by Bob Walters | May 01, 2005

Despite the fairly ubiquitous nature of e-marketing, it remains a relatively new mode of communication undergoing an evolution in the ways it is used and controlled. Even now, Congress is revisiting the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and considering further limitations on broadcast e-mails.
    The value of e-marketing is twofold: The messages are timely, and the process is cost-effective. Just compare it with direct-mail marketing.
    I can remember countless hours spent folding letters, stuffing envelopes, applying labels and running thousands of mailings through postage equipment. Today, that same message can be sent to thousands of people electronically in just minutes; you can spend your valuable time composing the message instead of processing it.
    So how can you make sure your e-message gets transmitted to the people you want to see it?

Spreading the Word
Unless you have a captive audience your membership, customers or employees you might not be able to  obtain an e-mail list that includes everyone you want to target. Therefore, your starting point necessarily will be the people whose e-mail addresses you currently have.
    While that might be a short list, you can spread the news via “viral marketing” encouraging recipients to spread the word to others who will do the same, and so-on. How to accomplish this? First, make sure the content of your message has value. A straight sales pitch for your event, an affinity program or a product might not be perceived as worthwhile.
    Since your organization has some niche or value proposition at its core, leverage that in your message. Include information about an issue facing your audience, a list of resources or a “how-to” that presents solutions to a broad-based problem in your industry.
    In sum: Provide value for the recipient, which will increase the chances your message will be passed on to others. This will happen via links you can create yourself, using the newest web tools, or with the help of your company’s  IT department.
    The key is to set up the links so they either directly record e-mail addresses of recipients or require information about the recipients that can be captured and fed into your growing marketing network.

Get Permission
No matter what your message, you must give people the choice of opting out of your mailings. This can be done simply by providing them with the link to send an e-mail requesting that they be taken off the list; you then have 10 days, per most anti-spam laws, to remove them from the list. More advanced e-marketing systems allow recipients to update their profiles directly or remove themselves from your list online.

Proper Tools
Some of the more popular companies specializing in e-marketing are cVENT (, GetActive ( and CardinalWare ( These services maintain your lists online; you use their e-mail servers to send the messages.
    These companies also have all the required click-through monitoring technology, permission opt-in/opt-out tools and “tell-a-friend” capabilities. In addition, they might support building listservs off your e-marketing lists to offer more value to your members or to another target audience.
    Some new services provided by e-marketing firms allow you to run your message through filters and analyzers to identify “spam” words phrases or statements that might block your message. Using these tools can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your e-marketing efforts.

Bob Walters, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.