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Web/Email Marketing

Gordon Burgett

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Here are the much appreciated replies from SNN readers to the following question:

I'm first dipping my foot into web direct mail, to dentists in a specific area. Can anybody share info about a reliable list provider you have worked with -- plus any tips about this daring adventure?

-- Rita Risser, CSP

FYI it's ILLEGAL in California and some other states to do direct email marketing. It's called spam, darling ;-)

I am moving into direct mail marketing for my new venture, and what I've decided to do is a postcard sending people to my web site.

Not as cheap, easy or efficient -- but legal.

-- Ronald G. Wroblewski

My advice is NO! DON'T DO IT! (Sorry, I should have warned you to cover your ears!) I just read recently that people hate junk email with a passion they reserve for little else. The big .com companies are using direct mail (the old fashioned USPS kind) to promote their web sites, to avoid this wrath. Evidently people don't hate junk regular mail as much, and the people who are open to the message "get it", and visit the site.

My brother in law, who is a scientist, was excited to show me his laser pointer he got from a website that provides scientific supplies. What they did was give away a free prize (in this case a laser pointer with their web address imprinted) to all qualified scientists who visited the website! Pretty soon they had loads of scientists telling their scientist friends to visit. I have been thinking of a variation on this theme that I have not yet tested -- that is to give the prize to people who sign up *and* refer the site to a friend. I'm concerned however that my twist may smack to much of asking people to "snitch" on their friends, and recall for people the MCI family and friends fiasco.

-- Wayne Perkins

My best advice is to scrap the idea of web mail for these reasons.

  1. E-mail marketing has a response rate of less than 1/1000 of a percent. There are 135,000 dentists in North America and maybe only 50,000 that could possibly have an e-mail address. So you are looking at 5 orders at the most.
  2. You are going to anger the majority of people who receive your e-mail. Many of those will send the e-mail directly to anti spamming addresses located with Internet service providers. You may lose your service after one mailing.
  3. Direct mail marketing will have a return of 1%. With dentists it will be a little lower. (I worked in the Sales department of SmartPractice which is a catalog house selling to dentists for the last 30 years and using both direct mail and web-based marketing.)
  4. Even the most up-to-date lists will have between 30%-40% mail that will bounce back to you. Compare that with 10-15% of direct mail.

The only way you should be selling using e-mail addresses is by writing articles, getting them placed in e-zines and newsletters catering to the dental market with a link and e-mail address to you.

-- Philippa Gamse

My strong advice is -- don't go for a daring adventure. ;-) Unless you do this right, it could backfire on you big time.

Only buy e-mail lists from reputable sources, and get a contract that clearly states that all names you are given are opt-in. Otherwise, you may be legally liable -- unsolicited e-mail is now illegal in several states.

This is serious -- I worked on an e-mail campaign for a client last year, where we advertised in an e-zine. One of the recipients insisted he was being spammed, and sent complaints to our ISP. You do *not* want this to happen to you ;-)

It means back to the old direct snail mail approach.

Don't get the wrong idea - I wasn't suggesting that you don't do it at all - if you can find a provider - e.g. an association that might offer sponsorships for their e-mail newsletter, or a dental portal site that does this. . .

The key is to look for the right targeted approach, and a provider within that - then you can have very successful results.

And, of course, really concentrate on building your own opt-in list - then you can continue to mine it. Over time, this can become very valuable.

After all, if I wasn't a fan of e-mail marketing done right, I'd be out of business myself!!

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