Email marketing is a huge facet of most online marketing campaigns. It’s one of the few “low-cost” marketing methods that can drive a tremendous ROI if done properly (Marketing Sherpa claimed in 2006 that email marketing will average a return of 17 times your cost for email marketing).

The great thing about doing email marketing is that’s its pretty straight forward to get started, and there are a lot of software solutions available on the market already for any price range (even free ones).

Before You Start Email Marketing

There is one very important thing you must do before you start an email marketing campaign – familiarize yourself with Can-Spam. Can-Spam is a law passed by the US government that places specific requirements on anybody that is doing email marketing.

In a nutshell, it requires that you clearly identify your email with your legal business name and physical business address. For most commercial mailers, this is done through a small paragraph at the bottom of their emails; however there are a few companies that will include this information in other places side as to the side or right at the top of the email. As long as the address is visible then it’s legal.

The next requirement is that your “from” field must be a real email address that you own. So you can’t just send out an email from some random account, you have to own the email address.

The third requirement is that you email subject lines must be accurate. You cannot legally send an email out that has a misleading subject line.

Lastly, and most importantly, there has to be a way for people to opt-out of your mailing list, and it has to be clearly visible in every email you send. This can be something simple like a message saying “Reply to this email if you no longer wish to receive it”, or it could be something more complex like a text link that takes the reader to an unsubscribe confirmation link on your website. Either method is acceptable as long as the reader can clearly see the method in your email (so no hiding it from plain sight).

Starting Email Marketing on a Low Budget

Email marketing doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars to get started, in fact there are several programs out there that are free and fairly easy to use. Most web hosting companies will even provide you with a free email list manager of some sort automatically through your hosting control panel.

However if needed, there are many options out there for paid email software, most notably being AWeber, one of the most popular email list managers around. For $ 20/month you can get a really good email marketing solution from AWeber, which has a lot of advanced features that the free programs don’t offer.

Once you have a software solution chosen and setup, you need to create a template for your emails. You can use a simple HTML editor like Frontpage to make professionally looking email templates (or better yet, Office 2007 has the feature built right into Word).

So now you’ve got your email software setup and a nice template to use for your emails. The next step is to start promoting your newsletter.

Newsletter Promoting is Easy

Getting people to sign up to your newsletter is usually pretty easy – and you can do it for free if you know what you are doing. One proven method is to post on forums related to your website with a signature link back to your website, specifically the page on your website that has the newsletter signup form. As long as you are posting useful content to the forum and not just spamming them, there’s a good chance your links will stay and people will eventually click on them and come to your website.

Another good method is to post comments on related blogs, as most blog comments allow you to list your website. If you post constructive comments on popular blogs, then chances are that it will drive some free targeted traffic to your website.

And a final tip for getting free publicity for your newsletter is to submit your website to free directories. These websites will list your website in a relevant category, which may drive some traffic. A good source is the Yahoo Directory, which has thousands of people searching it every day. It is possible to get listed for free in the Yahoo Directory, but it’s a lot faster and easier if you just pay the listing fee of $ 300 per year. Yes that is a bit steep, but it can be well worth it.

Besides, getting into a directory like Yahoo will also help your website rank higher in the search engines, which in turn will drive even more targeted traffic to your website!

Christian Little is an internet marketing expert based out of Vancouver, Canada. He runs a blog that offers tips for email marketing and ways to make money online.
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