E-Mail to Clients is Spam

E-Mail to Clients is Spam
… if you don't obtain their permission first.
By Art Kuesel, Marketing Director, Wipfli CPAs & Consultants, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Today CPA firms everywhere are e-marketing to their clients, prospects, and referral sources. However, many firms will sabotage themselves and alienate clients if they don't follow the new corporate standards for "permission marketing."

What is Permission Marketing?
Permission Marketing is obtaining the permission of clients, prospects, and referrals to send e-mail information to them. By obtaining a person's permission before sending e-mail information, the company can expect participants to become active participants and to not be irritated when they receive e-mail communications from the company. This significantly increases the results marketers can expect from e-marketing campaigns.

The Power of Permission Marketing
According to E-Biz Solutions (summer 2000), 2/3 of unsolicited e-mails miss their mark and go unread. On the flip side, only three percent of requested e-mails go unread. That means almost all solicited e-mails reach their targets. This is how you want to build relationships with your customers and prospects.

The Statistics Speak Volumes About the Importance of Seeking Permission
According to recent statistics in an E-Biz Solutions publication,

  • 51 percent of people who opt-in always read the e-mail, 46 percent sometimes read the e-mail, three percent rarely read the e-mail.
  • Twenty-three percent of people who do not opt-in always delete the e-mail without reading it, 41 percent of this group rarely read the e-mail, 32 percent sometimes read the e-mail, and three percent always read the e-mail.

Attitudes Toward E-Mail Marketing
Two-thirds of people who receive unsolicited e-mails don't like receiving them and consider them spam. When consumers are spammed by e-marketers, their feelings are likely translated to their perceptions of the business - a company that spams is not the kind of company I want to do business with.

Why Should Your Firm Use Permission Marketing?
Research has shown response to permission marketing is as high as 24 percent. That number sure beats the one to two percent national average response rate for marketing efforts. In addition to the increased response rates that you will enjoy, you will have enriched relationships with your clients. Interruption marketing (what we likely use as our standard) is based on the premise that creating an interruption in your prospect's day will result in a business lead for you. Permission marketing is the opposite. It is anticipated, relevant, and personal, and that is why it is so successful.

What Initial Steps Should Firms Take?
Start by reading Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends into Customers, by Seth Godin. Then, after you have the background information you need, train your marketing and sales team with the concepts.

Steps CPA Firms Can Pursue to Launch E-Marketing

  1. Send a print mailing to all clients, prospects, and referral sources to obtain their permission to send them e-mail marketing communications and request their e-mail addresses.
  2. Input all e-mail addresses into firm database.
  3. Set up a new database field in your firm database that will track the current disposition of your contacts with regard to e-marketing: "Yes," they want to receive e-mail communications, "No," they indicated they do not want to receive e-mail communications, or "Unknown," which indicates the firm has not determined the clients' choice yet.
  4. Send all marketing communications to your contacts in the media they indicated they prefer, either print or e-mail. Never deviate.

The future of marketing is e-marketing. And every CPA firm marketer's challenge is to re-tool themselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful as e-marketers. Our livelihood and the prosperity of our firms depend upon it.

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