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President of eMarketing Association, Robert Fleming, discusses e-marketing certification and the current state of spam

Friday, June 02, 2006
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
Tags: e-marketing, spam, CAN-SPAM

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Mike: I'm here with Robert Fleming, president and CEO of the eMarketing Association. I want to start with an overview of the eMarketing Association for people who may not be familiar with it and a bit of a discussion on who might be interested in taking these courses.

Robert Fleming: The eMA was founded in 1998. Basically, our mission is to educate and bring together people in the e-marketing, internet marketing arena and provide resources and opportunities for those people to network and develop the field. It's a very new area in marketing. In many ways, a lot of the old rules are turned on their heads.

We have the most recognized certification in the world for e-marketers. These are important since colleges are not giving degrees in e-marketing or e-commerce. Most of the people who have experience in that have gained it on their own. The certification demonstrates to prospective employers and clients that people do indeed have an understanding of mechanisms, processes, techniques and procedures for marketing on the internet.

It's a very popular certification, the only such certification endorsed by a governor and state board of education. It's offered in 300 colleges around the world in 30 countries.

Mike: When you say it's offered in these 300 colleges, are they offering your courses?

Fleming: They offer our certification, not courses. We offer online courses, but they are separate and distinct from a certification. The courses are designed to train and to educate people on things like email search engines and optimization, web site marketing and so on. The certification is designed to demonstrate competency.

It's not an educational vehicle. If you already have the education but you need a credential in order to demonstrate to clients and to potential customers or even your employer, then a certification is what you would need. If you're looking to get an education, then you could take one of our online courses. There are other courses out there.

Mike: What are the big areas that you cover? Web, email and search engines?

Fleming: We cover email, search engines, web marketing and integration. I think those four issues are the strongest topics.

Mike: What seems to be the most popular area of focus?

Fleming: Email.

Mike: Interesting.

Fleming: Personally, I think that website marketing should be more important than email. It's like the store. If you don't build the store right, you don't build the website for e-commerce properly, especially if the navigation isn't good or the graphics aren't good.

Mike: Right.

Fleming: Email is so widespread, and there is so much spam, and that's such a large issue. That's the hottest issue with e-marketers, along with search engine optimizations. Eighty percent of the people who get to your site get there through one search engine or another.

Mike: It seems like you would need to sort of reinvent your curriculum or update it quite frequently?

Fleming: We update our curriculum about once every six months. There's always new legislation coming up. There are always things to learn. A couple of years ago, pop-ups were a very efficient way of click-throughs and making money. Today, there's a million blockers, and it's very unpopular. So there's a lot of turbulence within this arena, and we're learning. Everybody's learning. We're just learning about spyware, now we see legislation against it.

Mike: If a new student comes to you for your courses on your popular marketing course section, what is it that they are going to learn and take away from that?

Fleming: They're going to go through a four-week intensive course, which consists of five lessons and five tests that are instructor-monitored. One of the interesting things we do is have a live instructor that interacts with students. He works full time. He deals with 150 to 200 students a month, and that's all he does. They get lessons online. They'll have five tests and a final exam and at the end of the course, and they'll get a certificate. They'll also be supplied with resources, handbooks and PDF files during the progress of the course. We don't hand them a CD-ROM, as in some cases, or put them into an automated education system.

So, if a student emails an instructor during daytime hours, during instruction hours, they'll get a response back from him generally in five minutes.

Mike: It seems like the best way to do an online education. I mean, you can't just leave it up to a web-based test system to teach somebody.

Fleming: Right. There are some that do that. Let me caution people: If you're going to take a web-based course, you have to have some amount of self-discipline. You have to be ready to invest some time into it. We explain that on our website. Many, many people do well in it. A lot of our corporate members, like DoubleClick, Yahoo and Microsoft, put employees through courses and marketing departments.

Mike: What about the topics? What are they going to cover in email marketing courses?

Fleming: They're going to cover basic things -- like HTML versus text, how to acquire email lists, how to clean them, how to use those databases and how to collect demographic, psychographic and geographic information and coordinate that into an actionable plan. They will also cover newsletter marketing and affiliate marketing through email.

Mike: What do you think are the big trends in spam? What's happening out there?

Fleming: Prior to the CAN-SPAM Act, there were a lot of state laws that actually made spam illegal. The CAN-SPAM Act simply said, "Well, you can go ahead and send all the spam you want, as long as you have three things in place. You have an address, you have a way for people to opt out and you respect that." That's about it. We actually saw a huge increase in spam this year, which is unfortunate. I think, eventually, we're going to see that go away on its own. It costs too much to send spam if you do it through legitimate spam lists. I think that the problem will eventually resolve itself. The reasons you get so much spam is that about 80 percent of it goes through hijacked computers.

Mike: How is the cost for spammers going to rise?

Fleming: Eighty-five percent of the spam you get is not sent through conventional bandwidth. In other words, when you send out email, you have to pay for bandwidth. You have to pay to send that out. A lot of spam is sent illegally through hijacked computers, which is where hackers get into computers and use open SMTP ports to get mail out. It costs them absolutely nothing for the bandwidth.

Some of the larger spammers that I've looked at were citing $20,000 to 30,000 a month to pay for their operations in terms of bandwidth, phone lines and cable lines.

Mike: Won't spammers always be able to find these zombie PCs?

Fleming: I hope not. That's really a technical issue, but no. I think the ability for people to hijack bandwidth will, by necessity, be closed eventually.

People are using different spam filters. There are solutions, and I think it's something that we just need to get through. It's unfortunate that it's out there, and certainly we're vehemently against it because it undermines e-commerce. The fault lies especially with these people who are fraudulently going after people's bank accounts through identity theft. When you think about it, it just underscores the fact that this is a very important thing for business to understand and to work with.

Mike: Right. There's been a lot of attention paid this past year to staying compliant with CAN-SPAM. But, as you mentioned, even the spammers aren't compliant.

Fleming: Well, they are in terms of sending out spam. The tough part of compliance is opting out. That means Acme Corporation has got to take them off the list by law. But it's also got to take them off of all of their partner lists.

If one of their salesmen happens to go to a convention and get somebody's email address that had opted out and send them a friendly follow-up email, even though it's kind of personal, then they're going to be in violation of that act. So, there are some issues with the opt-out provisions of the law that are difficult for corporations to implement.

Mike: Indeed.

Fleming: A lot of corporations give their lists. That list falls across several divisions or several other companies, and you've got to be opted out of all of them. But as far as sending email, that's very easy. All they say is identify it and make sure it comes from a legitimate source that's your address, then send all the email you want.

Mike: There also seems to be a trend today of shifting back toward plaintext email, because of problems with HTML compatibility and images loading up. What's your take on that?

Fleming: We are seeing response shifts in business emailers, who are seeing higher click-through rates in plaintext versus HTML. We haven't seen that as much in consumers. People are getting a little wary about clicking on anything. Even like an opt-out. Because of some of these viruses and other negative things, people don't necessarily like to click on things in emails they're not comfortable with. Plus, plaintext takes up a lot less bandwidth. It loads faster. I don't think emails should link the sales messages anyway. They should basically say, "Okay, here's a message, and here's a link where you can go to find out more." If you don't want to click on the link, the address should be simple enough so that you can just put it in your browser yourself.

Mike: Sure. The website where people should go to find this information is www.emarketingassociation.com?

Fleming: Yes. It's www.emarketingassociation.com.

Mike: What's the general price range of these courses?

Fleming: $79 to $99.

Mike: Quite affordable, then.

Fleming: Exactly. The average online course is probably right around $279, so we're running about 66 percent less. One of the courses is free with the membership, and that's the basic course, so people who join the association generally will go through the free course.

Mike: Well, thank you for your time, Robert. I appreciate it.

Fleming: Well, thank you!

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