At its core, email marketing is a tool for customer relationship management (CRM). Used effectively, this extension of permission-based marketing can deliver one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any eMarketing activity. Simply put, e-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing that utilizes electronic means to deliver commercial messages to an audience. It is one of the oldest and yet still one of the most powerful of all eMarketing tactics. The power comes from the fact that it is the following:
- Extremely cost effective due to a low cost per contact
- Highly targeted
- Customizable on a mass scale
- Completely measurable
Furthermore, e-mail marketing’s main strength is that it takes advantage of a customer’s most prolific touch point with the Internet: their in-box. E-mail marketing is a tool for building relationships with both existing and potential customers. It should maximize the retention and value of these customers, which should ultimately lead to greater profitability.
E-mail is probably ubiquitous to you, but there was a time when there was no e-mail!
E-mail actually predates the Internet and was first used way back in 1961 as a way for users of the same computer to leave messages for each other. Ray Tomlinson is credited with creating the first network e-mail application in 1971. He initiated the use of the “@” sign and the address structure that we use today (username@hostname). (Dave Crocker, “Email History,”). E-mail was used to send messages to computers on the same network and is still used for this purpose today.
It was only in 1993 that large network service providers, such as America Online and Delphi, started to connect their proprietary e-mail systems to the Internet. This began the large-scale adoption of Internet e-mail as a global standard. Coupled with standards that had been created in the preceding twenty years, the Internet allowed users on different networks to send each other messages.
The first e-mail spam dates back to 1978. Spam is defined as unsolicited commercial or bulk e-mail. In fact, more than 97 percent of all e-mails sent over the Net are spam! (Darren Waters, “Spam Overwhelms E-mail Messages,” BBC News, April 8, 2009).
Direct marketing has long played an integral part in marketing campaigns, but the high cost meant that only large companies were able to pursue it. However, with the growth of the Internet, and the use of e-mail to market directly to consumers, marketers have found these costs dropping and the effectiveness increasing.