At first sight newsletters would appear to be a powerful and highly cost-effective marketing tool. Yet, many of those we receive are not well-executed and probably have little impact. This article covers a range of issues to consider when you embark on this form of marketing.
Why do we use newsletters?
Keeping in touch with customers, prospects and influencers is a natural way to build a business, especially in service industries. As they are both cost-effective and versatile, newsletters are an important tool to help you do this.
What makes newsletters successful?
In these days of spam your message needs to stand out from the crowd. Providing information that your audience would find useful is the key to getting it read - if your message doesn't get read then why bother?
Keep it brief
The first rule of eNewletters is that they should be brief. It's unlikely that your reader will scan more than a page before moving on. You have that much space to get attention. Use short "teasers" to introduce topics that you believe will interest them.
Don't forget the substance
When the reader does find something interesting they will often wish to read more. Add link(s) from your short summaries to more detailed content.
Here is a fictitious example of a newsletter with linked content. Note that most of this content is not even on the same website. This has the additional advantage of side-stepping copyright issues around the use of other people's content if you cannot make time to write your own. In this case you may want to use intermediate content such as a synopsis to introduce the external page and to suggest what about it is interesting.
Know thy customer
You can't always create a single message that will interest all of the people all of the time. So think about "Personalising" your message. To do this you could hold, along with your recipients address, various preferences that you know they have. As the diagram shows, you use a bulk mailer that can apply some rules to manipulate the content according to indiviual preferences.
Holding information about people's interests will help you make your content relevant. If you know, for example, that a given person is not interested in technical topics it makes sense to remember this information and avoid sending them such items.
If you do not have the resources to mount telemarketing activities you can use a degree of reader tracking to obtain input on your correspondents' preferences. This is easily achieved using the clicks they make as they view your summary email. Each click makes a momentary stop on your server and you can record salient facts such as that they showed interest in topic X.
Counters can be set up to monitor click-throughs. Over time, they gather this information. This could be done with a specific tool or simply using standard web-logs. You can then view summary statistics and use this in planning your next communications, updating profiles etc. Here's a simple report generated from the example newsletter linked above.
Make sure it can be delivered
You may think that most people have Outlook just like you. Therefore, if mail reaches you, it will reach them. Not so. Firstly, there are many mail-reading programs out there. You need to make sure your outgoing mails are MIME-compliant so that everyone can read them. An important facility within MIME is "multipart-alternative". This wraps plain-text and HTML mail in the same envelope. Use this to make sure that your non-HTML-accepting recipients get something, event if it's just a link to your newsletter on-site.
With what shall I send it?
Whereas your normal mail client (e.g. Outlook) is not designed for bulk mail there are many tools available. A simple tool could be added to your website for this purpose. Alternatively. you could obtain one of the many off-the-shelf packages available. The most useful alternatives are those that can be integrated with your mailing list for sending and can process any mail that bounces back.
It's good practice to avoid sending people anything they do not want. So, even before it became a legal necessity, we began to think about how to make sure of that. The recent legislation has defined it differently in that people should have opted-in if they wish to receive your newsletter. Make sure that you have a box for this purpose on all your mailings and check that opting-in does not occur by default. Also include a simple mechanism to enable them to unsubcribe.
People change their email addresses quite often these days. It can be a chore to keep your lists up to date. It's worth having tools to help you do this. If you have a program to catch the bounces from your mailings this can provide a convenient way to identify the addresses you need to fix. Ideally, it should flag these directly onto your database. The action of finding correct addresses or deleting any that are no longer required is, in most cases, a manual exercise.
If you have a number of editions to manage this can generate a lot of work. To minimise the work you should create a clear plan showing the publication dates and names of contributors and make sure everyone knows what they are expected to do and by when.
Capturing the content
There's nothing wrong with the time-tested method of consolidating a number of articles from Word documents and editing them into a newsletter. However, the process can be a little cumbersome if you also have to prepare abstracts and publish parts of the content in different ways. The alternative is to have a "content managment" tool to hold and organise your content. At its simplest this would consist of a screen to enter or ammend content including title, abstract and body copy with the necessaryu formatting controls for making links, insertinh images etc.
There are many more things you can do with eNewsletters including embedding survey forms. If you need more information on how to do this or to implement any of the above suggestions please let us know by contacting us.