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Strategy in Action: What Works in Your Newsletters

  |  September 17, 2003   |  Comments

How a mall keeps newsletter subscribers enthralled.

Learn how to improve your newsletter by seeing what other readers do with theirs. In coming weeks, I’ll present a brief analysis of newsletters you submit, using the evaluation criteria I outlined last time. I promise to be kind as I share your newsletters with the world, and to provide concrete advice you and other readers can immediately integrate into future editions.

First up is a B2C newsletter from Ohio’s Chapel Hill Mall. This newsletter receives 19.5 stars on rating of 20. Marti, the creative director, and her team at MC2 Mall Communications who produce the newsletter, have done a great job.

Strategy: 3 out of 5 stars

Marti scores high in this category because not only does she have a clear idea of what she wants to achieve with the newsletter, she’s designed a newsletter program that’s tightly integrated with the mall’s other marketing efforts. In addition to a well-defined strategic objective, the newsletter builds a community of shoppers and potential customers. Through this community, it increases awareness of and drives traffic to participating stores.

The newsletter has the same look and feel as the mall’s Web site, which helps build brand identity. Throughout the year, there are various promotions within the newsletter, such as this very cool "Fashions for the Perfect Prom" where high school juniors and seniors (and their parents) had the opportunity to create a perfect look for their special night. I spent several minutes playing around with this -- it’s a blast! The important point is the Mall had radio spots to promote the event, which in turn drove traffic to the Web site, the newsletter, and ultimately, into the stores. Overall, a very integrated campaign that reached an extremely important customer segment.

List Segmentation: 3 out of 5 stars

Again, Marti and her crew are doing a great job. As people sign up for the newsletter at the Mall, they’re categorized by interest levels such as women’s fashion, men’s fashion, mall events, or new stores, to name a few. A man, for instance, receives promotions from men’s clothing stores. The group did a great job getting shoppers to sign up for the newsletter. They offered a $50 gift certificate to the information booth worker who got the most sign-ups over a month.

Content & Audience: 3 out of 5 stars

Yet another high rating. Newsletters are sent with a "Dear Kathy" salutation. The subject line is "myChapel Hill Mall News..." The newsletter contains highly targeted buckets of news and activities to address the various segments, such as the prom promotion for teens mentioned above. Other examples include articles for the Stroller Club (women with young children) and senior citizen announcements.

Permission and Privacy: 4 out of 5 stars

People can sign up for the newsletter either at the mall or on its Web site. Clear options on the front page explain how to unsubscribe or update profiles. The privacy statement is clearly visible. In the same area are options to forward the newsletter to a friend, a great way to build a subscriber list. One suggestion I’d offer is to make the link back to the Mall’s site more predominant on the newsletter. It’s a little difficult to find.

Metrics: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Marti is doing a good job in that she’s tested various elements (longer newsletters, and a text-only newsletter, which was a self-described "flop." But kudos for trying!). She tries to build landing pages for each article to track who’s interested in what kind of information. Marti admits she’s evolving her use of metrics and would like to work toward understanding how each subscriber uses the content sent to them. Marti and her team understand content and readership are important metrics in any newsletter campaign.

Look & Feel: 4 out of 5 Stars

Four stars for a great layout with all the requisite elements. It’s informative, educational and above all entertaining. Graphics are intriguing and integrated with other marketing programs. The one concern is there does not appear to be an archive system. That’s understandable to a degree. After all, you don’t want people using outdated coupons. Yet it would be fun to be able to get back to the Prom promotion, or to view the Pet Contest winners. I’d suggest adding an archive to keep the interactivity level high.

What’s your newsletter taught you? Share it with me.

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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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