Email marketing is fast becoming one of the premier marketing tools on the Internet. While many people think of email marketing as "spam," that is really a practice frowned upon by legitimate companies and businesses that use email marketing as a tool to grow their businesses. Email marketing is just what the name purports: It's the use of electronic mail (email) to send product messages. People who send email to large quantities of people at once, with no regard to personalized information, are known as spammers. The junk email (akin to junk mail of the more traditional variety) is known as spam. Spam can be very annoying and even offensive to many computer users. Spam quite often gives email marketing a bad name. However, properly used by conscientious businesses, email marketing can be a powerful tool. Many companies send emails to people who have bought products from them. The products can be bought over the Internet, phone, in a store or through the mail. When someone fills out a card and places their email address on it, or enters the email address at a Web site, she or he is implicitly giving permission for email marketing materials to come to his or her inbox. Many Web sites offer the option to sign up for "email updates." This is really another form of email marketing. By consenting to receive an update, you are in effect asking the company to send you information on products, services or special deals. In this way, email marketing can be very beneficial to the savvy shopper. Many people enjoy being kept "in the loop" on certain products or services. Many times, companies offer special bargains or promotions only to those on their email marketing list. This allows the shopper to receive a special bonus not offered to the general public. Email marketing is fast growing as the online marketing strategy of choice. When companies use it properly, to identify and define an audience, all involved can benefit.