I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but there's no such thing as free marketing. Whether it's Permission Marketing or Interruption Marketing, via Twitter or e-mail, on Instagram or Facebook: getting your message out to your target market is going to cost you money. This blog? The one you're reading right now? Is $8/mo.
For some reason, Permission Marketers like to pretend that e-mail marketing is free. Granted, the solutions for e-mail marketing have changed in the last 15 years. But somehow the idea that e-mail marketing costs the company nothing has prevailed.
What E-Mail Marketing Costs You
As a marketer, whether it's of crafts or curios or mass-produced goods, your goal is to get your message to your target market often and in a concise manner. E-mail is perfect for this. But why do Permission Marketers think that sending e-mail is free? Why do they tout it so?
If you're sending e-mail to more than one person at a time, chances are you use a mass e-mail service such as MailChimp (my personal favorite). MailChimp is not a free service.
If you're a good Permission Marketer, you likely collect more information than allowed on the basic MailChimp form, which means you might use Wufoo (also a favorite) to collect said information and integrate it into your MailChimp list. Wufoo, also, is not a free service.
Even if you use homegrown techniques like the Excel macros of old and are running a stolen copy of Microsoft Outlook, you're still planning and composing an e-mail and your cost is time – as well as the Internet service provider you use to power your office or studio.
You may say: but Meredith, I compose everything on my iPhone and just send out blasts via Instagram. Instagram is a free service! You can apply these costs to any service you use to stay in constant contact with your audience – whether it's a square image, a 140 character tweet, or a tiny video. It all takes time, devices, and data.
What E-Mail Marketing Costs Your Customers
Here's where Permission Marketers who talk about e-mail and direct blasts being free really lose me. While your signal is cutting through a lot of the noise, it's also adding to the pile. You're only on top of the pile for a few seconds before being opened, being discarded, or being replaced by the next thing on top of the pile.
At the bare minimum, your e-mail costs your customers attention. (Which reminds me of the old saying: I'm so poor I can't even pay attention!) You've managed to gain their attention for at least a minute, pulling them away from work or social time. It costs them time to click on a link or - heaven forbid - hit the discard button.
Your e-mail also costs them valuable data. While applications like GMail give almost unlimited storage, every time a customer reads an e-mail on their phone, tablet, or mobile device, you're costing them part of their monthly data plan. Downloading an image-heavy e-mail is basically a data killer.
There Is No Such Thing As Free Marketing
Your Facebook updates, your Twitter feed - although they take little effort to compose - that is still time out of your day that you could use to make something. E-mail blasts can take even more time, depending on your chosen tool and how proficient you are. Often, for indie entrepreneurs - and I am so guilty of this - these status updates are ways to block our own productivity. We're scared - for whatever reason - to sit down and get to the heart of why we do what we do and commit to our schedule and goals.
Before you send any blast, ask yourself: what do I want my customers to do? Why am I sending this? Knowing your end goal will help foster a better ROi (return on investment). It can allow you to target your list to meet the goal's needs. This can help you decide whether now is truly the right time for a blast.
Three Things To Ask Yourself Before You Blast
1. Am I bored? Boredom is never a reason to update.
2. Do I have other things to do? Procrastination is never a reason to update.
3. What's my goal? Aimless updates never generate results.
Three Good Reasons For A Blast
1. A new product launch. Most people join e-mail lists to stay up to date with your brand.
2. Educating about your process. If you have a trademark process, illuminating this to customers can help foster trust - which will allow you to send more frequent messages.
3. Behind the scenes information. This can include discounts, photos, or event schedules.
We'll talk more some other time about targeted marketing and the kinds of goals you can set for better messaging to your audience, but I had to get this little rant off my chest. Marketing isn't free - as we've seen, it takes time, data, and services cost money. If you have found a 100% free marketing tool, I'd love to know about it - but in my 10+ years of marketing experience, this is what I've learned. Hopefully I've been able to shed some light on this marketing myth for you.