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Guideline to Hiring an Email Marketing Company

A common practice in today's e-commerce environment is to use email marketing campaigns to launch advertising initiatives for products and services offered online. Since 2003, CAN-SPAM laws were enacted to protect consumers from abusive spammers and email marketing exploits have been harnessed. Once again, email campaigns are a viable marketing tool in the e-commerce world.

As with most things internet related, you need to be careful and use common sense when purchasing goods and services via the internet. Unlike traditional business transactions, you rarely meet face-to-face or even have a phone conversation with internet sellers. This makes it harder for buyers to gauge the validity of performance claims made at a seller's website. So, if you are considering using email marketing to promote your product or service, practice the following four techniques for choosing a provider.

1. Make sure that the provider is CAN-SPAM compliant.
Even though you are using a third-party to distribute your email campaign, you are still legally liable if your provider violates the CAN-SPAM laws. Reputable providers will conspicuously advertise on their website if they are CAN-SPAM compliant. If they do not promote or state their compliance, you should steer clear of their services.

2. Ask for referrals.
Only deal with email marketers who are willing to give you referrals. I recommend at least 5 referrals with company names and contact information. Ideally, you will be able ask for and get a referral to a user who targeted the same or similar type of prospect you are targeting. Either way, require a diversity of companies and ask that the referrals are from organizations outside the email marketing industry.

Be sure to follow up and call the referrals. You can expect these referral sources to be some of their best customers who should able to provide you with accurate response results from their email marketing campaigns. You can also expect these results to be at the high end of your realistic results, so set your expectations accordingly. Also make sure to ask how helpful, flexible, and responsive the email marketing company is to special needs and complaints. This will help you to decide if they are a good fit for your company's needs.

3. Find companies that offer email lists for your targeted market.
In some cases, emailing advertising to tens of millions of general prospects would make sense; however, many products and services are targeted at particular markets, making it important that you use a provider that can supply accurately targeted email lists. Targeted lists cost a little more money but, as with most things, you get what you pay for. In my experience, I have gotten better return rates paying $500 for 100,000 highly targeted emails versus paying $199 for 3,000,000 emails sent to a broader audience.

There is no exact formula for calculating what to spend per email. Companies will spend 25 cents or more per email for highly targeted lists. Ultimately, you need to consider your total cost versus your expected sales conversion rate to determine if a particular targeted email campaign makes sense for your product or service. Start with a small, targeted list to test your email campaign for effectiveness. While the initial, smaller list will cost more per email address, it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars if you find out your campaign message isn't achieving the success rate you need to make your campaign profitable.

The most reputable email marketers spend a considerable amount of time and effort (and money) to ensure that their email lists contain high-quality prospects. Make sure to ask for expected "open" and "response" or "click-through" rates so you can calculate your projected return on investment. If they claim a response rate over 5% or give you a broad range like "100 to 1000 hits per 100,000", be very skeptical. The only possible exception is for very specifically targeted campaigns.

4. Check the provider's complaint history.
You can check to find if others have had any problems with a company by checking with the Better Business Bureau. Providers who are members of the BBB will advertise it on their website and are most often your best option. Even with BBB members, you still need to check their complaint history.

Above all, use good business sense. Avoid providers who make claims or offer prices that seem to good be true. Read their satisfaction guarantees in detail. A company may claim satisfaction guaranteed, however, it is your responsibility to ensure that this guarantee exists in writing and that it offers you a proper comfort level with their service. Following these practices will help you choose the best provider for your email marketing campaign.

About the author
Marc Eskew is a widely recognized business development consultant specializing in start-up business plans that expect to use the internet as a primary marketing and sales portal. For more information, please visit http://www.fmxservices.com

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