of those common elements have been discussed in many of the posts of this site. One such element is trust.

While the rest of the world have developed many barriers and protections to keep their email accounts spam-free, there are also those who subscribe to emails that promote their products, services and websites because this particular group of subscribers want to know more about what these sites are offering that may be beneficial for them. They subscribe because they wish to be kept informed about marketplace aspects that interest them as well as new trends and developments in the field they’ve chosen.

Most businesses would be fortunate to have this type of subscriber as representative of their customer base; but attracting and cultivating such subscribers would require the business to demonstrate the one basic element needed to do so. That element is trust. However, it is a known fact – offline as well as online – that before consumers will entrust a business with their time, information and money they must first know and like that business. Only then will consumers trust the business, after which they will reward it with their loyalty.

Enhanced security steps

This is evidenced by the fact that many internet users have gone to great lengths to protect their email accounts from spam mail, supported by the steps taken by some free-mail internet providers and internet service providers (ISPs) to offer spam protection while others incorporated the added step of screening the incoming emails of their users. These considerate and well meaning steps taken by the free-mail providers and ISPs have led businesses and email marketers to adopt guidelines set forth by the CAN-SPAM Act and require anyone wanting emailed information to authorize such emails by providing their name and email address via an “opt-in” (subscriber) Web form.

An opt-in or subscriber email list therefore consists of members who have agreed to receive email sent by the business or email marketer which might contain promotional material such as newsletters, catalogs and marketing media which should be permitted through by ISPs (although some are still held up). When intended recipients are able to read and view email sent by the business it is considered a successful transfer of information; but it starts with securing the trust of internet users not previously known to the business, and vice-versa.

Credibility begets trust

The entire process of getting consumers to know, like and trust you and your business is no doubt a huge accomplishment and, in the realm of Web marketing, major achievement; but it is worth every minute spent in doing so. That having been said the following paragraphs provide a few suggestions as well as some steps a business – both Web-based and home-based – can take to gain the trust of potential list members.

Although described above as a process it does not mean that getting the trust of website visitors should not be too difficult a task, especially if you have a legitimate business; because part of getting your customers’ trust is undoubtedly based upon your expertise, and people tend to rely on professionals who know what they are talking about. So demonstrating credible knowledge, trends and industry norms about the business you chose is a good first step in getting consumers to pay attention to your business; and if you are not yet in an established business, a display of such know-how and industry savvy could go a long way toward that objective.

Put another way, show your prospective subscribers and customers that you know what you are talking about by provide them with helpful hints and guidelines that pertain to what you are promoting and/or selling. Talk about how to install a roof if you’re into hardware products, or provide articles on insurance settlements if you’re a settlement lawyer. You don’t have to be a big corporation to make use of an subscriber list. If your customers see you as someone who knows what s/he is doing and saying, they will trust you quicker than otherwise.

Trust builds reputation

Be true to your customers in the sense that if you want to hype your products/services it enhances your credibility to provide guarantees, because the more satisfied your customers are the more of a probability that they will recommend you to others; and those recommendations and referrals would help to build your reputation in the marketplace since it is a known fact that most people tend to trust someone they know and when that someone recommends you there is a greater probability that you’ll be more of an acceptable choice. Some of these recommended folks will go to your site just to check it for themselves and others will go to make a purchase.

Another tip in getting a customer to trust you quickly is to provide them an escape out of any agreement or contract they signed with you. This shows them that you are not there to trap them into something they really don’t want. A good example of how to do this is by providing a link at the bottom of each email you send that would enable them to unsubscribe anytime they want. In addition you can modify your web form by providing information on how to unsubscribe from the list. Guarantee them that they can let go of the service whenever they want to, thereby removing any reason for them to be wary (leery?) about signing up in the first place.

It may help to keep in mind that when you get the trust of your website visitors and potential customers and clients you must do everything within your power to keep that trust, because if you don’t cherish (place the highest value) on it, chances are you won’t have it for too long. For example, if you do anything with their email addresses like sell them or farm them out to others who should not have them, you will lose many members of your list as well as members of your customer base. The quickest way to degrade the quality of your subscriber list and collapse your customer base is to disappoint those who have recommended others to you. So keep the trust.

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