Email newsletters: Making One Work for You

Emailed newsletters can be a great way to build your business, but how do you create one that won’t be deleted as just so much spam? Wayne Hurlbert explains.

Your email inbox probably receives several of them each day. Some you open and read, while others are deleted without a second thought. They are email newsletters, and they remain one of the best marketing tools available for the Internet marketer, if not misused.

Many of the email newsletters I’ve received are simply mass mailed, unrequested spam. Their effectiveness is very low, and damaging to any business’ reputation. The proper type of email newsletter is the permission based newsletter. The recipient asks you to send them the information. It’s up to you to make it worth their while.

Despite the proliferation of spam, and possibly even because of it, a good permission based email newsletter is a great way to market your business and products. The recipients will have expressed interest in products and services, and if done correctly, the email newsletter will be eagerly awaited and read completely. It will also result in many more sales for your online business, immediately and in the future.

First, let’s get something out of the way: no email newsletter should be sent to anyone who didn’t request it. Ever. The proper method of adding names to your mailing list is by voluntary signup.  On your site, a box requesting the email address (and possibly the name) should be clearly displayed to the potential recipient. In addition to that box, there should always be a clearly stated privacy policy. The ideal policy for collected email addresses is one where the names and addresses are never sold, rented, or given away to anyone.  That trust must never be violated, or your reputation will be permanently stained.

When a person provides their name and email address to your business, use a double opt-in approach. Upon subscribing, an automated and personalized email should automatically be sent to the subscriber, telling the user that they must confirm the newsletter subscription, and instructions on how to do that. The request is therefore made twice, and prevents charges of spam.
What to Do for Newsletter Content

Good email newsletters require interesting and informative content.  Simply sending out a sales flyer will not get good results, and destroys any goodwill created with your customer base. The content of a strong email newsletter is best split into 80% information and 20% sales material. Any heavier sales orientation and the value is lost to the reader.

Finding articles for an email newsletter is similar to adding useful and informative content to a website. The newsletter author can either write the content, or use articles written by other people. Many successful newsletters use both types of content.

Articles can include how-to information, product reviews, industry information, and general stories surrounding your industry. The important thing is to provide fresh material not readily available elsewhere. The articles should always link back to an article’s page located on your website, since getting the readers to your site is important for sales purposes.

Something that might help your conversion rate is to make a special subscribers-only offer (something not cheesy). Provide a link to a landing page on your site that repeats the generous offer. Make sure the landing page offers several links to click to make buying an easy process. Minimize the number of clicks required for purchase, preferably to less than three.

Increase the number of recipients opening your newsletter by using a tempting sales headline. Clearly identify the sender as your business so your readers know it’s from your company. Keep track of the number of openings, the number of click-throughs to your website, and the number of actual purchases. Test different combinations, one at a time, to improve those numbers.

To swell the number of newsletter subscribers, make a free offer. With every new name and address, offer a free e-book, a white paper, or a general informational booklet. Gift certificates and generous first time purchaser discounts also work well at adding new recipients. Keep good records of your purchasers, and offer them additional incentives and frequent buyer rewards.  Those are the ones that will spread the word of your email newsletter and of your business. Each email should always include a link to send the email to a friend, taking advantage of word of mouth possibilities.

Finally, always provide an unsubscribe link. When someone requests their name removed, do so promptly. It avoids any possible spamming charges, and removes a person who is not likely to buy at this time anyway.

By keeping your email newsletter interesting and informative, you can keep customers happy to receive your information, giving you higher sales results. Set your newsletter apart from the regular email, and it will be welcomed by your subscribers.

(This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Plug-In).

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