E-mail is the most popular online activity for personal and business purposes.  Properly handled e-mail communications solidify and bring together all other aspects of online marketing endeavors.  E-mail should be respected as a primary factor in the success of an e-business.  According to Juniper Media Metrix, e-mail is used by 96% of the people online.  E-mail marketing in its purest form is interaction, speed, and communication.  No other medium has the power of communicating with existing and potential customers like e-mail.

Companies venturing into the Internet Commerce world should expect to participate in e-mail marketing in the following ways:

Reverse channel e-mail management (responding to incoming e-mail messages):

    Responses from company employees to customers, potential customers, vendors, and related businesses.

    Publishing pre-formatted messages sent via autoresponders (mailbots) in response to incoming messages/requests.

  1. Targeted e-mail advertising
  2. Opt-in e-mail e-zines/newsletters
  3. Sales approval or denial notifications to customers (generally automated)
  4. Viral e-mail marketing

The Internet is an information, communications, and marketing tool, which in itself explains why e-mail is so vital to businesses desiring to succeed online.  With the emergence of marketers searching for ROI (Return on Investment) from their marketing efforts, email marketing could be the answer.  E-mail can be prepared and mailed to many recipients, like traditional mailings, but e-mail has a few advantages over the traditional mail system:

  1. Quicker delivery
  2. Less expensive to generate
  3. Can be directly targeted to groups who have interests in the subject matter through company Internet research and opt-in lists

According to Forrester Research®, the Internet is expected to generate 112 billion more messages than the U.S. Postal Office in 2002.  While this may be true, companies need to be aware of the damage they can do to their reputation if they allow e-mail messages to be sent from the company unprofessionally:

  1. Using huge untargeted mailing lists that are often sold and masked as "large numbers of potential customers for pennies."  Randomly generated mass lists of e-mail addresses generally result in delivering SPAM.
  2. Poor grammar, unplanned formatting, and lack of company standards on corporate e-mail distribution. 

The two explained:  1) Traditional mailings to the masses are generally done based on geographic segmentation variables.  On the Internet, psychographic segmentation is the primary key to successful targeting, which is why sending to the masses becomes more complicated.  Definitely reaching large numbers of targeted customers is what marketers want, and there are ways to do it professionally, ethically, and effectively, utilizing e-mail.  E-mailing lists need to be generated following research and gathering consumer and customer preferences.  2) Companies spend millions every year selecting the right letterhead to present the right corporate image, yet few spend time generating company policies regarding e-mail. 

Companies must make sure that they are generating positive, professional, desired e-mail messages.  To be professional, companies need to plan e-mail into their marketing strategies.

e-Mail Marketing Campaign Planning

The term "e-mail campaign" is a relatively new term in the sense of business terminology.  As  recently as 1999, only a few corporate marketers acknowledged email as a factor of their marketing campaigns.  At the time the Internet was new enough that businesses were in the infancy stage of emerging into online corporate presences, and to many e-mail was a way of personally communicating with friends and co-workers.  Companies are since realizing that e-mail is more than a method of personally communicating but a way for corporations to personalize communications.   Today, the majority of corporations include e-mail as not only a portion of their marketing campaigns, but as a key player.  E-mail is used for B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing endeavors.  Failing to plan an e-mail marketing campaign is, as the old cliché says, planning to fail. 

So how are companies including e-mail in their strategic marketing planning?  As with any element within a complete corporate marketing campaign, traditional and/or Internet based, target audience should determine what actions are taken.  Here are a few examples of what other companies are doing to integrate e-mail into their success plan:

  1. Opt-in e-Zines/Newsletters

Companies use opt-in e-zines/newsletters as a way of generating continual contact with site guests.  E-zines are also profitable due to sold advertising within the e-zines themselves.  Site guests opt-in (sign up to receive) e-Zines/Newsletters so they can receive up-to-date information on a subject of personal or professional interest.  Education and professional information on particular topics are what persuade subscribers to request the e-zines and provide their e-mail addresses.  Once a site guest becomes a subscriber, the company has increased chances that the subscriber will become a customer.  Customers generate income and companies can learn much more about who is visiting their site through personal information voluntarily given by the customer.  Personally-identifiable information is valuable to e-marketers for traditional marketing purposes:  target audience research. 

Companies should always provide a way for site guests to opt-out of further e-zine mailings.  Opting-out is generally provided through a simple mailto: link with a subject line of "Remove."  Companies should honor requests for removal if they desire to continue with a professional image.  E-zines are available in topics from automotive to medical to computer programming, and yes, even in marketing.  The topics for e-zines are as vast as the topics for print magazines.

Here are a few examples:

  1. PlacestoGolf.com offers an e-zine featuring "jokes, tips, news, golf business strategies, industry news, links to free golf products and more."  Their e-zine, The Golf EZine,  is delivered to inboxes semi-monthly.  Of course, the e-zine is targeted to golf enthusiasts and professionals and strictly features golf-related news, products, and issues.
  2.  SuccessDoctor.com is a site by Michel Fortin, PhD.  A professor of e-Commerce/e-Marketing topics in Canada, Michel's site and accompanying e-zine, the Profit Pill are devoted to information geared to needs of Internet marketers.
  3. OnPolitics.com sends out a nightly e-zine from WashingtonPost.com that updates politically-savvy individuals on electorial campaigns and political issues. Site guests can register and receive regional information, distributed by zip code, provided by the registrant (an example of incorporating geographic segmentation into the online marketing mix).   Information on the site is available for both local and national politics. 
  4. Zharkova.com offers the World Wide Business Connection monthly e-zine.  The e-zine is filled with "exclusive finder's fees opportunities worldwide, business financing, offshore banking news, joint venture opportunities, import/export contacts, commodities and international real estate investments worldwide (available/wanted) each month."  This particular e-zine is not free; it costs $60 a year to receive the information.

  1. E-mail responses personally sent by employees

Companies with established policies on e-mail correspondence recognize the value of consistency in corporate representation and image.

Established policies can include, but may not be limited to the following:

  1. Standard rules for subject lines: 
    • Correct grammar
    • Written in second person
    • Initial caps or standard sentence format
    • Omit the period unless complete sentence is included
    • Straightforward regarding content
    • Simple, not wordy
    • Clearly stated reward or benefit, when applicable
  2. E-mails must be sent from a company server so that all correspondence by employees for and in behalf of the company are sent to recipients from a valid company e-mail address.  Or employees must exhibit the ability to set up a mailing using outside mail servers that appear to be coming from within the corporation. In other words, if Jack wanted to send an e-mail from home to a business client, he would need to know how to configure his mail settings so that the e-mail was sent from Jack@companyname.com instead of Jack@athome.com. 
  3. Signature file (textual business card at the bottom of the e-mail) is included with proper formatting. 
  4. E-mails must be grammar and spelling-error free.  The professional image of the company is on the line with each e-mail sent from employees to the outside world, which corporate marketers are recognizing. 
  5. Some companies require in-house training on company e-mail procedures and standards prior to allowing employees computer access and issuing e-mail accounts.
  6. Line length standards. Some companies require that the longest character line length be 65 words, to ensure consistent formatting when the file arrives in an inbox, regardless of the receiving mailserver and e-mail software. 

  1. Autoresponses and Sales approval/denial messages

Autoresponses are messages set up to be delivered instantly for given occasions.

  1. Messages are generally sorted and distributed based on the incoming mailbox.  For instance, when an e-mail is received by the address inquiries@companyname.com, a preformatted email is returned with information generally thanking the site guest for the inquiry, reinforcing the importance of positive customer service to the company, and a time frame in which a real-live person will respond. 
  2. The system may also be programmed to return a "smart response" autoresponse.  The smart response is a fairly new technology designed to scan the e-mail for keywords and then attach an autoresponse e-mail with an electronically-guessed response to the individual's inquiry.  The responses are prewritten by employees and distributed into a database for the smart response system to scan and import into the e-mail. 

    Company marketers should be aware that smart response systems have been known to frustrate site guests as much or more than they help.  Smart response systems need to be fully tested prior to deploying to the web environment for public use.  If a smart responder is instigated by a company, recommendation is given for the company to also include an expected time frame for the site guest to hear from a real-live-actual-living-breathing individual.

  3. When sales are attempted, autoresponders are sent to site guests with either approval or denial messages.  When sales are approved, site guests should receive a message informing them of the approval, an expected time for arrival, and information regarding specials, or an invitation to sign-up for an e-zine subscription. 

    When sales are denied, site guests should be greeted with an invitation to order using other methods.  For instance, if a credit card was denied, the denial message should include information regarding ordering by check, phone, e-cash, PayPal, or C.O.D.  The denial message should always greet the receiver in a positive, inviting light and should include company contact information where they can be sure to reach an actual person to answer their questions.

Targeted e-mail advertising

Targeting can be quite sophisticated in nature, especially when utilizing available technology.  For instance, companies can use cookies, site tracking devices, and online registration forms for collecting relevant demographic and psychographic information about site guests and analyzing what pages customers stop at prior to purchasing or exiting the store.  With this data collected on registered users, companies can send the customer information regarding specials, events, and offerings.  Companies should not include the customer into its mailing database if the customer selected the option on his/her registration form not to receive further messages from the company.  Without an online registration form, the company can see where site guests visit and what pages are receiving the longest stays, but they have no ability to contact the visitor at a later time. 

Viral e-mail Marketing

Viral marketing is spreading word, telling others about a product or service.  Consumers writing to consumers is viral marketing in the new economy.  The Internet has sped up the time frame for receiving information and communications.  Therefore, a company can not afford to have negative experiences being spread about them.  The Internet provides an open forum for free speech.  Complaint sites have been created and published online in regards to some companies and services.  Indeed viral marketing can be both positive and negative, and the Internet extends the bad and the good for longer periods of time and to a larger audience.

Viral marketing can also be used by companies to benefit themselves.  Hotmail used viral marketing to raise awareness about its services and have consequently risen to the stronghold that they presently are on the Internet.  An example of implementing viral marketing:  companies pay for referrals through discounts.  So one customer who forwards an e-mail to another potential customer has "spread the word" about a service or special.

Promptly Responding

The 24-hour rule:  Answer all e-mails within 24 hours. 
In order to meet the 24-hour rule, incoming e-mail needs to be properly directed.  What happens if a company receives a flood of e-mails that they can't possibly handle within a 24-hour rule?  This may be a good time to invest in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.  There are many different CRM companies that handle all different types of customer interactions and transactions.  CRMs that focus on e-mail management will ensure that e-mail is routed, tracked, and handled appropriately.  Customers expect to receive replies to their inquiries within 24 hours.  Twenty-four hours is a standard rule.

Building and Managing e-Mail Lists

Permission e-mail marketing campaigns are cost-effective and beneficial to both companies and subscribers.  "Response rates on email campaigns can outshine traditional direct mail and can clock in at several times that of online advertisements -- 15 percent or higher for well-crafted permission email, compared to below 1 percent for banner ads, says research group IMT Strategies"  --Quote from eMarketing Magazine, September 2001

Building an e-mail list can be done in-house from direct contacts with customers or can be purchased.  According to Stephen Diorio, president of IMT Strategies the return is 10 to 15 percent and on rented lists the percentage drops to 1 percent.  This is because the rented lists are often overused and abused and become part of SPAM lists.  Without a doubt, the most professional way to gather a professional e-mail list is to build one internally.  Building one internally does take time.  IMT Strategies spent three years building a list of 10,000.

The following are benefits to establishing an e-mail list: 1)  Obtaining a highly targeted list of customers and potential customers, and   2)  Messages are delivered directly to the inbox of the customer as opposed to a traditional mailing where the message may or may not be seen by the intended recipient.

Building a Subscriber List 

Just like a house is only as strong as its foundation, e-mail lists are only as strong as the number and quality of its subscribers.  Here are some keys to promoting an e-mail list to get new subscribers: 

  1. Offer an extremely simple sign up procedure for signing up for your e-zine.  Simplicity is the key.  Require only an e-mail address to register.  At most, ask one other question.  Present the invitation on the home page.  Some sites have found a pop-up window to be effective as well when the page loads. 
  2. Gather the e-mail addresses of your customers when they purchase products, request services, or need customer service.  Tastefully use their addresses with respect.  Do not sell their addresses and never send them e-mail they haven't agreed to receive.  When customers proceed through the checkout process, ask to be permitted to contact them occasionally with specials.  If they agree, then they are added to the list. 
  3. Obtain reciprical links from complementary companies so that your company and e-zine can be given exposure.
  4. Spend some time and scan appropriate newsgroups and post announcements occasionally.   When posting to boards, include your signature file and web site address.  Include a very short statement about the e-zine. 
  5. Contribute to complementary e-zines.  By contributing content, you can simultaneously instill credibility with new prospects and subtly obtain new subscribers.
  6. If you are able to find a list of a complementary company, be extremely careful when you approach the list administrator or moderator because your sole purpose is to announce a new list not to steal away their subscribers. 
  7. Lists can also be built by promoting through offline marketing techniques. (i.e. direct mail, brochures, etc.)

Obtain lists from list companies only if they have a double opt-in procedure:  Once someone signs up for an e-mail, the company sends an autoresponder to the recipient's e-mail box, asking them to verify the desire to receive the e-zine or other e-mail correspondence.  Verification is generally done by simply replying to the e-mail.  Double verifications ensure that the owner of the e-mail address actually desires to receive the information and that he/she indeed was the requesting party.

List Servers 

A list server is a software program designed to receive, sort, and smoothly disburse messages.  The list server is at the origin of every e-mail list. The most popular list server is called LISTSERV. 

The best aspect of a list server is the ease of use.  If subscribers know how to send and receive e-mail, they have skills worthy of managing a list through a list server.  Messages can be previewed and tested prior to deploying.

Looking After an E-mail List 

Just as the year changes seasons so will e-mail list participants.  Nurturing the list and staying current with those opting in and those opting out will ensure increased professionalism. 

The list needs to be refreshed often.  The focus of your mailings to those on the list needs to be managed, tested, and updated to ensure the company is meeting the up-to-date needs of its subscribers.  Marketers should be open to making adjustments when needed.

Keeping current customers is less expensive than generating new customers.  Nurturing your e-mail list will help previous customers become repeat customers.  If ROI isn't occuring after solid testing, try a new format, new content, and receive input from your target audience before making any definitive changes.

Channeling, properly distributing e-mail

Before deploying an e-mail marketing campaign, companies should plan for distribution of e-mails once responses start coming in.  In planning how e-mail messages should be directed for response, use the following as a guide: 

Create and post a FAQ page.  A FAQ page enables companies to list anticipated questions and answers from site guests which is a great way to prevent an onslaught of e-mails that can be handled without extra effort.  Keep in mind, however, that FAQ pages are often viewed as "time hogs" by site guests and therefore a "search" feature in the FAQ section would be good.

Contact information should be easily accessible.  Businesses should make it as easy as possible for people visiting their site to find all the contact information and e-mail addresses of organizational employees. Providing e-mails for easy contact helps companies and consumers save time.  The customer does not have to guess where to send the e-mails and employees do not waste time redistributing e-mails to the right departments. 

Place a text e-mail link on every web page. Providing a mailto: link on web pages gives site visitors easy access to instantly contact the company without having to type in the e-mail address. Unless, of course, the visitor does not have his/her e-mail server information in their browser preferences.

The link should clearly spell out the e-mail address, as shown: 

  • Example of not displaying the e-mail address as part of the text (What not to do): 

E-mail the Sales Department

  • Example of displaying the full e-mail address (what to do):

e-mail: Sales@pretendcompany.com

With the complete address displayed, site guests know ahead of time where their e-mails are being sent.  Visitors without the right browser preference settings can still take advantage of the mailto: link by cutting and pasting the address into their e-mail program. 

Create additional e-mail addresses.  In most cases, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Web Hosting providers offer services to create a channel that will direct e-mails to one or more addresses.  For example, all emails sent to  info@url.com could be automatically forwarded to the secretary's e-mail.  ISPs and Web site hosting services should help companies create this e-mail direction system. Companies can program their own mail server software to configure the addresses if the mail server resides within the company. The only caution companies need to be aware of in setting up this e-mail network is to be careful that e-mail messages do not fall through the cracks in their e-business walls. To ensure this doesn't happen, a lead person for each e-mail account should be appointed. 

e-Mail 101

In many ways, e-mail is more personal than direct mail.  It is a one-to-one medium that arrives on the computers of people at work or at home.  As with all mediums e-mail has certain do's and don'ts.  You need to be versed in all basic netiquette practices--which are traditions that have become rules in polite and courteous online communication.

As an emarketing professional you can't afford to overstep your bounds and not use netiquette in your marketing efforts.  If you do, you will put yourself and your company in a risky position for potential flaming.  Flames are direct angry e-mail responses to offensive messages that resemble an explosive weapon of words and phrases. 

At first glance, it would seem that people would use common sense netiquette when they e-mail someone.  However, seeing e-mails blitzed all over the net with netiquette errors is not uncommon.  More often than not, poor netiquette occurs due to a lack of education more than malicious intention. 

Basic Rules for e-Mail Correspondence

The following are basic e-mail rules that are essential to effective online marketing:

  1. Keep messages short.  People are bombarded on a daily basis with an abundance of information.  People don't have time to read a scientific dissertation about your business.  Present your point quickly and you will have a better chance of it being read.
  2.  Never type in all capital letters.  Even if you are trying to draw attention to a particular phrase, do not type in all capital letters.  Remember the only thing it accomplishes is a negative connotation, reflecting on the sender.  In addition, if your e-mail correspondence can be construed as either negative in nature or  as flaming, consider how quickly viral marketing could spread your new-found reputation.  A negative e-mail can be forwarded as quickly as hitting the send button to multiple recipients.  As a result, irreparable damage can be done with just one emotionally-driven message. 
  3. Have established policies.  When a company receives a negative e-mail or flaming message, policies need to be established for handling the returning correspondence.  Some companies may have one individual or a small team assigned to the duty. Amazon.com management believes positive customer service is so important that they place some of their most talented staff on the task.
  4. Avoid using emotions.  Marketers should stay away from over using punctuation to add inflection to a sentence.  In most cases, especially in business, cutesy keyboard symbols come across extremely unprofessional and inappropriate.  It would be better for companies to focus on the message and express thoughts in words rather than symbols.  "Cutesy" symbols are faces drawn by keyboard characters when corresponding in e-mail and chat rooms. And while smiley faces in e-mail look cute, they are generally frowned upon in professional correspondence online.  Remember also that that ALL CAPS means you are screaming.   If however you are interested in the semantics of smiley faces for personal e-mailings or online chat sessions, or if you are merely wanting examples of what we are talking about, here are two sites to guide you through:
  5. Avoid using common Net savvy acronyms.  Companies do not need to use IMHO in place of "in my humble opinion" or BTW in place of "by the way."  Using acronyms may confuse those receiving the correspondence, which is especially true when you consider that messages have the potential of being sent world wide and reaching a variety of audiences.  Professional messages need to be clear, concise, and complete. 
  6. Subject lines need to be clear.  Subject lines need to be clear, free of slang, to the point, and offer keywords shared in the content of the e-mail message.
  7. Informal/Professional Presentation.   Company image needs to be protected. Not that every e-mail should be written like a litigation document. But e-mails should never have poor grammar, misspelled words, or unfinished sentences. Company and contact information should always be included.
  8. Use Politeness as Your Guide.  Every message that your company sends out to the world of prospects and customers has an instant stamp of positive or negative impression associated with it. Always write positive weighted e-mails no matter how your day is affecting your mood. 
  9. Avoid the practice of generating SPAM.  In the beginning stages of Internet and e-mail, sending unsolicited commercial e-mail, known as SPAM, was common for businesses to do.  Thousands of lists were created from unsuspecting individuals at Internet newsgroups and sold for profit.  Unfortunately, e-mail is open to poor business practices like anything else--98% of businesses use e-mail wisely and generally have good intentions while 2% see SPAM as a pathway to gold and use it unyieldingly.  If a business wishes to remain legitimate and credible, they will completely avoid sending SPAM.  The industry is taking steps to counter act SPAM through a joint effort called Responsible Communication Alliance (RECA).  Their mission is to establish and promote professional online marketing standards.  The following are errors to stray from:
    • Failing to remove or slow at removing an e-mail address from an e-mail list.
    • Sending offensive, falsely advertised, and unethical messages.
    • Sending unsolicited bulk e-mail.
    • Using a reply link that doesn't work, so people who get messages contact the company.
  10. Other Forms of Communication. In some circumstances, contacting customers by other means other than e-mail may be a necessary, more professional option.  Taking the time to contact customers by phone, fax, or traditional mail may be a great opportunity to build trust and relationships with customers. 
    Formatting e-Mail Messages


Before initiating a massive e-mail campaign, an online director may consider whether to send e-mail messages in a text or HTML format. Actually, offering both options can be better.  So what are the differences between HTML and text-based e-mails?

  • HTML e-zines:  HTML e-zines arrive in inboxes, formatted like web pages complete with graphics, tables, animation, and/or javascript.  Some people like the flexibility that an HTML message gives them, while others prefer text because an HTML file can take longer to download and it takes up more file space. 
  • Text-based e-zines:  Text-based e-zines arrive in inboxes as other ascii text messages - simple text.  All e-mail programs have the ability to receive text-based e-mails.

Length and Spacing of Lines 

Have you ever tried to read an e-mail with unbalanced spacing? E-mail messages with unbalanced spacing are difficult to read. One way to ensure that e-mail lines are evenly spaced is to type text-based e-zines with no more than 65 characters per line. Limiting line length will enable more consistent formatting. 

In HTML e-zines, establish the page by creating tables that are 595 pixels (or less) in width.  Five hundred ninety-five pixels print well on most printers without truncating text on the printout.

Blind Carbon Copies (BCC) 

When establishing an e-mail campaign and sending e-mails, addresses need to be kept private by being placed in the BCC field.  If addresses are included in any other field, they will be seen by all who receive them.  Even more importantly, displaying all addresses of recipients opens mailing lists to the public for the potential of being picked up by others and exposing addresses to the possibility of being added to SPAM lists.

However, be aware that when all messages are in the BCC field, some e-mail programs will warn recipients that the message they receive may be potential SPAM.  If companies experiencing these effects, investing in a professional e-mail distribution server may solve the problem.

Sometimes as an alternative to purchasing an e-mail server, the error can be avoided by adding at least one address in the TO: field, but this practice isn't recommended because the message will not appear to be personalized to the recipients receiving the message in the BCC field.  In addition, the recipients will likely know their e-mail address is located in the BCC field and if they click "Reply to All,"  they can reply to everyone in the list.

Fully Test e-Mail Messages

Companies that spend a lot of time writing copy, gathering e-mail addresses, and building a network system cannot afford to have errors in the content, formatting, or delivery of the message.  Therefore test the e-mail in-house prior to deploying it to others.  The e-mail messages should be tested on different platforms and in differing software programs designed for receiving e-mail. 

Companies can include a javascript to detect the browser type and/or e-mail software receiving the message and then send either the HTML or Text-based message.  By fully testing the e-mail, the company can preview both versions of the e-mail and test the accuracy of any javascript detector included in the message.

Rich Media e-Mails 

Rich media e-mails include audio, video, or animation features. The greatest benefit to utilizing this new technology is that it increases interactivity between advertisers and the audience. Rich media also increases the ability to extend the marketing message. According to Brady Brewer with www.Avenue.com, "Rich media e-mails are more likely to have pass-along value, thereby extending the reach of the marketer's message." Although many statistics show the effectiveness of this medium with its 7 percent click through ratio (CTR), rich media e-mails are still in infancy due to cost. According to Jupiter Communications, the per customer acquisition cost of marketers using rich media email ranges from $70 to $100. Be forewarned, rich media e-mails take longer to download.  Know your target audience and the potential willingness to wait for the message prior to implementing a fully rich media message.

Subject Line: What Should you write? 

What is it about subject lines that causes people to click on one e-mail solicitation over another? Following are four elements of effective subject lines. 

  1. When sending e-mails, legitimacy is important in order to build trust. Company legitimacy can be established through the sender's e-mail address.  The recipient should see the company domain from which the message originates in the sender's e-mail address.  Sending an e-mail message from a Hotmail or Yahoo account will not carry the same credibility. 

If companies use mailing lists from a targeted opt-in mail service (such as YesMail, NetCreations, or MyPoints),  then the company may consider using one of these domains as the sending address.  The decision would depend on where the subscriber registered for the newsletter.  If the subscriber registered through the web server of another company (such as those listed), the recipient may not recognize your company name when the e-zine arrives. 

  1. Erase any profusion for readers by emphasizing the benefits to the recipient. The subject line should state a clear offer, reward or benefit. 
  2. Be straightforward and specific in your message whether you are offering coupons, free stuff, or discounts. 
  3. Use basic fundamentals. Make sure the grammar is correct, speak to them in second person, don't use all caps or multiple exclamation points, and if the you don't write a full sentence, leave out the period.

The Signature File (sig file) 

Just as you would sign every business document with your signature in the real world, the signature file accomplishes the same thing in the digital world. Signature files are automatic and provide a great marketing tool.  A sig file is a digital business card that is automatically included with every e-mail, e-mail list message or newsgroup posting that you send.

Signature files were mentioned earlier when listing how to handle messages sent personally by employees.  Here is the summary of what elements make a good signature file:

Signature files should be formatted using no more than 5 or 6 lines, including:

  • Name, Title
  • Department Name, if applicable
  • Company Name
  • Company phone
  • Company fax
  • e-mail address (possibly, depending on standard procedure set by company).  The inclusion of an e-mail address within a signature file is a topic of debate among Internet marketers.  Some argue that the e-mail being sent contains the address and yet others argue that including the e-mail address within the signature file is both convenient and professional.  Consider including an e-mail address if the message is being sent using a LISTSERV, mailbot, or any auto response. Signature files can be created in Microsoft Outlook Express or Netscape Communicator, or any other e-mail services such as Hotmail or AOL. 
  • All employees following the same standards of:  Font face, font color, additional embedded images.  If a company logo is required to be sent within the signature file, the image should be provided on the web server of the company so that employees are able to add the img tag with the appropriate path to the image within their signature file.

More and more companies are providing a pre-defined template for employees to plug their information into and include in their e-mail correspondence.  Providing the template further ensures the continuity among signatures being sent from the company.

Here is a good example of a properly written signature file: 

Tom Hoggan, eMail Strategist
eMail Success
The key to your eMail Success.
p:(303) 200-1000


Activity 1 - Signature File Exercise 
A signature file is a little ASCII text file.  A .txt  file created in a program such as Notepad is an ASCII text file.  This file is configured in your browser (if you use your browser for sending mail) or the e-mail program you use to automatically attach itself to the bottom of your e-mail message. 

There are as many directions for configuring e-mail programs to attach signature files as there are programs.  So for the purpose of an example, here is how you can configure your Netscape browser to attach a signature file to every e-mail you send through Netscape Messenger: 

Configuring Netscape

  • In Netscape, click Edit, Preferences
  • On the left-hand side of the Preferences dialog box that appears, double click on  "Mail & NewsGroups"
  • Single click on Identity and look in the right hand side of the dialog box. 

Find the input box for a Signature File.  Select the  "Choose..." button and locate the file you created.

Configuring Outlook Express

  • In Outlook Express, double check to make sure you have entered Outlook Express using the right identity by clicking Switch Identities.  From within this dialog box you can add a new identity or manage the identities in the program.
  • Once you are sure the identity is correct, click Tools, Options, Signature
  • Then click New and type the signature file you desire in the Edit Signature dialog box - or- you can browse to a file on your computer to attach.

Activity 2 - E-zine Creating

Content and Considerations

For Content:

  1. Have a featured article in each e-zine around the topic of interest
  2. Sell space for advertising, although the advertising should not be the focus of the e-zine
  3. Invite others to contribute relative articles to the e-zine.  Receiving input from others is positive marketing practices as you can,  in turn, share an article in complimentary e-zines with others.


  1. Managing an e-zine is a time consuming undertaking.  There isn't a soft way of saying it.  E-zines are extremely time consuming, and companies should consider hiring personnel to strictly handle the task.
  2. Companies need access to a good mail server that has a connection to a database.  The database should be stored with both the lists of e-mail recipients in one table and the zines in another table or many tables.
  3. Companies need to stay with the intended focus of the e-zine, employees need to have a savvy interest in the topics the e-zine covers.

    Part A - Text-Based E-zines
    To create an E-Zine, you need a text editor with a spell checker.  Keep in mind that the spell checker will not save you from using words that are often confused for one another such as "effect" and "affect" and other grammar errors.  You will also want to select a text editor that has the ability to limit line lengths.  The standard line length is 65 words. 

Steps for Creating the Text-Based E-zine:

  1. Obtain a text editor that has the ability to limit line lengths.
  2. Set the line lengths to 65 characters
  3. After compiling the e-zine, double check the code for errors
  4. Walk away from the content for a day, then re-read the newsletter and have someone else proofread it for you
  5. Link all referenced e-mail addresses with "mailto:" The anchor tag for the e-mail Bob@pretendcompany.com would be written:

<A HREF="mailto:bob@pretendcompany.com">bob@pretendcompany.com</A>

  1. Make all URLs clickable by linking them with the anchor tag
  2. Use headings within your article to help site guests easily scan the content
  3. Separate sections within the article with <HR> tags or with dashes and lines, again for the purposes of assisting others with scanning the e-zine for content.
  4. Test the e-zine on different platforms and through different email programs.

    Part B- HTML E-zines
    HTML e-zines are e-zines that arrive with formatting, images, tables, and everything a web page can contain, the e-zine can contain.  Keep in mind that companies need to be aware of the limitations of the e-mail programs their recipients use prior to implementing an HTML e-zine.  Although, most e-mail programs now accept HTML formatting.

Steps for Creating an HTML E-zine:

  1. HTML e-zines are created with the same tools as other web pages.
  2. Organize pages in tables, limiting the width of tables to 595 pixels for distributing and printing purposes.
  3. FTP images to a web server accessible to the world through either  an IP address or a descriptive URL.
  4. When adding images with the <img  tag, include the full path to the image.  Be sure to include the http://
  5. When you send the e-zine, the images will display in the e-zine for the recipients.

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