What do you think of when you hear the term email marketing? Do you think of those “spammy” emails that litter your inbox trying to sell you everything from supplements to iPads? Or do you think of the Nigerian barrister that needs your help to get $300 million from the account of his deceased client out of the country, for which he will gladly share half of it with you? I hope not, because true email marketing is none of those things.

True email marketing is a form of ecommerce. It allows you to reach out and offer your product or service to customers and other interested parties in an extremely cost effective manner. It’s a way that you as a trusted supplier can reach out and touch customers and potential customers. True email marketing is permission-based marketing. Your customers give you their permission for you to contact them.

An email consists of two main components of the information that you want to covey. It’s usually in text form and a call to action, where the reader responds to your offer. A well-written email usually gets some kind of response from the reader. Because it does, it makes email a powerful tool for business. To get the desired reaction, an email should create a strong emotional response in the mind of the reader. This response could be a desire to connect with a person, an idea, a product, or a service. This emotional response occurs on many levels and it’s important for the businesses to understand how to reach those levels and learn how to construct email messages that are effective in provoking the desired response from readers.

It’s useful to use an email marketing service such as iContact or Constant Contact for your email marketing campaign. These companies have safe guards in place that prevents recipients from flagging your email domain as spam. Even though you ask for permission, a recipient can flag your message as spam, if he decides he doesn’t want to receive your email any more.

Companies like iContact and Constant Contact host your lists and provide tools to create your own email marketing campaigns. They provide reports; let you know how many people opened your email and how many people clicked through to any links you may have included in your email. Another important service that these companies provide is permission-based email subscriptions, where your customer agrees to let you send them emails. Permission-based email subscriptions are very effective in gaining consumer trust and safeguarding customers against junk mail.

What’s the big secret about email marketing? iContact offers these five rules for effective email messages:

1. Offer helpful, meaningful and value-driven content

2. Direct your message toward an individual rather than large groups (personalize the message)

3. Create integrated emails that can easily and strategically used with other internet applications

4. Allow open communication between sender and receiver

5. Messages must provide safe and private modes of interacting with others, including businesses, online

While email marketing remains extremely cost effective, big companies use email testing to ensure their email messages bring the highest returns possible. With email testing, you write two versions of your email-marketing message and two different titles. You divide your database of email addresses in to four groups (there are many scientific ways to do that and we could spend all day discussing the pros and cons of this topic). Using your email message provider tools, track the results to see which headline gets the most “opens,” and which message gets the most click-throughs. By doing this you can determine which headline has the greatest impact on your audience. You can also determine which of the two offers that you created, develops the most interest with your target audience. You will find this information useful for your next email-marketing message.

As you develop your email campaigns, be sure to use social networking and the power of the Internet by utilizing popular websites and applications online such as Kaboodle, Facebook, Digg, and Twitter to increase the number of people you can reach. By understanding what emails do for you and what makes them effective, small and mid-sized businesses can use their size to simplify and streamline the email marketing process, making them competitive with larger firms. For a very small amount of money, any business can create a massive email-marketing program.

If you think this is something that you would like to try, but you don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, contact a marketing professional to assist you. I am available to assist you in your email-marketing efforts. If you need a consultation or a complete strategic marketing plan, feel free to call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies find their voice in an ever increasingly crowded market by do more with less($). Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the website www.fracicaenterprises.com.