About now, with one quarter of the year almost gone, New Year's resolutions have been made and forgotten. People get down to work to meet their sales numbers for the year. Real trends and success tactics start to emerge.
Jakob Nielsen hit the nail on the head in a recent newsletter: "Email newsletters are so powerful that the best of them do have a future, despite increasingly adverse conditions."
I agree wholeheartedly. In fact:
Newsletters will play an incredibly important role in e-marketing and communication programs in general this year.
Only the best will succeed. Don't pay attention to yours, and it won't be read.
Despite obstacles like spam, newsletter programs are effective. Spam will begin to decline dramatically. Newsletter publishers will come out winners when the war on spam is over.
What Will Really Happen This Year?
Content stays king. We may be sick of hearing about content's importance, but publishers still don't get it. Feel any twinges of guilt? Do you keep saying, "I'll do better next issue." Wait too long and there won't be a next issue to publish. You must, issue after issue, deliver what your subscribers want to read about. Make the effort. The payback will be huge.
Publishers will finally go beyond open rates. If you're a regular reader, you know I'm a huge proponent of using reports and analytics to truly understand what readers want. One way to do this is to stop using open rates alone to measure your programs. There are tools that can tell which newsletter articles are the most popular among subscribers, who's reading what articles, and how much time they spend reading them. With this data, you can develop sophisticated programs with multilayered segmentation processes within your database. The end result? High readership and greater success in your program.
Publishers will finally "get" personalization. One of our clients uses three distinct personalization techniques in their e-marketing program. First, they set up segmented lists and sublists according to readers' preferences and product usages. Then, through dynamic-content display rules based on list segmentations, they version newsletter issues so subscribers only read what's of value to them. The third layer inserts variables within the articles, so subscribers read about the particular version of the product they use. How cool is that? Our client understands that personalization is what keeps readers coming back for more.
Technologies such as RSS will gain momentum. Bold newsletter publishers always look for new ways to succeed; increasing distribution is high on the list. Yes, spam is still a problem. But RSS, which I discussed last issue, could be a panacea.
Think about it. Not only does it increase distribution to those who are deskbound and inundated with spam, it also extends your newsletter to mobile subscribers. They want the immediacy and real-time access that quick news feeds through wireless communication devices can deliver.
Technology will be front and center on the spam battlefield. There are multitudes of spam-filtering tools. New ones are introduced every day. Problem is, these products often filter out the good with the bad. Take heart. Some interesting developments are happening on the technology end with the major ISPs: Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft. These companies, along with organizations such as the Email Service Provider Coalition (ESPC), will make tremendous strides on the spam front.
This is encouraging to legit newsletter publishers. Perhaps by year's end, we'll see tools that distinguish the real spam culprits from valid newsletter publishers -- like us.
See any trends in your newsletter programs? Let me know, and we'll discuss them in future issues.
Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.
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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.