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Strategy in Action: A Wrap-Up

  |  December 10, 2003   |  Comments

A collective critique, with some of the most effective e-newsletter practices.

Thanks once again to everyone for submitting their newsletters for critique. We’ve run out of time to do them individually, so today I’ll do a collective critique (see the scoring criteria), pointing out some of the most effective practices in each category.

Here we go!

Strategy: Four Stars

Most of the newsletters submitted scored high in this category, as they were well coordinated with their company’s brand and corporate Web site. A good example is a relatively new newsletter from Starnet, a company that makes "spaceframes and specialty structures that cover space creatively."

Where newsletters fall short is they place too much focus on the company and what you want to tell readers rather than on what they want to read. Information on how readers can use your products and services to do their jobs better and make informed buying decisions is missing from most newsletters I’ve reviewed. Think more about your readers!

List Segmentation: Two Stars

Most haven’t gotten around to this yet. Shame on you! Subscription forms still ask the bare-minimum questions (e.g., name and email address). They neglect to request basic qualifying information, such as title, area of interest in relation to your product/service, demographics, and psychographics.

AMD, a technology company, does a good job, though. This simple form captures enough information to segment the newsletter into various categories by either title or industry.

Content and Audience: Four Stars

Kudos for trying! But some try too hard. Many newsletters (you know who you are) throw a ton of information at readers within a single issue. Some get away with it because of a clean layout with short synopses of each article. Others throw the kitchen sink on one page and make readers scroll for miles.

Here’s an example that did work, from Mona B. for the North Texas Humane Society. Because of a low budget, Mona elected to put most of the articles on the newsletter’s home page, but it’s done in a manner that keeps the reader interested. The newsletter’s essence is quickly apparent, and a table of contents at the beginning highlights what’s in the issue.

Permission and Privacy: Four Stars

Most did well on this. That’s good because the CAN-SPAM Act will hopefully be signed into law sometime this month. The bill targets senders of unsolicited commercial email who disguise their identities and makes it illegal to use false return addresses or misleading subject lines. Address harvesting from Web sites would also be outlawed. In addition, email will need to include an opt-out feature so recipients can request to be taken off the sender’s list.

Keep your eyes open for further updates and how they will apply to you.

Metrics: Two Stars

Tsk, tsk, tsk. I know a lot of you are budget constrained, but get some kind of tool that measures something, even if it’s only opens and click-throughs. You’ll never know what makes your newsletter successful -- or not -- until you do.

Look and Feel: Three Stars

This was a mixed bag. Some are doing a great design and layout job. Others, as I mentioned above, try to do too much within a single issue.

Towers Perrin, a global management consulting firm, offers a nice, clean newsletter. The newsletter’s home page has three articles with synopses, along with four links on the side to the home page, subscription page, back issues, and feedback, in a quickly readable format.

Although I liked the layout, I couldn’t get to the company’s home page from the newsletter and there’s no Towers Perrin logo on the newsletter. Two missed opportunities!

That wraps up this series. Next month, a refresher course on good e-marketing practices to get 2004 off to a good start!

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Strategies is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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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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