A R T I C L E S ~ A B O U T ~ O N L I N E ~ M A R K E T I N G
Richard Morris has asked me to write a monthly column for COSMEP readers
about online marketing. We'll start with the main reason most people go
For all the hype about the "information superhighway," the World Wide Web
and realtime video, the most useful electronic communications tool is plain
old e-mail. While only a fraction of the people online have access to some
of the fancier tools, everyone can use e-mail. And all of the online
services have made it possible to send e-mail to, and receive e-mail from,
every other Internet address.
E-mail is typically very informal. Perhaps due to its immediacy, it is
written more in the style of a memo than a letter. Very rarely does one use
a formal salutation; most e-mail is on a first-name basis.
In e-mail, brevity is rewarded, and we are talking brutally short here.
Anything longer than a screenful is suspect. If nothing else, the Internet
is going to teach everyone how to communicate powerfully in a paragraph.
Several sociologists have noted how people tend to speak their mind more
freely in e-mail. Curt e-mail has cost a few employees their jobs and
ruined business relations for others. You've all heard about the "flame
wars" that erupt online. I suggest you allow any serious flames to simmer
in your mailbox overnight before sending them to your soon-to-be-scorched
Jill Ellsworth, author of The Internet Business Book, suggests that
the most effective marketing tool for Internet newcomers is a good
signature. A "signature" (or "sig") is a few lines of text automatically
appended to all your outgoing e-mail. It's the equivalent of letterhead,
except it appears at the bottom of your message.
Some people use bandwidth-hogging signatures complete with ASCII graphics,
pithy quotes, and entire life histories. The problem with these gimmicks is
that they get old in a hurry. There's only so many times I can read the
same quote by George Bernard Shaw without wishing for a fresher blurb. And
the problem with ASCII graphics is that how they look is determined by the
font the reader is using. Your replica of the Starship Enterprise looks
more like the garbage barge from Alien in the proportional font I use.
When I post to online discussion groups, my sig consists of my name and a
Internet Publicity for Book Publishers and Authors
I don't need to include my e-mail address because it's embedded in the
header. I don't include my mailing address, phone or fax numbers because
curious people always approach me first by e-mail. When someone requests
specific information, I use a second sig that includes my street address
and phone numbers.
Most e-mail programs allow you to attach files to outgoing mail. Many
people don't realize, however, that unless the file is "saved as text"
(with formatting codes stripped out), the recipient will get a file full of
code that must be converted before it can be read. You'll save yourself a
lot of time and trouble if you keep a separate folder for attachments where
you store text documents for convenient use.
Useful files might include basic information about your business, flyers
for the books you publish, an order form or other information on how to buy
your books, electronic news releases, requests for bids from printers, etc.
Your formatting will be limited -- centering, bold, italics and large point
sizes are stripped-out when the document is saved as text. Try to use ALL
CAPS and *asterisks* to indicate emphasis.
Most e-mail programs allow you to create address books for easy e-mailing.
A good tip is to always include the person's name in their e-mail address,
Steve O'Keefe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The greater-than and less-than signs tell your e-mail software that the
address is between them. By having the person's name in the address field,
it won't look like a wall of graffiti when you open your address book. Some
address books let you assign group names so that, for example, you could
address a message to "wholesalers" and it would be sent to every e-mail
address in the wholesalers group. This is a very convenient feature.
As you come to rely on e-mail, you will find yourself doing more bulk
mailings. If you don't want your recipients to know it's a bulk mailing,
address the e-mail to yourself, and put the remaining recipients in the
"BCC" field. "BCC" stands for "blind carbon copy," and it means that no one
will see the names of the other recipients.
Beware of archiving e-mail. A better strategy is to print out anything you
want to save and keep it in a regular, paper file. By not deleting e-mail
as you read it, you waste computer space and you waste time. Months later,
when you finally decide to clean-up your archives, you'll have to open and
read most of those messages to remember why you saved them.
If you must squirrel away your e-mail, save it in folders with logical
names. When you transfer the mail from your in-box to a folder, change the
subject line to one that will be more useful to you at a later date.
E-mail is the dominant tool in the electronic kit. It pays to buy good
software and learn how to automate much of your work.
STEVE O'KEEFE is author of the books Publicity on the Internet (John Wiley & Sons, 1997), and The Complete Guide to Internet Publicity(John Wiley & Sons, 2002). You can reach him by e-mail at info@PatronSaintPR.com.