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More Fresh Starts

  |  April 16, 2003   |  Comments

Newsletter in a rut? A challenge to shake things up: change, test, and change some more.

Last time, I proposed some ideas for taking a fresh look at your newsletter content. Today, a challenge to consider: Think outside of your box! Notice I said "your" box, not "the" box. The fact is, we all get in ruts and tend to fall back on what’s easiest to do, as opposed to what’s best for our readers. These ruts can be wide and deep, and they can sabotage your best communications efforts.

For your next e-newsletter issue, I challenge you to do one thing differently and test the results. It could be something small. Often, the smallest variation has the biggest impact.

Some companies out there specialize in testing programs, but for this exercise you can keep it pretty simple. Start by dividing your database in half, selecting names on an "nth" name basis. If you have a very large database, you can nth name a test cell of 5,000 names. However you create a test cell, keep one segment as a controlled baseline. They’ll receive the usual newsletter. The test cell can be treated to something new. Track results and see if your change makes a positive difference. If it does, incorporate it in the next issue. If it doesn’t, test it one more time. If it still doesn’t make a difference, discard it and try something else.

What’s Your Rut?

What part of your newsletter is in a rut? Don’t be afraid to experiment. You can test something different every issue. Here are a few ideas to consider, should you accept the challenge:

  • Day of the week. If you have been delivering your newsletter on Wednesdays, try Tuesdays. I typically find Tuesdays best, but it’s worth changing every so often just to make certain your readers’ preferences haven’t changed.

  • Color. Maybe the color scheme has become stale to your readers. Add a new color twist somewhere, and see if it revives them.

  • Placement. If you always put articles in the same place, take a topic area that’s getting low readership and move it around. Try making it a sidebar.

  • Surveys. Add a survey and see if it generates more interactivity with your entire newsletter.

  • Story twists. Create a story that still relates to what you do, but add humor, a light-hearted touch, or something that shows humans are behind the wheel of your vehicle.

  • Pictures. Add a picture of the editor, your president, or your product. Liven things up!

  • Editorial. If your newsletter is heavy on content, try cutting back on a few pieces. You may be overwhelming your audience to a degree where they have a hard time engaging with you. If you need all that content, summarize and group five or six articles together under a common topic and send readers to microsites for full details.

  • Subject lines. Be creative with email subject lines. Don’t use the same one, month after month. Include more than just the newsletter name. Lead with your most important, earth-shattering news item. Give readers a reason to open up your newsletter.

  • Weblogs. In June, I’ll chair ClickZ’s Weblog Business Strategies Conference and Expo. It’s the first business-oriented forum on Weblogs, and we’re seeing some fabulous business applications. Business Weblogs, or b-blogs, are an excellent new opportunity to communicate with customers and prospects. For up-to-date information on the conference as it unfolds, see my own conference blog.

Be Courageous and Brave

The world is inundated with e-marketing messages. Unless you start thinking about ways to keep your newsletter fresh, your message and what you want to convey about your company will soon be a fading memory.

Be courageous. Take up the challenge and experiment. Serve your readers as they deserved to be served.

Meet Kathleen at ClickZ E-Mail Strategies in New York City on May 19 and 20.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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