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E-Newsletters: Advertise and Consent

  |  March 19, 2002   |  Comments

There’s not a lot you can’t communicate to customers via email. E-newsletters are a highly effective means of bundling multiple messages.

Good customer service is a vital aspect of any company’s business. Done properly, it can create unparalleled loyalty. If the company drops the ball, it’s difficult -- if not impossible -- to make amends.

Not surprisingly, many companies have turned to email as a customer service tool. It makes perfect sense. Companies can save time and money using email as a CRM tool. Consumers often prefer it. Email is faster than snail mail, and you don’t have to stay on hold with a customer service rep on the phone.

Opportunities for customer relationship email include:

  • Newsletters

  • Newsflashes

  • New product or service announcements

  • New product availability

  • Promotional discount offers to existing or potential customers

  • The ability to forward promotions designed for customer acquisition (referral/viral marketing)

  • Traditional direct marketing campaigns

  • Transactions

  • Order confirmations

  • Personalized thank-you messages

  • Shipping status

  • Bill fulfillment

  • Customer service

  • Marketing/technical support for products and services

  • Alerts, reminders (replenishment notification)

  • Expiration notices

  • Change of service notifications

  • Customer surveys

In the future, we can expect email -- especially customer service communications -- will play a larger role in CRM. In the post-dot-bombed world of shrinking revenues and meager budgets, a CRM solution that’s cheap and effective is irresistible.

Why not do two things at once? Yes, a good email is excellent CRM. It can also be a marketing opportunity. Of course, you could send out a separate email advertisement, but why do that when your ad can easily be placed in the body of a newsletter sent to someone per her own request? Consumers are already so deluged with unsolicited email that using the delete button without reading the message has become almost second nature. Embedding your ad in the body of a targeted newsletter is the perfect way to inform and advertise at the same time.

Naturally, free enterprise being what it is, nobody should actually expect to get a "free" newsletter anymore than they should expect the proverbial free lunch. Newsletters are vehicles to establish and maintain customer relationships. Invariably, there’s will be advertising thrown in for good measure. That’s a smart marketing idea.

Though CRM newsletters are indeed marketing vehicles, the best contain information of perceived value about a pertinent topic. As a customer communications tool, e-newsletters are unparalleled. They can be distributed at a very low cost, they drive subscribers back to Web sites to learn more about a particular topic, and they can generate revenue through paid advertising.

Newsletters have other advantages. If the news makes a particularly impact, the recipient may forward the newsletter to others, garnering additional ad exposure. Some e-newsletters are even printed and saved, which guarantees lasting impact.

A potential drawback is the e-newsletter format does limit creative options. Many are text only. Advertising space is limited to a certain number of lines and characters. But, a text ad that is saved and forwarded is often preferable to a graphically compelling HTML ad that’s deleted faster than you can say "spam."

Finally, e-newsletters provide marketers with targeted exposure on a regular basis. Though consumers may understandably become annoyed with frequent email ads, a weekly newsletter they’ve requested faces no such resistance. A monthly, weekly, or even daily e-newsletter is often welcomed by the recipient. The key is to provide subscribers with genuine value, not simply a transparent advertising vehicle.

When consumers request information be emailed to them, it’s as far from spam as you can get. A good newsletter is expected and anticipated on a regular basis. Subscribers will often balk if they don’t get their newsletters on time. When was the last time a consumer fretted when the junk mail didn’t come?

The best way to think of a newsletter is as a conversation. You (the company) have been invited into someone’s inbox. The consumer wants to have this dialogue. In the course of that communication, you’ll toss in some marketing, but that’s part of the implied contract. The key is to do it gently and in a way that keeps people coming back. After all, the "unsubscribe" button is just a click away.

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Jonathan Jackson Jonathan Jackson is an independent consultant based in New York City. He has written extensively on internet advertising and e-mail marketing since the inception of the internet. A frequent guest speaker, Jonathan has addressed global audiences on marketing and advertising topics and also teaches marketing at colleges around the world.

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