Make Them Want Your Email!
by Susanna K. Hutcheson

Spam almost ruined email advertising. I remember when I was getting a constant stream of advertising messages --- most of them get-rich-quick schemes. Daily they poured into my email box. Finally, I set up filters and got rid of a lot of the junk. Lots of other people did the same thing.

But now opt-in lists and one-to-one marketing have Jupiter Communications predicting that permission email will be a $2.1 billion business by 2002. But getting permission to send marketing email can be tricky. It needs to be handled delicately.

You're basically asking people to raise their hands and say, Yes, I want to be advertised to, says Tony Priore, YesMail's vice president of marketing in an article for New Media magazine. YesMail, formerly WebPromote, is a permission email network that connects businesses with consumers who have given permission to receive promotional messages targeted to their personal interests. YesMail's audience chooses among numerous categories of interest.

I have signed up to receive several different types of email from their clients and, thus far, have been pleased with their marketing. In marketing to your audience, it's important to learn how to do it right. Many of the direct marketing rules in the offline world do not apply to the Web. Some marketers make the mistake of marketing on the Internet exactly as they do offline. It just won't work.

Potential customers are spam-savvy and often delete messages before they are opened. Just like I do when I filter messages. There are certain names or words that I filter out. And if I get a message with those words or from those businesses or people, they go directly to the trash without me even seeing them. For example, using the word "free" in the subject can be a deal killer. Email software, like that I use, will see that word and automatically delete it. People who don't have filters often simply hit the delete key when they see that word.

It's a word that works well offline. But not online. Many people have their email software set up to delete messages with that word in the subject line or even the message. But mostly the subject line. So you can't assume that everything that works in the offline world works in the online world. Clients also need to know that their privacy is being respected, and that they have control over how their personal information is being used. Any reputable Web site that gathers your email address should post a very visible privacy statement about how your address is going to be used. has a privacy policy posted for anyone who cares to read it. In addition, we post a short privacy statement when you sign up for our newsletter or our free content. This is an important part of Permission Marketing. Just as important, the privacy statement should also state that it will be very easy for you to opt out and get off that email list at any time you wish. The customer, or Web site visitor, must be the one in control of their information.

Many permission email services offer enticing perks and some, like Opt-In, offer additional incentives if subscribers volunteer more information than simply their email address. Subscribers have a 500 percent greater chance to win their daily vacation giveaway if they provide additional information about themselves, such as their age, income level, or whether they are male or female.

It's also most critical to send people what they asked for. If they opted in for a newsletter on marketing, like this one, that's what you should send them. If you told them you would send them a certain type of message, that is what they expect and deserve.

Without clearly giving people what they want, marketers can easily lose customers trust. The biggest blunder is sending subscribers something they didn't ask for. This violates a basic tenet of opt-in marketing: You lose the permission and destroy the relationship by sending somebody a message that is unrelated to the category that they signed up for. You are betraying them.

Permission marketers must keep their standards high and realize that sound marketing efforts mean the difference between earning a customer's long-term trust which generates lasting sales or burning a customer or client and having them permanently reject you.

Many Internet permission marketers are looking beyond simply getting an immediate customer response --- a strategy that has driven direct-response advertising for decades. Permission marketing's initial goal is to establish a trusting relationship with customers before attempting to lead them to a sale. The permission email message is not there to sell.

The message is there to drive them back to the Web site. And that's what a lot of people forget in these messages. I often get a lengthy email missive of one or two pages that says, 'Here's my service and here's how great we are' but it will end with 'now dial 1-800 something.

That's not true permission marketing. That's a sales pitch. It has its place. But not at this point. This is not what the prospective client opted in for. Your sole object is to drive traffic to your Web site. The site should make the sale.

Getting permission to email spam-weary consumers is a touchy proposition. But if you learn and apply the rules faithfully, you will gain their trust and business.


Susanna K. Hutcheson
is a professional advertising and direct mail copywriter. She was the first copywriter to utilize the Internet as a place to market this type of service. Susanna has clients all over the world. Some who hire her for one or two yearly projects and others who retain her on a yearly basis. Visit her Web site at Her e-mail address is To subscribe to her newsletter, MARKETING INSIDER NEWS, send a blank e-mail to Telephone: (316) 684-0457.