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Strategy in Action: Listening to Readers

  |  August 20, 2003   |  Comments

Readers are an invaluable source of market information. Listen and prosper.

My goal for this column has been to pass along strategic marketing information on how the core e-newsletter capabilities of content, list, performance logistics, and distribution help make e-newsletter programs a high-value tool for companies that want to better manage their communications and relationships with customers and prospects.

Starting today, I’m taking this one step further by showing these strategies in action. I’ll discuss real newsletters and point out how the marketers used their newsletters to further their companies’ strategic marketing goals.

In this issue, I’ll discuss one of my clients. In the future, I’d also like to use your newsletters. If you have a success story you’d like me to share, tell me about it. If your newsletter isn’t working hard enough, send me a copy, and I’ll critique it in a column. Both of these avenues, along with other success stories of my clients, will help us all learn how to be better newsletter publishers.

Readers Tell All

E-newsletters’ intelligence-gathering capability can deliver a very strong business impact. Fully utilized, the intelligence can help guide companies by providing key audience preferences and perspectives. Companies will then communicate better overall, in their newsletters and other communication vehicles.

In the case study below, we helped Pharmaton Natural Health Products respond to a particular audience segment with fine-tuned, targeted content. Because it could see exactly what readers were most interested in, the company was able to make critical, reader-based changes to its marketing strategy.

Pharmaton is the maker of Ginsana and Ginkoba, two highly recognized herbal supplements. It started its newsletter program a couple years ago with a database of names from an online sweepstakes and registration forms on its various brand sites. Since then, because of what readers told the company, Pharmaton has been able to refine its program, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Surprising Results

In one issue, Pharmaton needed a filler article. It included one on digestive disorders. Because it assumed readers were only interested in mental clarity and energy products, the company thought the article would be of little interest and placed it at the end of the newsletter. Pharmaton was surprised when the analytics showed how many people read each article.

According to Pharmaton’s newsletter project leader, the digestive orders article was "overwhelming the single most read piece in the entire issue." A readership trend like this was unexpected!

Taking Action

Pharmaton listened to its readers and built a new stable of communication products, including multiple newsletters, to address the different market segments emerging from the trends. The company never would have thought to do so without such critical reader feedback.

This underscores the need for rich analytic capabilities for your newsletter. It also shows how readers are an invaluable source of market information -- information you’d have spent thousands of research dollars to uncover years ago. Today, it’s information that can be in your hands within minutes of sending an issue.

Learning From Others

This case study is important for two reasons. Pharmaton responded to a particular constituency with relevant content. And it was able to identify this constituency by getting beyond open rates to a more complete picture of readers. Based on this picture, the company was able to place more emphasis on what was perceived to be a secondary product and begin to segment and build an audience for that product.

Pharmaton now refines each issue accordingly, with each newsletter becoming more relevant to readers. Consequently, it’s seen a 20 percent increase in the amount of email opened with each subsequent newsletter sent. This helps Pharmaton reach its goal of building a life-long, loyal user community and increasing the importance of its newsletter in the marketing mix.

What has your newsletter taught you? Share it with me.

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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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