When you get 100 or 200 e-mail messages a day, just getting through them becomes a drain on your time and productivity. To protect themselves, many people simply delete e-mails from anyone they don’t know. They assume it is spam — or don’t want to risk a virus infection. So they click DELETE and your message is gone. How do you overcome this obstacle . . . and get your prospects to open, read, and respond to your e-mail marketing messages . . . and buy the products you are selling?

By becoming part of their “E-mail Inner Circle.” Let me explain . . . According to a survey by Nielsen/NetRatings, most people regularly open and read a maximum of 16 permission-based e-mails. And the only way for you to break into this inner circle of 16 correspondents whose e-mail messages your prospect will always read is to displace someone who is already in that inner circle. OK, but how do you do it?

There are six ways that I know of:

1. Despite the proliferation of free online newsletters, the best way to become part of a prospect’s inner circle is to write and publish a truly valuable e-zine. Early to Rise is a good example. You delete most of the e-mail messages you get from businesses and marketers, right? But I know you read at least some if not all ETR issues . . . because you are reading this one right now. If you publish your e-zine regularly (at least once a month) and provide content of genuine worth, your readers will come to value your publication and establish a relationship with you. You will have entered their “inner e-mail circles,” because they will view anything with your name in the “From” line as being from a trusted adviser and worth their time to at least open. Then, by marketing aggressively to your subscriber list, you will be able to generate a significant amount of dollars in online sales . . . at very little cost to you.

2. Instead of sending an e-zine, some publishers send short news bulletins to their subscribers on a regular basis — and you can piggyback onto them. ComputerWorld magazine (CW), for instance, sends a daily online update with short items from the magazine. CW’s daily online updates have become part of the inner circle for many IT professionals who must keep up with new developments in hardware and software. You can purchase a short online ad in these updates, thereby buying your way into their readers’ inner e-mail circle. And CMP, a trade publisher, e-mails a monthly update, the Business Technology Advisor (BTA), to the subscribers of all its publications. For $200 per thousand, you can sponsor BTA, having the entire issue devoted to your firm and products. Since CMP subscribers know and look forward to BTA, your message gets a higher readership and response than it would if you sent it under your own banner.

3. Another way to break into a prospect’s inner circle is by sending him periodic service and upgrade notices. Software users, for example, will read and open e-mails from a software publisher that contain news about upgrades, technical information, or service policies. So if your customers regularly need to receive service and product news from you, get in the habit of delivering it via e-mail. Then they will be “trained” to read your e-mails — and when you send a promotion, it too will get opened and read.

4. A survey from www.quris.com shows that customers also value and read two specific types of e-mails: (a) transaction confirmations and (b) account status updates. So you can get your promotional message read by embedding it into routine e-mails that contain transactional or account status information. Amazon.com has mastered this technique. Its customers open and read its e-mails because they might contain news about their order.

5. Many newsletter publishers break into a paid subscriber’s inner circle by offering timely news and updates through free e-mail alerts. When you pay for your monthly subscription, the publisher offers you a bonus: additional content, sent periodically via e-mail, to keep you updated on the topic between regular issues. The catch: You have to give the publisher your e-mail address to receive this free online bonus. The publisher quickly builds an e-list of subscribers who eagerly anticipate and read its e-mails, because those e-mails are viewed as valuable information that the subscribers pay for as part of their subscriptions. The most successful publishers keep the information content of the e-mails high but also liberally promote products and services to these e-mail-alert recipients.

6. Another way to become part of a prospect’s inner circle is to form a club and invite him to join it. Reason: Your prospects will read e-mails from clubs, associations, online communities of interest, subscription websites, and other organizations of which they are members. If, therefore, you can create a club or have your e-mail distributed by one of those membership organizations, you can easily enter the prospect’s e-mail inner circle. A good rule of thumb: Whenever you can get your sales message to your prospect by using one of the above methods, your chances of getting it opened and read will increase exponentially vs. what they would be if you were to send a typical promotional e-mail.

(Ed. Note: Bob Bly is the editor of Mailbox Millionaire, ETR’s program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business. For information, click on http://www.agora-inc.com/reports/700SCBMO/W700E201/.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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