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The Truth About Email Marketing, Part 1 (Audio Podcast Transcript)

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BrightWave Marketing CEO Simms Jenkins discusses key concepts from his book, "The Truth About Email Marketing," with IBM Distinguished Engineer Mike Moran in this 3-part series. Learn best practices and bite-size, easy-to-use techniques that get results.
This is a transcript of an audio podcast available in InformIT's OnBiztech channel. This channel is also available on iTunes.

Thanks for listening to OnBizTech, conversations and tips from leading experts in business and technology. For more information, visit informIT.com/podcast and subscribe today.

Mike Moran: Hi, I am Mike Moran, author of two books on internet marketing Search Engine Marketing, Inc. and Do It Wrong Quickly. I am pleased to be your host of this three part Podcast series with Simms Jenkins, the CEO of BrightWave Marketing and the author of the new book, The Truth About Email Marketing. In this first segment, we will explore the basics of email marketing.

MM: Simms, it's great to have a chance to talk with you. One of the things that I always wonder about email marketing is too often when people think of it, it conjures up foreign potentates with large sums of money for you or how your favorite body part doesn’t measure up. So how do you explain the difference to a novice marketer between email marketing and spam?

Simms Jenkins: Great question, Mike, and thanks for having me today. I’m honored for an experienced author in the internet marketing like yourself to talk to me about email marketing as well as my book. That's the question that I get quite frequently in social functions. In the world that I operate in it’s all about permission email marketing and that's when you’ve gone to a website or one of your favorite retailers or companies and have authorized them (essentially given them permission) to communicate with you via email marketing in the future.

So there is a distinct world that’s on the other side of permission marketing and that's what you’re referring to where it's: the Viagra samples, and can you send $500,000 to my uncle, who is the disposed dictator in Nigeria — that is spam. That’s unfortunately a dark cloud that hovers over the legitimate permission email marketing world. But what we’re talking about and what's a booming part of the marketing world and what my book focuses on is how to use legitimate permission based email marketing and best practices that go along with that. Because any company that you signed up with and receive some their emails newsletters, and things along those lines, you provided the permission, and they’re going to be hopefully almost without exception operating within the world of permission marketing. There are now some laws associated, related to can spam that don't necessarily move the spammers out of the picture, but at least it draws a line in the sand to say what's acceptable and what's not.

MM: That sounds great, Simms. One of the things that I always wonder is when you see all these regulations that have come in now and you see that it has a lot of expertise required to do email marketing, is email marketing something that's mostly done by large businesses or is it something that small businesses can do, too?

SJ: That’s one of the best things about email marketing is that it really opens up the playing field for almost everyone, and there are going to be just like any form of sales and marketing there are going to be exceptions and ways to do it. But email really is accessible for a small business whether you’re a local pizzeria or a two man services firm, you can use email marketing. That's partially because of the way that email is set up; there's low cost software out there that’s accessible if you have small list; you can email coupons out to a list of couple of 100 people. As you go up the food chain it gets more sophisticated and more difficult to really do it well and the stakes are much higher. That's when there are generally large teams that operate and manage your emails. Firms like BrightWave Marketing help you do that, and then there’s sophisticated software that is able to send millions of emails on a weekly basis. But it is accessible to solo businesses and large businesses and everything in between.

MM: So, Simms, what is that marks a good email marketing program from an average one or a bad one?

SJ: I think that one thing if you’re even going to be part of the conversation of good or average you have to be doing permission email marketing and that's where you capture and opt in from all the people you’re going to be mailing to. Long gone are the days of spying lists and firing off emails to five million people hoping that hundreds of them click and become your customers.

Assuming that you’re in the permission based email marketing spectrum, I think people really appreciate relevancy and respecting what you signed up for in your needs. The companies that do it well generally are sending you emails that have some kind of unique value as well as being relevant to what you signed up for, and that doesn’t mean if you signed up for a monthly news letter, that you’re getting daily promotional emails. So you have to respect that permission that essentially a contract and try to deliver something that’s going to be very valuable and justify why I gave you my email address.

Because at the end of the day, anyone can go visit a website home page if you’re looking for general information. There are lot of companies that all they do is re-purpose their homepage content and put it in email and send it out; that doesn’t really provide any value. I am a big fan of the companies that treat their subscribers like VIPs and will provide them with a free shipping offer that no one else gets or maybe some exclusive contents that's only available to their email subscribers. By throwing them a bone, it justifies you staying on their subscriber list.

MM: So, Simms, that's really good advice, and I know you’ve offered lot more advise in your new book about email marketing called, The Truth About Email Marketing; you guys can read more about it at thetruthofemailmarketing.com. Simms, I’m wondering, what was it that made you decide to write this book?

SJ: Well, Mike, I have been writing articles in various industry publications for really the better part of five years or so since I started my company. That’s been a great way to raise our company's profile and move forward our industry kind of away from that spam reputation and really talk about best practices and champion email marketing industry. And related to that, I was talking to a company that I’ve been writing articles about potentially packaging them up as a book, and that really never quite worked out, but at the same time Pearson, the large publisher that's publishing the Truth About Email Marketing, approached me about a book that they have in popular series solely focused on email marketing. So kind of the stars aligned, and it was something that was really interesting and intriguing to have this great series by well respected authors. There really aren’t a lot of books out there on email marketing, and it's a subject that moves quickly. It's easy to do email marketing; it's very difficult to do it well, and I think that’s really what ultimately my book hopefully will do for the people that buy it. That they’ll be able to have a better understanding of what makes a good email program as well as kind of separating some of the email myths from email realities.

MM: One of the best sections of the book is called the truth about best practices. So for a rookie, email marketer, what is the best practice that they are least likely to know that is most important?

SJ: Mike, that's a really good question. There are so many different parts of successful email marketing programming: one of the most overlooked areas is subject lines. And the subject line is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, that gets people to actually open and read your email and eventually respond to it ideally or completely ignore it. We found with a lot of people that we were talking to the subject line is one of the last things; it's generally just kind of plopped in at the last minute right before somebody presses the send button. That just doesn’t make sense if 50% of your success lies on the subject line and it's being treated as an afterthought.

There are so many different schools of thought on subject lines, and it really does depend on what kind of company you are and what's in your email. Really to capture a good subject line is something that's going to intrigue you and get you to take it one step further which is reading the email; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sell them in the subject line; we have to get their interest and accurately capture what's in it for them. There are a lot of schools of thought on short emails with lots of mobile devices, long subject lines, lots of different things, and the great thing about email is you can test so efficiently and easily: pop in a long subject line, put in a short subject line (both with similar themes) see which one gets a better open rate and which one gets the better response. Right there, you might have the building blocks for some good tests and a better idea of what works on a subject line. But definitely subject lines are a major part of getting your email program achieving what you want because if you create the best email messages, but no one's reading them, the subject line could be playing an important role in that.

MM: That's great, Simms. That's just some of the great insights you’ll get in Simms’ new book, The Truth About Email Marketing which you can read more about at thetruthaboutemailmarketing.com. I also hope you give you listen to the other parts of this podcast series. The next part of our series would be about the opportunities and challenges of email marketing, and I hope you listen to that one, too.

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