Email Marketing

Making Sure Your e-Newsletter Delivers

In today's tight economy, it's critical for small businesses to stay in the forefront of customers' minds.

That's why many companies have turned to e-newsletters in an effort to reconnect with existing customers and reach out to new ones.

Electronic or e-mail newsletters offer a low-cost way to engage customers and prospects on a regular basis, say experts. They can be used to provide helpful insight, timely news and information, as well as keep customers abreast of new products, services and incentives that can help generate new business.

"It's one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing and driving traffic to your Web site," says Jan Zimmerman, owner of Watermelon Mountain Web Marketing in Albuquerque, N.M., and author of "Web Marketing for Dummies" (John Wiley & Sons; $24.99).

That's because e-newsletters generally have links embedded throughout the copy that connect people back to your site.

"What you're always trying to do is get people back to your Web site to give you an opportunity to continue to build your relationship," explains Zimmerman, noting that optimally you'd want 15 to 20 links to your Web site scattered throughout the body of your e-newsletter.

These links could be in the form of teasers, whereby a recipient would only see a blurb of an article and then would have to click on a link to access the full article. Or perhaps the link could be some kind of call to action, like a coupon/incentive offer, she says.

In either case, the e-newsletter content should be compelling enough to entice the recipient to dig deeper.

"You have to figure out what you have in terms of information that someone wants to read," says Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development Inc. in Hopkinton, Mass., a marketing firm specializing in e-newsletters.

You need to identify your target audience and ask yourself what are you an expert in that your target audience wants to know, explains Katz, author of "E-Newsletters That Work" (Xlibris; $20.99).

For example, a plumber might include an article on "three things to keep in mind if your toilet is leaking," says Katz, a big believer in having original content in your e-newsletters. This means writing your own pieces, rather than pulling content from other sources.

"Get your authentic personality into this," says Katz. "Make it feel like there's a human being that wrote this thing."

That's what Matthew Lewis says he tries to do with his company's e-newsletter.

"We employ someone part-time just to do our e-newsletter," says Lewis of Lewis Wellness Consulting, which runs the Creating Wellness Center of Commack.

The e-newsletter goes out to about 2,500 recipients either monthly or every other month. It usually includes health-related tips like this month's "Ten Antidepressant Alternatives Proven to Work." It generally also includes a call to action, like an invite to one of the center's healthy cooking classes.

"You want to try to offer something to draw them back to your Web site," advises Laura Wiletsky of Laura Wiletsky & Associates, a public relations and marketing firm in Commack.

You also want to track results, she says.

"You want to see who is opening it and what pages they're clicking on," she notes.

Most e-mail marketing providers like Constant Contact allow you to track results and offer templates to help you create your e-newsletter for as little as $15 a month.

Of course, some businesses choose to have their e-newsletter customized, says Julie Gross Gelfand, executive vice president and public relations director at Harrison Leifer DiMarco, a marketing and PR firm in Rockville Centre.

"You want it to be visually interesting," suggests Gelfand, whose firm assists companies in creating e-newsletters. "As soon as people see it, they should know it's yours."

So try to produce something you're proud of.

"It must be of value to the recipient," notes Gelfand.

Otherwise, it's just spam.

Tips For The Road

bulletNo one wants to read a novel. You should provide enough information to inform the reader without overdoing it.
bulletCommit to a regular schedule you'll keep. Many businesses send out e-newsletters monthly.
bulletE-newsletters are permission-based, so collecting e-mail addresses is critical. Train salespeople to ask customers at the checkout for their e-mail addresses.
bulletDon't make the e-newsletter all about you. Use the 80-20 rule: 80 percent useful and 20 percent promotional.

       Source: Michael Katz

About The Author: Jamie Herzlich writes a "Small Business" column for Newsday, Long Island, New York.

Source: Newsday * March 9, 2009 *

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