Do You Publish An Ezine?

    June 18, 2003

You should. It’s a grand way to stay in touch with potential customers, and to keep your name out there in a positive way. Readers will remember you when they need what you offer. And best of all, they will share your name with a friend with a similar need.

But heck, I sell worms to fisherman. What can I put in a newsletter? Lots. The best fishing spots, the lures that are working best, and “long-fish” stories always work.

Do you still insist you have nothing to say? Really? You were talking to Charlie over there a minute ago. Right? Well, I was standing right beside you and heard what you said. You told him you thought that widget was the best these people had ever made, a great improvement over last years model. Then you went on to point out why it was so. If you had an ezine, you could tell your readers what you told Charlie. He was interested, right? In fact he bought one! Maybe it’s just what one of your potential readers needs. Heck, you can’t talk to everyone who visits your site, but you can sure share with all who are interested by offering an ezine.

So How Do I Start?

Just do it. Think back over the last week of conversations with customers, consider what was said, and put the good parts down in writing.

Start with you, yourself, and me on the subscriber list. This is tough, for there’s a tendency to say, heck, nobody’s going to see this, and kind of just slop something together. Bad habits are hard to break. Write as you would for the “Atlantic Monthly” or “New Yorker.” Never settle for less than your very best. If your skills are weak, get someone to edit for you.

The secret to good writing for those of us with less than Pulitzer Prize type skills is to work up a draft, rewrite, edit, rewrite, etc., until convinced it’s good. Then print a copy, sit down with a cup of coffee in a comfortable chair and read your creation out loud.

Ignore this last step at your peril. We all tend to fall in love with what we create. Printed copy gives us a fresh look. Saying the words aloud changes the reading pace markedly. Blunders will be noticeable and new ideas will beg to be added in.

The Mechanics

You can use your email program to begin. When the list gets too long to manage easily, maybe consider RIME, but likely Easy Mail is best.

When your list grows very large, you will want to consider a mailing service, possibly ListBot or Topica.

Decide on a publication schedule and stick to it. The best frequency is a function of who your customers are, and how much great information you can share. Once a month may be just right for a site offering legal services. Twice a month works well for many. Once a week may be overkill; we all get a lot of email. If you decide on weekly, keep it short. A monthly publication can be longer.

Hold articles between 400-800 words if possible; your readers may not hang in to the end of longer ones. It also gives you the opportunity to include a greater variety of content within a fixed space.

How long should it be? Short works fine. And sometimes shorter is better. Ideally, it should be as short as possible while including all that is needed. Most suggest 30K bytes as a maximum.

What’s The Best Content?

What your customers will enjoy reading. Period. There is no other answer. Think back to the “conversation” with Charlie above. Charlie was interested, right? It worked, right? So it goes into the newsletter.

There’s no need for anything grand. Just talk about things that will interest your customers. Tips related to your business or how best to use your products work great, for they are short, and thus easier to digest.

Coupons are terrific! Offer a special to subscribers only. If it really is special, folks will come forth, and likely tell a friend or two about it, which can really grow your subscriber list.

Report on new products and services available in your area. Review them if possible. They need not be your products. Some webmasters would never consider mentioning a competitor’s product, but I sense you’ll gain greater credibility by trusting folks. They’ll remember your good advice, and get back to you when they need your product. I’ll go so far as to say this may be the very best way to build trust and confidence in both you and your products. Sharing good information your readers can use will never backfire.

Think of “Reader’s Digest.” Quotable quotes work fine. Short tales with a snappy wrap. Humor can be useful, but take care in this. Humor in email does not come across as well as it does face to face with a friend. It can be misunderstood, and sometimes even offend.

Finding Great Articles

Find out what your competition is doing. If they publish an ezine, subscribe. It will trigger lots of good ideas for your own, If articles are included, and you like something you read, write to the author and ask permission to reprint it. They always say yes because readers will see the reference box included, the author’s way of advertising. While an ezine of reprints won’t fly, including one or two in each issue works very well. A reader who has read it before, just jumps down to the next item.

Regards reprints, here’s a useful trick. Collect articles you like to a file by date. When you need something for your current newsletter, go back a couple of months. This avoids the problem of the same article appearing at almost the same time in several ezines.

Article libraries are a great source for good material. Here are a couple.

E-zinez Classified Ad Exchange – Click on “Gallery” in the top row of navigation buttons. You can search for articles by author name or simply select a category. All articles are available via auto responders, so they are easy to get and they arrive quickly.

IdeaMarketers – Navigation seems a bit tricky, but it is easy to get an article you like.

About.Com – Lists ezines by category and provides useful information about each one listed.

A Further Info Source

Kate Schultz who built the E-zinez Classified Ad Exchange mentioned above, has another site: EzineUniversity.Com This is a must-visit site for all who are looking for better ways to put out an ezine. You will want to set a bookmark and return often. Kate has whole bunches of terrific ideas she wants to share with every visitor. And she’s put together a way to create your newsletter on her site.

Archives Are Good

If your ezine is essentially articles, archiving past issues works very well. Go further, if you like, and give each article a separate page. If you use appropriate keywords in the meta statements and take the time to submit to the larger search engines, you can generate some extra hits.

About Advertising

Don’t even think about it until you get your circulation up there. At $25 per pop, it’s not worth your time. As you build your ezine, remember the more closely it focuses on a specific target, the higher your rates can be from those wanting to reach this target.

I suggest ignoring the little classified stuff. I sense that readers are skipping blocks of them. Go for sponsor-type ads, and limit the number to maybe four or five per issue. It is also important you demonstrate your personal support for your sponsors. As your readers come to trust you, your endorsement brings clicks on your sponsor’s ads. This makes them happy, and more likely to advertise again.

Central to building trust and confidence, is the selection of sponsors. Choose only those who are ethical and offer something useful to your readers. The purpose of ads from your point of view as a publisher is not profits, but content of use to your readers.

Ezines: A Powerful Tool

If you are not publishing an ezine, consider doing so. It can do wonders for your image and future sales. It can increase hits on your site, and your site in turn can help build your subscriber list. It’s strictly a win-win combination; you simply can’t lose.

Most important, though, providing good solid information demonstrates your expertise in the best possible way. That is, it builds trust and confidence in you by showing you know what you’re about, without you needing to make some grand claim to expertise that might backfire.

Bob McElwain, author of “Your Path To Success.” How to build ANY business you want, just the way you want it, with only pocket money.
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