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ON CREATING READABLE E-MAIL NEWSLETTERS.

H Emphasize useful content: "It's critically important that you do not turn your e-newsletter into a marketing letter," says Nick Bettis of Wind2 Software. "The Wind2 newsletter contains some new product marketing information, but the primary thrust is to inform or teach our customers how to be more effective when using our products. We always include topics such as training schedules, tech tips, and report spotlights. If you don't offer readers these self-help types of topics, they'll stop reading and unsubscribe."

Nick Bettis, marketing manager, Wind2 Software, 1825 Sharp Point Dr., Ft. Collins, Colo. 80525; 970/482-7145. E-mail: nbettis@wind2.com.

H Avoid corporate-speak: The most effective newsletters, says Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger (who publishes a wonderfully lively newsletter of his own), have a distinctive voice and personality. "I find myself drawn to e-mail newsletters that are unequivocally on my side," he says. "Once I think they're trying to sell me something, I get up and leave; there are too many other people to talk with. Almost all of the ones I actually read have a strong voice, have a human name attached to them, and are funny. I think Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome (www.lockergnome.com) is a great example: Over 200,000 people get his daily mail because, yes, it has useful tips for computer users, but primarily I suspect because the newsletter is saturated with Chris's whimsical and engaging personality. We're not reading a newsletter--we're talking with Chris."

David Weinberger, publisher, Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization (JOHO), 94 Westbourne Ter., Brookline, Mass. 02446; 617/738-8323; E- mail: self@evident.com.

H Publish as often as possible: Consultant David Strom's Web Informant has a circulation of some 10,000 readers, and he argues that his weekly publication schedule has been a key success factor. "Weekly frequency keeps you in the minds of your subscribers. Daily is too often, monthly is too infrequent. People tell me all the time that they know what I'm up to because I communicate with them on a weekly basis. That builds trust, too."

David Strom, editor, Web Informant, 938 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington, N.Y. 11050; 516/944-3407. E-mail: david@strom.com

H Encourage reader response: One way to make a newsletter feel more interactive, says HotOffice.com's Heather Allen, is to actively solicit reader feedback and story ideas. "Make it obvious how to contact you, and where they should direct messages about different topics. We use one e-mail address for Customer Showcase entries, another address for questions submitted to the Q&A, and still another for general editorial comments. This makes it easy to see where people were in the newsletter when they chose to contact us--and exactly what call to action they responded to."

Heather Allen, marketing communications manager, HotOffice.com, 5201 Congress Ave., Boca Raton, Fla. 33487; 561/995-5694. E-mail: hallen@hotoffice.com.

H Offer deals and discounts: Former Learning Company president Kevin O'Leary says his favorite newsletter formula is to "offer a product or service at a discount with a deadline--one without the other doesn't work." And don't make customers work too hard, he adds. "Offer a Web link directly to the order form with the discounted price already available," he says. "Keep useless info to a minimum or it will be the last time the user opens your e-mail."

Kevin O'Leary, SkillsTutor, 255 Washington St., Newton, Mass. 02458. E- mail: kevin@olearynet.com.

H Avoid wasted words: "People hate long e-mails," says ASAP Software's Harry Zoberman. "Customers will first look at the length of an e-mail before determining if they'll even read it. Lengthy e-mails get deleted before the first word is read." Ideally, he says, newsletter articles should be presented in a "condensed format"--"usually no more than two or three sentences per topic, with a direct link to the Web site for the full story."

Harry Zoberman, senior vice president of marketing & operations, ASAP Software, 850 Asbury Dr., Buffalo Grove, Ill.; 847/465-3700.

H Include a longer "feature article": Sharon Habib of the Software Productivity Centre says her newsletter subscribers don't object to getting the full text of relatively long articles ("no more than 1000 words"). "We keep lines short and break up the body content into smaller chunks with headings," she explains. Even more important, Habib adds, is the fact that her features are written by experts and contain "fresh information on objective, non-salesy, practical subjects."

Sharon Habib, marketing manager, Software Productivity Centre, 1122 Mainland St., Vancouver, B.C. V6B 5L1; 604/662-8181. E-mail: shabib@spc.ca.

H Get personal: At Land's End, customers can sign up for e-mail newsletters that reflect personal preferences. Says e-commerce vice president Bill Bass: "We let customers choose the frequency (monthly, twice-monthly, or weekly) and the topics in the e-mail (men's, women's, kids, overstocks, etc.)." To create a greater sense of personality, he adds, "all our e-mails have an editorial feature--something we generally don't do on our Web site. We have one writer dedicated to the e-mail newsletter: All the features spring from his head, and have ranged from reminiscing about an old car dealer who only wore guayabera shirts to thoughts on the personalities of people who wear leather."

Bill Bass, vice president of e-commerce, Land's End, One Land's End Lane, Dodgeville, Wisc. 53595; 608/935-4640. E-mail: bbass@landsend.com.

H Develop "lifecycle of ownership" content: Consultant Sid Saleh points out that newsletters often overlook the fact that readers typically become more experienced over time. "If I've recently bought a software package, getting tips by e-mail is a great help--until I graduate from novice status. Just because I was a willing recipient six months ago doesn't mean I still am. If you're going to keep sending me e-mail, I expect you to take my changing needs into account. Or I'll opt out."

Sid Saleh, principal, iNextep Marketing, 2710 Carnegie Dr., Boulder, Colo. 80303; 303/816-4866. E-mail: sid@inextep.com.

H Conduct regular surveys: "Your newsletter list may be your biggest mailing list, so it makes sense to use that base of readers--and the communication you're already sending--to solicit feedback," suggests Heather Allen. If a survey is likely to generate hundreds of responses, it's probably better to link participants to a Web-based questionnaire, she adds. "To increase response, offer an incentive like a free t-shirt or an entry in a drawing."

Heather Allen, marketing communications manager, HotOffice.com, 5201 Congress Ave., Boca Raton, Fla. 33487; 561/995-5694. E-mail: hallen@hotoffice.com.

H Appoint a customer contact czar: "Many companies have disparate business divisions working from the same customer database," notes Digital River's Sam Richter. The result: Their customers end up being blitzed with uncoordinated, inconsistent e-mail messages. Richter's advice is to "put a single person in charge of all customer contacts" and to create a master schedule for all e-mail campaigns. "Just because something can be done immediately on the Internet doesn't mean it has to be done immediately," he says.

Sam Richter, senior director of e-business marketing, Digital River, 9625 W. 76th St., Eden Prairie, Minn. 55344; 612/253-8661. E-mail: srichter@digitalriver.com.
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Date:Nov 15, 2000
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