by Renee Fellows
With all of the hype about spamming and phishing, are E-Zines, or electronic newsletters and magazines, still worth considering as part of an integrated marketing communication effort?
Definitely. Business owners and marketing managers just need to think more creatively about ways to break through email clutter and provide the reader with something they want. The real benefit of E-Zines can be seen in reduced cost and immediacy that they provide. When compared to printed newsletters, that must be designed, printed, and then mailed via the postal service, online provides a tremendous sense of freedom and opportunity. In a report from industry analysis, Gartner, Inc., traditional direct mail is approximately 10 times the cost of producing broadcast electronic mail (not excluding fixed costs such as design). Online newsletters can a great tool in the marketing communications arsenal, if you know your list and what makes them ‘tick.’
Be wary of unsolicited email
Remember that there are two distinct kinds of Email campaigns – solicited or ‘opt-in’ and unsolicited or bulk mail campaigns, where they simply appear in the recipient’s in-box. Try to stay as far away from bulk mail campaigns as possible. Why? By using bulk mail you risk that which is most precious in business, your reputation. While bulk email is not illegal if your follow CAN-SPAM laws correctly (see Rule #2), it is still less accepted and somewhat ‘frowned upon’ by mainstream advertisers and annoys most recipients. Opt-in is your best option, because the recipient has requested the E-Zine and is (you hope) eagerly awaiting each and every issue as it arrives in his or her in box. The only caveat to this hard-fast rule is the ability to purchase email lists in advance of attendance at a trade show, conference or other large event. Again, these individuals have registered to attend the event and are more likely to be interested in what your business has to say. The opportunity to inform and provide some type of incentive (e.g. ‘visit us in booth #123 at the XYZ Super Expo and enter to win a prize’) can be a great marketing communications tool and is generally well received.
Some simple rules for creating a high response E-Zine:
Rule 1 – Know thy audience. E-Zines are a great way to reach out to clients, prospective customers, and colleagues on a consistent basis. Learn your audience’s hot buttons by checking your web stats with a tool like WebTrends. By evaluating past click throughs, frequently clicked/visited pages on your site, and what topics and offers had higher response rates, you can effectively target future articles to better meet your reader’s interests.
Rule 2 – Scrub your list and be compliant. Review your list and be sure that you’re compliant with all CAN-SPAM laws. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them. The law, which became effective January 1, 2004 , covers email whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web site. A "transactional or relationship message" – email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship – may not contain false or misleading routing information, but otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act. Each failure to follow a provision can result in a minimum of $11,000 per penalty. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/canspam.htm to learn the specifics. Once you’ve ensured that your newsletter is CAN-SPAM compliant, be sure to clean the list of non-responders and bounce-back emails after each issue.
Rule 3– Great copy. E-Zines exist for one reason, to provide pertinent, well-written information to your audience. Try not to obscure your message with flowery language or techno-speak that only a select few readers with degrees from MIT will understand (unless of course, your entire audience consists of MIT graduates). Writers Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky call this The Obscurity Trap. “It’s all about jargon, wordiness, and evasive language,” they write. “…[obscurity] is a serious problem for anyone who wants to connect with a reader or audience.” In effect, you can choose to bore your reader into a slow coma or you can actively engage them in what you have to say. The choice is yours but remember, your reader can also easily choose not to read if the content isn’t interesting.
Rule 4 – Offer a sample. Provide free access to a past issue or better yet, write a special sample issue that has great teaser copy, lead-ins to a hot topic in your industry and a top 5 or 10 list with only the first 3 items revealed. Readers like nothing more than a challenge to know the ‘rest of the story’ as the great radio news commentator Paul Harvey will tell you. Grab the reader’s interest and you’ve got them hooked for registering as a regular subscriber.
Rule 5 – Partner with complementary businesses. You can provide even greater comment and information when you partner with a complementary business. A marketing firm and a direct response company make a great fit because they are both very qualified to talk about direct marketing efforts and can work in tandem to design, produce, distribute, and effectively measure the campaign’s results. Try to think of complementary partners that your organization can bring to the table to benefit the reader.
Rule 6 – Offer multiple ways to contact and interact with your organization. The simple, call to action isn’t enough anymore. E-Zine editors need to think outside the screen and consider ways their readers would like to interact with the publication. Offer survey tools, online access to more information like white papers, articles, expert chats, webinars or online interviews with industry leaders. Special access is just that, special. The more personalized and unique each reader feels, the more likely you are to have them as a hooked reader.
Rule 7- Add a sense of urgency. Post your E-Zine free of charge for the first 10 days and then make it available on your web site for a fee. Marketing E-Zine giant, Marketing Sherpa utilizes this philosophy in their weekly online publications. They also offer several different versions of the newsletter targeted to specific interests in marketing , Business-to-Business, Business-to-Consumer, Great Minds, where they talk with experts, Fame and a few others. Each of their publications is delivered to the reader’s email in-box with a hyper link to the web URL free of charge when viewed in the first two weeks. After the deadline, the articles go to an online archive and can be viewed for a nominal charge.
There are many more options for creating an online newsletter, but the above basics are a good starting point. It’s important to remember that electronic campaigns should only be part of the whole picture. Always consider your audience and how they access information. If a majority of your target doesn’t have email or are high level executives with administrative assistants that screen their messages, you may want to rethink how you reach out to them.
To learn more about email marketing campaigns and how to use them to build your public relations strategy, contact Renee Fellows at ClearPoint Marketing Communications by calling (603) 434-9433 or via email at Rfellows@oneclearpoint.com
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