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Strategy in Action: Hi-Tech, Low Budget

  |  October 15, 2003   |  Comments

A B2B software company's newsletter, reviewed.

The last review was the Chapel Hill Mall newsletter. Word from Marti is she found the review very helpful and has taken steps to incorporate some of the suggestions.

Today, a switch to a B2B newsletter in a unique market segment: lending analysis software geared primarily for the agricultural market. Dave, VP of media and promotion for ECI, is manager of the project and has done a nice job with this newsletter.

One thing I appreciate about Dave's approach is he works with limited tools (budget restrictions, of course), but is continually willing to try new things to provide customers and prospects with a better product. While he might not receive a high ranking for all criteria (18 out of 30 stars), Dave knows what he needs to do and he's forging ahead.

Strategy: 3 out of 5 stars

The ECI newsletter does a good job building the company's brand image. It offers extensive, and very informative, industry news to readers, but falls a little short on promoting the company itself. Most newsletters have the exact opposite problem! The right column offers links to ECI products and services, but I think customers and prospects need to be hand held a little more and explicitly told why they should be interested in ECI's offerings.

ECI created a wonderful library of financial documents (the eSource Center) their subscribers can share with customers. Perhaps the benefits could be highlighted in a full-fledged article.

List Segmentation: 2 out of 5 stars

ECI does capture some data (such as recipient's title), but Dave confesses the list does need a little cleaning before they can do any type of segmentation. He hopes to have tools soon (if his budget increases a little) that will help him achieve this. I'd suggest adding more qualifying questions beyond just title. Perhaps what type of bank they work for and/or its size.

Content & Audience: 3 out of 5 stars

Dave puts plenty of emphasis on providing the right content that gets his newsletter read. He has a very low opt-out rate and he feels this is because he always tries to include information of interest to each of his audience segments.

Permission and Privacy: 4 out of 5 stars

ECI scores high here, as they do on the Web site, where there's a spot that promotes and encourages people to sign up for the newsletter. The privacy statement link is right on the newsletter's front page. The statement itself is pretty comprehensive. An article at the end offers an "opt-out" option. My only suggestion is instead of treating the option as a full article, it could be put to one side and made a little smaller. That would open some prime real estate for something more important, like a product promotion.

Metrics: 2 out of 5 stars

This was a sore topic for Dave. Again, on a limited budget, he feels he can only do so much with the tools he has. Dave does get an "A" for effort. He religiously uses Web tools to track which articles get the most clicks. He finds agricultural-related articles always rank high, followed by tech pieces. In third place are the fun-and-games articles, which he includes on a regular basis.

Look & Feel: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm giving Dave a 4 here. The newsletter is clean. You can quickly scan the content with the short synopses provided. Full stories are available on a clear micro page. I nabbed Dave on the same issue as I did Marti in the last review: no archived issues. In this case, it's even more important due to the amount of industry news this newsletter contains. It's all great reference material and should be kept available to readers.

A note to readers who submitted newsletters: Thanks, everyone, for offering to participate! I'm working on getting to as many as I can over the next couple months. Because of the volume received, I won't be taking any more submissions now, but will let you know when I need more. In the meantime, I hope you'll pick up a few tricks along the way.

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Kathleen Goodwin

Kathleen Goodwin is the former CEO of IMN (formerly iMakeNews), specializing in customer acquisition and retention through permission-based e-newsletters. For nine years, she was vice president of marketing for Ziff-Davis' publishing division, where she oversaw the marketing of all print publications and their early online siblings. She also serves as an advisor to early-stage companies and has been responsible for several successful new-business launches.

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