The Rise (and Fall?) of eNewsletters
In the past two months, I've given several presentations touting the benefits of eMarketing, particularly in today's down economy. Then one day last week, I received three different e-solicitations from companies selling "custom" eNewsletters, suggesting to me that these useful marketing vehicles may be close to reaching critical mass. In fact, one ad that appeared in my email box said that "newsletters" are almost as popular as "God" or "country," scoring on the Google search engine over five million hits versus seven million for "God" and over 10 million hits for country. The overabundance of eNewsletters also tells me there's a lot of generic information being disseminated in the name "customized."
eNewsletters Add Value
Immediacy. Unlike printed newsletters and newspapers that have long production cycles, electronic news sources deliver news as it happens. One can go to www.cnn.com, or any other major news agency's site, and find out what's happening nearly anywhere in the world, giving content creators quick access to up-to-the-minute information.
Specificity. Web-enabled databases allow content creators to slice and dice information every which way, which means not only can they deliver news instantly, they now can tailor it to your specific interests and with a delivery schedule of your choosing. You may want to get only Middle East news from CNN, preferring the New York Times for your daily fix of U.S. news. Or you may have a particular interest in goldfish, and so subscribe to the Goldfish Society of America's monthly newsletters. Personalized eNewsletters save readers lots of time, since subject matter is finely honed to recipients' interests.
Integrity. There's a vast amount of information in cyberspace, an awful lot of which is bogus. All of us have received emails hyping unsubstantiated dangers, such as deodorant products causing breast cancer, and eNewsletters using exaggerated claims and hyperbole to sell products and services. To protect against such abuses, public, government and trade organizations, including the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), are applying increasing pressure on e-marketers to legitimize content and respect recipients' privacy concerns.
eNewsletters Build Relationships
As a communication link for maintaining relationships with customers, eNewsletters have no rival, particularly if they are targeted to a specific audience. My company produces eNewsletters for several clients in a variety of industries, which are researched and written with a very specific audience in mind. Because printers typically serve clients in many industries█retail, corporate, ad agency/design, high-tech, etc.█it's difficult to develop content that's of interest to all. Consequently, we've begun segmenting clients' industries into the top four or five, developing individual eNewsletters for each. Sales reps can pick and choose segments from each newsletter to send under their signature, or the entire eNewsletter can be sent to industry-specific clients under management's signature.
Rules for Successful eNewsletters
Serving as business-to-business enterprises, printing companies are good candidates for eNewsletters, since most customers have ready access to the Internet and are well-versed in email protocol. Of course, you also need to have an email database of customers and prospects. If you'd like information on acquiring or building your own, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, an intermittent issue now and again does not an eNewsletter make. You must make a budgetary and frequency commitment to the program. Similarly, your eNewsletter should be a component of your overall brand strategy, so the tone and messaging is in line with all of your other activities.
Here are some other tips:
Keep it relevant. Your newsletter will be valuable to customers and prospects if content is of interest to them, and it's comprised of information they're not likely to gather themselves. In the eNewsletters I send out on behalf of my own company, I rarely include promotional information. However, our client eNewsletters often strike a balance between the reader's and our client's interests. In addition to industry hard news, include helpful tips and information that relates back to your services.
Be succinct. Generally, readers will spend four or five minutes reading a newsletter, so be ruthless in your editing. Embed links in segments to enable readers to get more information on a topic, if they're interested. If you use a broadcast email service, most will provide reports of link click-throughs, which tell you topics of most interest to readers and enable you to fine tune your messages. Most people don't like scrolling through lots of pages. An index of topics at the top is highly recommended, since it allows readers to get right to the information of most interest to them.
Keep design simple and branded. Most eNewsletters are about two to three pages, or screens, in length. The shorter the better, in my opinion. At minimum, your logo should be clearly evident. Most important, though, your newsletter design should look professional. Stick to one typeface; always err on the side of simplicity and legibility.
While eNewsletters may be in abundance, few are done well. However, those that are well researched, easy to read, and contain content of relevance to readers will continue to serve their valuable marketing function. If you'd like a copy of Traversant's eMarketing Best Practices, write or email me at the address below.
Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.
© 2002 Charlotte Mills Seligman
November 25, 2002