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Email Promotion

Your Web site is like your shop window; most people will take a look at it and then move on. A few will take the next step and send you an email. When this happens, your Web site has done its job and you're on to the next stage. It's time to promote yourself.

Go to: How To | Signatures | Autoresponders | Bulk Mail | Opt-In Lists


How To Write Email

Am I kidding?! No...

You represent your online business, and every email you write is being sent to a potential customer. Never forget.

  • Reply promptly if you can.

  • Keep to the point. If you're in the habit of writing big blocks of "chatty" text it takes up your time and, unless it's your mother, the person at the other end is not interested in the trivia, however politely they respond.

  • Typos and spelling mistakes immediately label you as sloppy and careless. There's no such thing as "firing off a quick email", only "firing off an unprepared email".

  • The other person isn't using the same mail program as you. If you use a browser-based mail program, never send email in HTML format, it looks awful in other email programs. Send email as plain text.

  • Keep line length short. Don't make people scroll from left to right to read your messages. 60-70 characters should be the maximum length of your lines. If your mail program doesn't word wrap, use your <RETURN> key.

    Note: if you see your lines wrapping while you're writing the message it doesn't necessarily mean it'll be sent that way. Make sure your message is saved with hard line breaks. When in doubt, use your <RETURN> key generously.


Email Signatures

A businessman wouldn't dream of sending anybody a letter on a blank sheet of paper without his company heading on it, so why do I so often get emails, even from professional Web designers, without a sig? Nobody should ever have to ask you for your URL by email.

Every email program that I know of has a feature which automatically inserts a "signature file" at the end of every message and reply. If you have a URL, it should be in your sig.

Here's my sig:

-- 
deadlock Design Ltd. <http://deadlock.com/>
Promotion:   <http://deadlock.com/promote/>
UK Fax: 0870 1640686 | US Fax: 312 416 7980
Phone (if all else fails): +44 181 518 2156


Points to note:

  • The first line consists of two dashes and a space character, flush left. This is important because it allows many email programs to recognise the fact that it's a sig and strip it from any quoted replies.

  • Don't make it much wider than mine because some mail programs will butcher it with word wrap.

  • Don't leave any invisible space characters at the end of lines (except the first line) for the same reason.

  • Four lines is the official standard, but it's fairly relaxed. Just don't make it long enough to be annoying.

  • Always put the full http:// and/or mailto: URL because all the most popular mailers these days support "hotlinks" so the user can simply click on it to take them straight to your page.

  • There's no point in putting your return email address in your sig, since it's already included in your email header. The email address in my example is for my newsletter, which the recipient wouldn't be aware of unless I pointed it out.

Others may think differently, but the reason I use a sig is to a) point people to my Web site and b) offer him/her other ways of contacting me apart from email. Putting a long, drawn-out advert will only annoy people.


Autoresponders

You should never go out of your way to find a use for autoresponders. If you can reply to all the email you get personally then you should do so. If the amount of email you get becomes too much for you to handle, then, and only then, you can use autoresponders to take some of the load off. Your hosting service or ISP should be able to set them up for you painlessly.

Rules about autoresponders:

  1. The sender should not be expecting a personal reply. Or...
  2. The sender should be aware they're sending mail to your autoresponder.

The normal use of an autoresponder is to supply information that's not available on the Web site... like a newsletter...

Or you can use them to send an "I'm on holiday" message. Not that I'd know much about that.


Bulk Email (Spam)

This is one thing I haven't tried, but only because I know enough not to attempt it. If you go this route and send unsolicited email to people, several things are likely to happen, none of them good.

You will create bad feeling, and the vast majority of the people you email will make a mental note never to buy anything from you. Studies show that no matter what the message says, the general Net population consider spam to be "anything they haven't requested".

If you allow your recipients to reply to your "real" email address, you'll spend hours on end ploughing through never-ending messages, mostly abusive. You will be "mail-bombed": people will retaliate by replying to your message hundreds of times, filling up your mailbox possibly to maximum capacity. If you use a false return address people will get even more riled and try even harder to murder your online business.

It gets worse...

If you're using a "list service" you can escape the negative email but you'll either have to give your URL or, if you're particularly suicidal, your phone number. In the first case, hackers will try to sabotage your Web site. Your hosting service will find out that somebody is trying to compromise their system and they'll find out why, or else one of your recipients will complain to them. Either way, they'll close your account. No more Web site. If you give your phone number you should prepare yourself for some serious abuse.

It could get nasty...

You might open your front door to a debt collection agency brandishing a bill for the amount one of your recipients had to spend to receive your email.

Your hosting service could sue you and it's odds-on they'd win.


It may be true that you'll get a sale for every million messages you send, or whatever the ratio is supposed to be, but now you're aware of the real cost you can decide for yourself whether it's worth it or not.


How do you combat spam?

I have some great info on avoiding spam. However, the ultimate solution is:

Hit 'delete'.

The reason spam annoys you is that it wastes your time, so don't let it. Spam is usually easy to recognise by the Subject line, so you don't even have to open it. Just hit 'delete' and think of the poor sucker who sent it who's spending all day reading abusive messages written by other people. Not you. If you make the mistake of replying, even abusively, the spam software at the receiving end will "upgrade" you, as somebody who has responded, and you'll get even more spam.

There's a very powerful (server side) mail handling program called Procmail that I would highly recommend. It looks at incoming mail and sorts it according to your pre-defined keywords within the message. I use it to forward mail, send autoreplies, write files, run scripts and filter spam - with a 98% success rate! Hardly any spam ever reaches me :) The down side is that you can't install Procmail yourself, you need to ask your ISP or hosting service to install it on the server - or find a hosting service that already has it.


Opt-In Mailing Lists

On a scale of one to ten, if unsolicited bulk email is zero, then an opt-in list rates about fifty-seven. Having your own mailing list that people have asked to join is even more powerful than having a Web site. There is no better way to sell your products.

Read all about it in the next section...


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