vector newsletter

Effective E-mail Newsletters

    Promoting your small business can be a challenge. Finding customers during a good economy takes hard work. When the general business climate slows down, growing your customer base can be a matter of life and death for the small or specialty business. Traditional advertising on television / radio or with �yellow pages� and print advertising are often inefficient or just too expensive. The smallest or most specialized businesses often are more directly impacted by these high upfront cost, because of smaller cashflow or lower margin of error in wasting precious company capital. Just like in many other areas of business communication and commerce the internet offers an alternative. We�ve all read magazine articles about how one company or another is successfully selling and direct shipping it�s products. Direct sales, subscriptions and online auctions continue to expand the diversity of items found �on the web�. The question is not �Can I sell my product or service online�, but is �How can the internet help me find more prospects for my sales message�. A commonly overlooked tool is the Email newsletter.

    What is an email newsletter, and why is it an effective promotional tool?

    Think of the traditional big-company internal newsletter/memo. They are/were an informational newspaper, but instead of relating to a local city or country, it reported on just the community that is the company. They were written, printed and distributed to communicate inter-office announcements on policy and procedure, but also included discussions of new products, industry trends, personnel announcements and information about work / vacation schedules. With a little editing, this same newsletter format can be an effective communicator for you too. The Email newsletter needs to be re-written for a different audience. It needs to be formatted to be distributed electronically, not printed to paper, but otherwise, the creation process is very similar. The �populist� medium of the internet allows anyone greater definition in targeting a sales message to the most likely prospects for your product or service. Isn�t that the goal of any advertising message?

    Email newsletter readers are called subscribers, whether or not they �pay� for receiving the group mailing. Most newsletters are sent to a collection of readers with a specific interest reflected in the newsletters content. When you provide interesting content or information of value your �group� will look forward to reading its contents. The largest collection of niche newsletters can be found at �Yahoo Groups�, but there are other communities and you can do it yourself. From a practical standpoint, the internet and email technology makes today�s company newsletter a very inexpensive, yet effective, form of advertising. The format and style of newsletters varies widely. Some are very formal and look like the online version of the Herald-Tribune, others are very small and casual. I�ll discuss some key points below, but you can write articles on new products or services, company or internal personnel awards, company events and industry news or business developments. Recent success stories and case studies of customers using your products make great reading, while at the same time showing your products and services �in action�. No matter what the format or style, the Number 1 rule ( below) must always be to provide information of value. Most Email newsletters are not �paid subscriptions�. You are trying to develop a relationship with the reader. They trust you to make the time they spend, productive. You hope they will remember your company�s products or services when it is time to make a purchase. This is the "agreement" between publisher and reader. Don't violate that trust and you'll do well.

    Whether you want to grow your customer base, upsell existing clients or cross-sell a new product or service, an Email newsletter allows you to deliver the message to an interested audience. Many companies use newsletters to establish a �brand name� or establish/reinforce an image of �authority� or expertise on the industry. Reaching a wider, more diverse group of sales prospects is commonly a byproduct of a good newsletter, and many times was the original goal. .

    8 Simple Rules for Success with a Email Newsletter.

How to develop a great newsletter that subscribers will look forward to reading.

    Rule # 1 Make it worth the readers time.

   I mentioned Rule #1 above briefly. If I give you my Email address in exchange for the information, advice, tips, knowledge, humor or witty insight you have promised, please deliver the goods. Admittedly very few Email newsletters rise to the level of Studs Terkel, William Safire�s Pulitzer Prize winning esays or the humor of Dave Barry, but try to hold up your end of the bargain. If you don�t provide quality content one of two things will occur. First, the requests to un-subscribe will increase, at which point you�ll have to work even harder to grow your mailing list. The second situation is worse. Your Email newsletter is deleted by habit as useless and a waste of time. Your mailing list will grow, but fewer and fewer viewers actually read it. In this case, why bother sending it. Adjust all the Rules #2 through * if you must, but never lose sight of Rule #1.

    Rule #2 Tell me something I ( the reader) can use.

    When I read your newsletter, I want to know something �NEW!�. Make it �news I can use�. Give me a different perspective on an industry controversy. Explain why your political opinion is the correct one. Don�t waste my time telling me something I already know. The more you make the information relevant to the industry, social club, or political circle that encompasses your subscribers, the more likely it is that your readership will go up. Remember Steven Brill ( Brill�s Content) started out as an �angry man with a word processor and a modem�. You can too.

    Rule # 3 Know who your readers are.

   As your list grows past family friends and employees, It�s a good idea to find out what your readers are interested in. This may sound backwards, after all they subscribed to your Email newsletter knowing it was about **%**., right? Do some research. Ask questions and invite responses. Do your subscribers read this newsletter at home or in the office. Do they share it with others, sometimes/never/always? Some software packages can automate a report of which page links were clicked. You can know which one of three HTML links was the most interesting to your readers. Keep a history of the most popular links to know which subjects are of more/less interest.

    Rule #4 Let your readers know who you are.

   Let your editorial voice and personality show in the newsletter. The editors of the New York Times, The New York Post and NewsDay, make sure that each days paper reflects their �style�. Each is different, but you �know what you are getting� every day. Your newsletter is no different. Pick a "style" for your newsletter and use it in every issue. Here is where brand identity comes in to play. Even if your subscribers don't read every word of your golden missive, they should recognize it as your newsletter. Readers are far more likely to become loyal if they feel they know you. Try to include a bit of yourself in the newsletter, whether it's humorous, personal details, personal anecdotes, or personal views. The content of your newsletter should be dependable.

    Rule #5 Be as personal as possible.

   Try to write as if each newsletter was for each person. Of course this is impossible, but you can use the reader's name in the greeting. Software can automate this, and many other functions. Make sure when someone signs up, you get their name ( or screen name), then use it in the subject line, in the greeting, and anywhere else you can. Personalization also helps you avoid being labeled as SPAM.

    Rule #6 Credit others for good ideas too.

   The sure sign of an �expert� in any field is recognition that others can be knowledgeable too. When you write industry news or political opinion, give credit to others in the story. Name names and offer praise. The more willing you are to endorse a good product service or idea, the more credibility you will have when it is time to knock a bad idea down. By the way, Don�t forget to Email a copy of your newsletter to anyone featured. They may signup, just to see if they are mentioned again. Wouldn�t it be nice if they forwarded your newsletter to 250 of their closest, dearest friends. New subscribers can come from anywhere.

    Rule #7 Tempt the reader with a great �Subject line� Headline

    The subject line of an email newsletter is like the headline in a newspaper story. If I�m not interested in the �subject�, I�ll turn the page and go on. Make your subject lines interesting, tempting, or curious. You want the subscriber to read your Email NOW! Here�s one technical note, keep it short too. Subject lines should not be over 20-25 characters long. At the receiving end, you want subscribers to see the entire message.

    Rule # 8 Write your Email newsletters in quick, easy to read paragraphs.

    The USA Today is laughingly called �McPaper� because it isn�t a full meal, but a quick bite to eat. Keep your content short and to the point. Remember most people don't read online - they quickly scan through and pick out what is interesting. Use easy-to-read text, bullet points ( like the 8 rules headlines on this page) and small paragraphs to summarize the key materiel. Add links to your website and put the complete details there. Tracking these links is Rule # 3 above.

    Rule # 9 New laws require that you make it easy to unsubscribe.

   Spam is no fun. We all hate it. Don�t be tempted. Why bother forcing yourself on someone, when a little effort can lead you to others willingly interested in your newsletter. Make your �unsubscribe procedure� easy to find and simple to do. Many readers will also believe that the ease of unsubscribing is an indicator of the integrity of your company.

    Rule #10 Ask your readers to spread the word about your newsletter.

   Any reader that subscribes probably knows others in the same industry, or with similar social/political interest. Why not encourage readers to forward the newsletter on to these friends and colleagues. There are email software packages that allow you to automate this process too. Great word of mouth comes from valuable content ( Remember Rule # 1 ). Ebay, Google,, and many others started small and exploded because of friends sending links to friends. Get this step right and you�ll watch your subscriber list grow!

    Bonus Rule #11 Be consistent and dependable.

   If you tell me your newsletter will arrive every Wednesday morning, make sure it does. Email newsletters can be single or multiple times daily tip sheets from a stockbroker. Weekly or monthly schedules are more common. Whatever schedule works for you, stick to it. I recommend starting slow and increasing the frequency as the situation changes. Dependability counts. Rule #11 is a part of the mechanical functions of writing a newsletter. I discuss these elements in another article called 7 steps to producing an effective online newsletter. You can find it in the VectorInter.Net newsletter archive elsewhere in this site.     I don�t want to leave the impression that a newsletter program will be an instant, magical solution for your weak business sales. Newsletters are a tool to be integrated into the other advertising and marketing programs any company uses. They take time and effort, but the rewards can be a broader customer base, greater customer loyalty and the ability to expand margins and product lines as your business grows.

We have more to read about the "Top 10 Mistakes Small Businesses make Online" or How "UGLY" Banners Ads may work best."
and Who invented the @ symbol in your E-mail address." Visit the VectorInter.Net newsletter archives on this web site.