Digital Marketing: The Joys of E-newsletters

POSTED: October 18, 2009 BY: CATEGORY:

If you’re a business owner on a shoestring budget, no doubt you have either seriously considered or currently use email marketing as one of the strategies in your business to generate sales and increase your brand awareness.

I write a regular enewsletter and also use email marketing campaigns to promote events and have found these to be a successful and highly cost-effective marketing tool in my business.

Given that most companies and your competitors already have some type of email marketing program, however, is it too late to start a program now?

I had a discussion recently with a client about whether there was any value in email marketing, as they thought ‘everyone was doing it’.  My advice was that I believe there is still an opportunity for good email marketing and in particular high quality email newsletters.  Why?  For a number of reasons, but the most practical example would be something I did recently at my own house.

Fed up with clearing out my mailbox with junk mail catalogues, I placed a ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on my letterbox.  I had actually thought about doing this for a while and hadn’t got around to it, primarily because I do quite enjoy reading a good catalogue and there were two to three that I looked out for each week.  It came to the point, however, where my recycle bin was the first point of call from the letterbox – it just wasn’t working.

Given my dilemma, I decided to sign up for the enewsletter catalogue from the companies that I wanted to hear from and be junk mail free from the rest.  So far, it is working very well.

I strongly believe that there is a place for both printed and electronic forms of communication and enewsletters certainly fall into this category.  In your marketing plan, include examples of where you send out both printed and electronic updates at different times of the year.

My recommendation, though, is if you are serious about email newsletters, catalogues and/or updates, make sure that they are of high quality.  If you want to take your program to the next level, here are my tips for making it work for you.

Tip One – Ensure It Looks Professional

There is no doubt that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There are, however, some things that are just plain unattractive.  No doubt you have seen a few of these floating about in both inboxes and letterboxes.  It is a certain turn-off.

It is important regardless of whether you have a big or a shoestring budget, that your newsletter reflects your brand in its presentation and layout.  The first golden rule, for both printed and electronic newsletters, is that they must be easy to read or navigate, and clean and simple in design.

I also recommend avoiding the use of standard templates – they are standard or generic for a reason.  Make the initial investment in a template that reflects your brand and, as part of your brief, make sure it is designed to fit numerous applications.  If necessary, though, review other templates including generic ones to help you gather your own ideas and sort out what you like or don’t like.  This is quite important information to include in your brief to your marketing agency – it will save you time and money to have gone through this process yourself before your agency or marketing supplier starts work for you.

Tip Two – Ensure the Content Provides Value

While your newsletters are produced, sent and paid for by your business, they are actually not about you at all.  If your newsletter content doesn’t have a high level of ‘what’s in it for me’ for the reader, then it will fail.  Your readers will certainly switch off, unsubscribe, return the mail to its sender (you) and ask to be removed from your mailing database.  Ouch – so how do you avoid this?

The people who read or subscribe to your newsletters do so not to read about you, your company or how wonderful you are at X,Y and Z – this is true.  What they are interested in, though, is in finding out about how your products X,Y and Z can make them look good, make their life and/or job easier and help them keep up-to-date with the latest tools available to them – a much more interesting read.

If you are stuck for ideas about what to write for your next enewsletter here are some common topics that people like to read or hear about:

  • Case studies on how to use a product to make life and/or business easier
  • New products or new research about your industry
  • Pictures from an event
  • Special offers, and
  • Interviews with a leading expert or person that your audience can relate and look up to.

Tip Three – Your eNewsletter Has Lots of Personality

Most of us don’t spend our spare time either at work or at home reading Acts of Parliament or legal transcripts.  Therefore, your newsletter should not be overly technical and send people to sleep.  I recently received a ‘terms and conditions’ booklet update from my mortgage supplier and their suggestion for reading the document was to grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable – next time I am feeling like an afternoon nap, I may grab it for a read!

My recommendation is that any newsletter you produce needs to have a high level of human feel and personality in the content as well as in the design.  As humans we enjoy communicating with and relating to other people, more so than technical documents or legal transcript.

I acknowledge that writing with humour and personality does not come naturally to everyone, especially if you spend your working days writing in a very formal and technical manner.

It is, however, a skill that can be developed over time.  If it’s not in your skill set, outsource it to someone who can provide you the required end result.  Practise these skills in another way before you start to write your own enewsletter content.

Will eNewsletters Generate Sales?

The million-dollar question!  In my experience, newsletters will generate sales and can also help you build and strengthen your brand in due course.  Either way, here are a couple of practical examples for you to reflect on:

  • Business to consumer – I recently went into Baby Bunting on the weekend only to discover that half of Melbourne had decided to do the same thing!  When I finally got to speak to a staff member, I asked them were they always this busy?  The response was easy, “We are always this busy on the weekends after our catalogue comes out.  It is the only time we offer items on sale.”  I took note and registered online for the next catalogue edition.
  • Business to business – an example from the Next Marketing business.  We recently worked with a client who hadn’t sent out an enewsletter in over two years and had previously sent them as a PDF file.  In short, the new HTML enewsletter went out and within one hour the client had received three phone call inquiries and one email quote request.  Each inquiry was for quite a few thousand dollars.

In summary, if you are on a shoestring budget don’t let that be the one thing that stops you doing great newsletters.  I have been told on many occasions in my life and business career that I have ‘champagne tastes on a beer budget’, which is probably true!

Publication: Marketing Magazine

Issue: 82

Month: October 2009

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

#Jo Macdermott - turning good businesses into great businesses is all in a day’s work for marketing consultant, Jo Macdermott. Jo leads Next Marketing, a multiple award winning business, which she has grown from scratch. Jo is commercial, empathetic and always has her eye on the end game.