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E-mail remains a cheap tool for marketing

Looking at today’s promotional landscape — magazine ads, billboards, newspapers and so on — e-mail continues to stand out as a cost-effective way for dealers to reach customers and prospects. But it must be used correctly.

The emergence of anti-spam laws, coupled with increased action by Internet service providers deciding which e-mails get through and which get flagged as spam, make it more important than ever for dealers using e-mail to do it right.

For openers, the rates of returns on e-mails correspond directly to the quality of the e-mail recipient, according to Right Now Technologies, which specializes in customer relationship management software. If, for example, you’re thinking about buying a big e-mail list and sending out promotions in large numbers, don’t waste your money. We’re now in the age of “permission-based” marketing, and it’s imperative that your recipients have opted-in to get your e-mails. Here are five guidelines Right Now says will help you make sure you’re correctly acquiring email addresses:

1. Send e-mails only to those who have opted-in. People will likely read e-mails they’ve asked for.
2. Obtain opt-in permission by either single opt-in (recipient gives you an e-mail address and indicates they want your communications) or double opt-in (where a recipient responds positively to your e-mail confirming that they did, indeed, sign up).
3. Don’t buy or rent e-mail lists. Spam traps, or “triggers,” are found in most lists that cause the ISPs to label the e-mail spam. The quality of such lists is unverifiable, even from suppliers who claim they’ve gotten people to opt-in.
4. Avoid spam trigger words and phrases in your e-mail subject line — for example, 50% Off, 100% Free, Act Now, All New, Buy Direct, Cash Bonus, Call Now, Contains $$$, Discount, Easy Terms, No Cost, Now Only, Order Now, Opportunity, Please Read, Special Promotion, Save Up To, You’ve Been Selected, Why Pay More.
5. Be up front. Clearly explain what the recipient is opting for. Your credibility and the quality of their experience hinges on you giving them what they thought they were getting.

Now, with your good e-mail list, content becomes king. Right Now offers some useful tips:

• Remind the recipients why they’re getting your e-mail. Always include a link to opt-out and to update their profile information.
• Ask recipients to add the “from” address to their address book. That will ensure consistent delivery.
• Use a consistent look. It provides a consistent customer experience. It should include spaces for add-to-address book, company Web site, contact information, privacy policy, profile update, “reply to” address, and opt-out.
• Avoid using all capital letters and special characters. These are common flags for spam.
• Balance images with text. Pleasing graphic design still applies, but you want your message easy to read, not districting.
• Include the physical postal address of your dealership. It’s required in all e-mails governed by the CAN-SPAM Act, the U.S. law governing commercial e-mail communication regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

E-mail represents a truly inexpensive avenue to maintain customer contact, communicate promotions and special events, offer sales incentives, make new product or service announcements, and search for prospects. It’s worth doing and doing right.

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