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Urgent: Time Sensitive Article, Please Read

by Robert Garment, Executive Editor | September 21, 2005
Emailing to prospective customers is so quick and easy it's hard to resist. In fact, for the people who really like doing it a lot, they've made up a word for it: it's called SPAM.

SPAM is a `four letter word' to many people who rely on the Internet regularly - and today that's just about everybody. So how, as a marketer online, can you avoid your efforts being seen as unwanted, unsolicited email, or SPAM? Here are a few tips:

First of all, think of how you react to SPAM. When you are deleting your unwanted email, what clues you in that it's unwanted? For many people it's the email's subject line.

So try not to send emails where the subject line reads and smells like SPAM. If I got a message that said, "Important Message for Robert Garment" that would sure smell like SPAM. If it said, "IMPORTANT: MESSAGE FOR ROBERT GARMENT" it would reek of SPAM!

Vague subject lines, words in ALL CAPS, and words like "urgent," "time-sensitive" and "important" are SPAM giveaways. Make the subject something short and pertinent. For instance, if you sell or service MRI's, and you got an email with the subject line was just "MRI," you may know that the email is unsolicited, but still open it because it's clearly about your business.

Once your email has been opened, the challenge is to get the recipient to read it. If you know the person's name, address it to them, "Dear so and so,". If you do not know them, please, don't pretend that you do, they know that they've never met you! Just make it as real as possible, sounding humane and not `catchy'.

You may want to skip the salutation all together. Remember, you are probably emailing business people, who don't have a lot of time or patience. Keep your message short and sweet. Make your `sell' pitch right away, tell them what you can do for them, and provide a link. No one wants to cut and paste a web address anymore!

However, your email may never reach the intended Inbox. Many legitimate emails are grouped in as SPAM. There are a few things you can do to help avoid being blacklisted.

Start with confirmed permission. Confirmed permission ("double opt-in") can also protect you from ending up on the MAPS (Mail Abuse Prevention System's) "Non-Confirming Mailing List" (NML), on which companies and email providers may rely to help filter SPAM.

Make sure your newsletter or e-mail promotion is not blocked by the SPAM filters. Spam Assassin's website lists words and phrases you should avoid. Use special characters to mask target words that you cannot avoid using.

Learn about the latest news, software, and legislation related to controlling SPAM online. Organizations such as TRUSTe (http://www.truste.org) and the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (http://www.cauce.org) are great sources of information.

I've got to go read me emails now. And you can be sure I'll have my finger on the `delete' key and at-the-ready for anyone serving up SPAM.