I received an email other day from a work at home mom who recently started a small publishing company. She wanted to start selling advertising to other WAHM businesses but was concerned about bulk emailing them... with good reason.
Spam is four-letter word that most offends those of us working online. Everyone with a website receives it and like bad art, we all know it when we see it. But also -like art- in a way, spam is in eye of beholder. I have participated in discussions that disintegrated because each member had his or her own definition of spam and was angry at those who disagreed.
In offline world, it is perfectly acceptable to cold-call or snail mail a business to tell them about a product or service you offer. When I worked in an office environment, I took such calls all time. Often, I said 'no thank you' and that was end of it. But every once in a while, call came in at just time I was searching for such an item - and a sale would be made.
Of course, power and low-cost of email make this an inexact comparison. So what do you do when you have a product or service that you *know* your target market *needs* -- and you want to use power of Internet to let them know about it?
THE PERSONAL APPROACH
The keywords are 'target market.' Find out who they are by doing an Internet search to find them. Check out sites which include directories of businesses in your target market. Then, visit those sites - and send their owners a *personal* email pitching your product. Be sure to use their *names* and comment on something you learn about their businesses from their sites. If they offer newsletters, sign up for them and comment upon something you read there. This establishes a prior business relationship and is not considered spam by *most* people.
However, even this personal approach will offend *some* webmasters, and it will cost you a lot of time relative to number of people you reach. A more efficient means of getting your message out would be to join discussion groups geared to your audience and announce your product there.
ONLINE NETWORKING THROUGH DISCUSSION LISTS
But message boards and discussion lists have their own spam issues. When joining a list, you must read their guidelines and follow them. Sending out a blatant advertisement to members of a discussion list will not be tolerated - but you are welcome to describe your business where it is *appropriate* (i.e., someone asks where they can find a product just like yours and you announce that you just happen to sell that).
You are also allowed to put information in your sig line that directs people to your website - so whenever you contribute to discussion, you have an opportunity to promote your business.
When you join, sit back for a couple of days and follow conversation so you can get a feel for tone of discussion, people involved and what is customary among them. Then, introduce yourself as a new member (which also give you an opportunity to bring up subject of your business, website, product - within guidelines they set when you join).
An added benefit to marketing through discussion groups is fact that you will build new relationships with other business people that can lead to joint ventures, assistance and even friendship. In offline world, it is similar to being part of a chamber of commerce or other networking group and it works just as well on web.
At ParentPreneur Club, we have our own discussion group, PPC Advisory, where members brainstorm issues they face as work at home parents. To join, email < mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org > .
Here are more of my favorite groups targeted to work at home parents. You'll find others specific to your needs by searching for them at < http://www.yahoogroups.com > and < http://www.topica.com >
< mailto:email@example.com > This group is made up of members of Club Mom affiliate program. All members have websites with mom-related content and products, which makes them ideal partners for Club Mom membership program. You must be an affiliate of Club Mom to be a member of this list.