Email marketing is a type of direct marketing employed by online and offline companies alike. It is used to enhance relationships with current customers and to build relationships with new customers. In addition, email marketing is often used to create customer loyalty by providing special coupon codes or discounts that are given only to customers after they purchase something from the company the email is from.
Research estimates that in 2006 US firms alone spent $400 million on email marketing. With this amount of money and resources going into email marketing, it's easy to see why it is second only to search engine marketing (SEM) in effectiveness.
There are many advantages to email marketing. For one, it provides a wide distribution outlet at a very low cost. Writing an email and sending it out to a mass list is a lot cheaper than sending out a newsletter or some other form of direct mail. Another way that email marketing is more effective than direct mailing is that it is instant. You don't need to wait long at all for your message to be delivered, and with upwards of half of all people that use the internet checking their email daily, most email marketing messages will be seen soon after they are received.
In addition to email marketing being cost effective and expedient, it is also easily trackable. The exact return on investment (ROI) is simple to track because, being electronic, it's simple to make note of the number of people that respond or the number of people that purchase something as a result of the email.
If all of the previously mentioned reasons are not enough to make you consider email marketing, think about the environmental impact that it has, or lack there of. While direct mail requires you to send out piles of paper, email marketing is a completely green form of advertising.
With all of the advantages of email marketing come a few disadvantages, mostly having to do with email spam controls. There was legislation passed in 2003 that puts serious constraints and penalties on email spamming, so internet marketers have come up with ways to avoid these problems. The opt-in option given at the bottom of registration forms allows email marketing material to be sent without problem because it's pre-approved by the recipient. Also, the opt-in option allows marketers to store customer information so they can automatically send out promotional material, as well as send out promotional material to specific market segments.
With all of its many advantages, and with the ways around its disadvantages, email marketing is a popular and cost effective way to reach a wide audience of consumers.