Today, we present you Tamara Gielen, who will talk about her passion for email marketing. She shares some lessons learned and talks about the synergybetween email and social media.

Back in 1999, when Harley interviewed me for the role of sales coordinator at Eonic Systems, he immediately figured out that I was a marketer, not a sales person. And hired me as a marketing assistant.  Eleven years later, I am now recognized as an authority in the field of email marketing, speaking at conferences across the world.

Email marketing is my passion, and it has been since 2001 when I sent out my very first email campaign inviting customers and prospects to an event.

With social media being all the hype these days, I’m often asked if email marketing is still working. And I can tell you with confidence, yes, it is. Companies are not likely to drop email in favor of social media, first of all because not everyone uses social media, but also because everyone has different communication preferences.
As a marketer you have to provide your content wherever your audience is consuming content: in the inbox, on your blog or in an RSS feed, on Twitter, on Facebook etc.

Email and social media are really a match made in heaven. Twitter, Facebook and blogs are excellent places to build relationships with people and get them to sign up to your newsletter. Email is a great channel to help move prospects through the sales funnel, to get people to buy from you or to increase customer loyalty.

Social media are also excellent channels to drive people to from your emails to continue the conversation. One company that does this extremely well is Hubspot (http://www.hubspot.com). Read their blog, sign up to their newsletter and take notes.

When it comes down to it, both email and social media are about content and relationship building. If you don’t provide value in your tweets, your Facebook updates, your blog posts and your email messages, you’ll lose followers, fans, readers and subscribers.

A short story:  re the early days of e-mail marketing and the mistakes that people still make today.

Back in the early days (2001), like everyone else at that time, we used Outlook to send out the message to 500 names at the time (because that was the maximum number of addresses I was allowed to enter in the bcc field).

I’ll spare you the details, but we very soon got blocked by the mail server at one of our biggest customers. Even messages from our sales and support teams couldn’t get through anymore. They had blocked our entire domain. And it took quite a while for them to allow our emails again. Needless to say that sales was a little upset with us. Yes, that’s an understatement.

So we decided we needed a dedicated platform to send out our email campaigns. Not only would that prevent the issue from happening again (because the emails would be sent from a different IP address and mail server), we would also be able to see who had opened the emails we sent and who had clicked on our links. If you’ve ever hit the send button on an email campaign, you know how fascinating it is to watch these numbers go up immediately after you launch a campaign.

Fast forward to 2010. I still see a lot of companies using Outlook to send their email campaigns and everytime I come across one, I cringe. Why would you risk getting blacklisted when sending out an email campaign through a dedicated email service provider costs peanuts?

Apart from that, I’m glad to see that more and more companies are starting to use email marketing but it also means that competition in the inbox is tough. You literally have 1-2 seconds to convince someone to open your email and once they’ve opened it, you have less than 5 seconds to get them to click. So you better make sure your message is good.  Each and every message has to provide value to the subscriber. If it doesn’t, they’ll unsubscribe or, even worse, they’ll mark your emails as spam.  Send them 3 emails they don’t find interesting, and you can be sure that they’ll be quick to delete the 4th one without even opening it.

So your email campaign is only as good as the last message you send out. Sending one message to everyone isn’t working anymore. In fact, it never worked. Just as you would do with postal mailings, you need to send the right message at the right time to the right person. And that’s easier said than done. It requires integration of databases, it requires vision and strategy, it requires a deep understanding of who your audiences are and what their needs are at various stages of the buying cycle.

You also need their permission if you want to add them to your list. Not only is that a legal requirement in the EU, it’s also good practice to only send emails to people that have given you explicit permission to do so. I don’t care that the law allows you to send emails to your customers without having permission. It’s a bad idea. You’ll find out quick enough why that’s a bad idea when you get blacklisted and you have to prove to the blacklist owner that you have permission to send emails to the people that reported your emails as spam. Always ask permission first.

I could go on and on and on about email marketing but I’m sure I’d bore you to death 🙂 I guess I’m blessed to have found a niche that I am so passionate about and where work never feels like work.
If you’re interested in reading more about email marketing, I invite you to check out my blog  (http://www.b2bemailmarketing.com).

Tamara’s biography

Tamara Gielen is an independent email marketing consultant. She helps companies use email marketing to more effectively reach their goals and objectives. She is the author of “Be Relevant” (http://www.b2bemailmarketing.com), a well-known email marketing best practices blog, and the founder of the “Email Marketer’s Club” (http://www.emailmarketersclub.com), a community of almost 4,000 email marketers from all over the world.