Learn What Your Competitors Know About Newsletters

    July 25, 2006

Wondering why or how to get an email newsletter going? Yes, your business should have one. And yes, they are surprisingly simple to put into operation.

For some businesses, their email results are so compelling, they have eliminated the majority of their other advertising costs. So if you want to cut costs and improve results, here’s how to get going.


1. Bottom Line Impact

Simply put, email newsletters are less costly than other more traditional methods of customer communication. Measured in standard cost metrics (i.e. Cost Per Lead, Cost Per Sale, etc.), the adoption of an email marketing strategy can improve results significantly. It has been shown that email provides the highest ROI at 40%, followed by search (28%) and direct mail at 18% . From the humble beginnings of just 50 names on a clipboard at the front of his wine store, Proprietor Steve Silver has built a 10,000 name mailing list for Pearson’s Wine & Spirits’ that now drives all their sales and effectively eliminated all their former advertising costs.

2. Personal Relationship Builder

Like the phone, email is a personal medium. We are protective of inboxes for a reason. It’s our space. So when you are invited in, or invited back, you are now communicating on a much more personal level than any newspaper ad or direct mail letter could. If you don’t abuse it, and provide relevant, interesting, or timely information, you are in closer contact with your customers and prospects, and that is always a good thing.

3. Measured Response & Feedback Loop

The online medium, unlike other forms of communication, enables you to track and identify customer interests. Email also provides an efficient direct response and follow-up mechanism. Tracking customer tendencies enables companies to silently compile research information they would otherwise have to solicit or purchase. Such information gathering can pinpoint which topics, messages and offers resonate best with your target audience, providing a foundation to further hone in on the sales process, even on a customer by customer basis. With finite sales resources, any such productivity short cuts are profitability boosters.


1. It OK to be Inconsistent.

It’s fair to say putting out a monthly or weekly newsletter is no small task, and that idea makes it hard to even get started. So forget about it (the monthly schedule that is, not the newsletter). Unless you’re running a magazine, you don’t need to publish every month. The idea is to make contact with your prospects and customers. If you can send weekly, do it, otherwise why not just send when you have something to say? The best thing about being unexpected is you are more likely not to be ignored. This especially holds true if, when you do get around to sending something, it’s something good that people save and go back too. An engaged reader is far better than an idle one.

2. Avoid wrapping your riddles in a mystery.

Both people and spam software filter their email based upon the subject line. If you want your message opened, use caution when composing your subject lines. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Make it clear. Clever subject lines tend to outwit themselves, for even when they do manage to garner more open response, they tend to depress click-through because the reader feels tricked or deceived into opening it. Something like: “July Newsletter: On the subject of subject lines” is good. To help avoid getting caught in today’s aggressive spam filters, avoid using exclamation points “!” (especially multiples!!!), and avoid the words “free,” “sale” and “guaranteed”.

3. Write briefs, not books.

There’s something attractive about that strong silent type. A one page newsletter is not only acceptable, but preferred. Do you want people to read it or file it? Instead of writing four articles at the end of the month, send one each week instead. Make your point, provide some links, and move along.

3. Put marketing in the back seat.

If you don’t want to end up in the junk folder, use your newsletter to educate and inform, not as a blatant shill. Write your newsletter like a reporter, not a marketer. A subtle shill is fine, it’s your newsletter after all, just be sure your content is useful, timely and/or informative. You’ll know you have a winning newsletter when you still see clicks coming in months after you sent it out. If you having trouble getting simple, informative articles out, look no further than your local or industry news reporters, most are hungry freelancers looking for any opportunity to get published.

4. A picture is worth it.

Unlike printed pieces, email has relatively low resolution requirements. With email you can grab an image or logo from your website, and any digital camera (including the one on your phone) is an adequate source for newsletter images. Just snap a few around the office, take a picture of your building, production line or your president having lunch at the company picnic. Authentic, candid images are ideal for email newsletters, and far better than polished corporate brochure photos or pricey stock photography. But if you do need that stock image of a rainbow or a fire truck, you can find cheap stock photography one the web for literally $1 to suit your basic needs.

6. Have Google write the news for you.

Find out what’s going on in your industry using www.news.google.com’s news notification feature. Simply go to the site, select the News Alerts icon on the left, and enter in your topic or industry (i.e. ’email newsletters’), the frequency and your email address. Google will send you email when relevant news items emerge, and you can compile them into a folder (or write an Outlook rule to do it for you) then use the stories and links as content for your own newsletter.

7. Design skills are optional.

You don’t need to be a graphic design expert to get a professional level document ready for distribution to your (now customized) email lists. Software such as Politemail offers templates for the Outlook email newsletter medium, facilitating both aesthetic and analytical needs.

In summary, email newsletters are a cost effective way to stay in contact with your customers. Not only will you be providing information, you will be gathering it too. Email brings the benefit of response tracking and measurement, allowing you to analyze the topics, products and interests of your customers based upon their actual behavior. The sooner you get started, the more you will know.


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Michael DesRochers is the founder and CEO of Bootstrap Software Partners, LLC, the creators of Politemail. A detailed biography can be found at www.bootstrapsoft.com.