More and more people have an email address that allows them to receive documents or other files electronically. It is a fast, flexible and effective way of getting marketing messages through - such as newsletters or special offers - without the time lag and costs associated with printing.
It's essential not to overuse email marketing. What makes it so effective - the personal, time-sensitive interaction - can also irritate people if it is irrelevant or unwanted.
You should also consider compatibility. Different programs will display email differently. An email with images or an HTML component could look messy on a different set-up, or even cause the program to crash.
The solution is to profile your customers and understand what the best format is for them. Some may like high-tech e-marketing, others might prefer a plain-text email.
Email marketing rules
In December 2003, new rules came into force covering marketing emails to individuals. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations introduced an opt-in consent procedure for commercial emails - which means you can only target people who have agreed to be contacted.
See our guide on e-commerce and the law.
Advantages of email marketing:
* Flexible - you can send plain text, graphics or attach files - whichever suits your message best.
* Easy for people to forward on to others, building your reputation by word of mouth.
* People can click on links and follow your call to action immediately.
* Less intrusive than telephone marketing.
Potential problems with email marketing
* Files need to be small enough to download quickly.
* Unsolicited commercial email or "spam" irritates consumers. You need to make sure that your email marketing complies with privacy and data protection rules, and that it is properly targeted at people who want to receive it.