Driving Retail With Content

So you’ve got an online retail site, and, in an effort to promote your products, you publish a regularly scheduled email newsletter. Or you plan to launch one. The idea is to sell and/or convert, right? Those of you lucky enough to have the staff and database capabilities can segment subscribers by interests, past purchase histories, and more in order to provide extremely targeted and valuable content. Good stuff. Good for YOU, anyway.

But what if you’re one of the less fortunate who doesn’t yet have the resources in place to churn out a completely optimized newsletter? What’s a marketer like you to do in the meantime?

Well, plenty, actually. For starters, you can tone down the pitch. At least a little. Just because folks have signed up or opted in to receive your newsletter doesn’t mean that they want to be constantly “sold.” Sure, that’s part of the goal. However, there are ways to tout your products and services while at the same time offer at least a wee bit of worthy content.

In fact, I took a mini-poll recently and asked a couple of associates to give me their top picks for emailed newsletters. Just about every single fave included (but was not limited to) pure pitch-free content of some kind. I believe there’s something to be learned from others who are doing it right, so here are the three standouts.

MotherNature.com. “Where else can you find a vitamin and health products site with a newsletter that includes… news?!” That’s the response I got after asking, “Why MotherNature?” And it’s true MotherNature’s newsletter is truly content-LOADED. Topic “bites” within the email are diverse and intriguing, and link to their respective full articles on the site. Each story weaves in an associated health product that is (conveniently) available at MotherNature.com. For instance, one recent headline, “Fat-Catching Chitinosans: Do They Promote Weight Loss?” lead to a full feature article that explained the process of fat-blocking substances and the pluses and minuses of competitive prescription products. The article was actually very interesting and went into a lot of detail on the subject of weight loss. In other words, this was no teaser. Nor were any of the other articles.

Speaking of other articles, another great thing about the MotherNature newsletter is that it offers a variety of topics. Something for everyone, in fact. There are usually five or six different article links within each issue, along with an “Ask the Experts” column, the latest in health news, and a full-fledged recipe. And the newsletter comes out only about once a month, so all of that great content never overwhelms. Not to mention the fact that there is always a great discount (50 percent or more) associated with the lead story’s product.

PetsMart.com. Why this particular pet-store newsletter? “It has a fun and colorful design and a few neat articles… like the ‘Can Your Dog Read Your Mind’ story.” Like MotherNature, it also offers several different stories with every issue one for every kind of pet. Want to know how to communicate with your bird? Or how to decipher your cat’s body signs? Need help with your guinea pig or lizard? Read the newsletter. And while you’re at it, BUY SOMETHING!

There are also tons of product discount offerings, of course many of which are not even PetsMart’s, but one of its “Pawspectives Partners” like BarnesandNoble.com. Other extras, including photo contests, Q&As, and chat announcements make great reading for the right pet-loving audience.

Tavolo.com. If your newsletter is more of the short and sweet variety rather than the content-heavy variety, here’s some food for thought (no pun intended, well, maybe a little). Upscale kitchen and gourmet products site Tavolo sends out a newsletter that DOES pitch products yes. But it also includes everything an aspiring chef could ask for. Each issue has a theme whether it’s “Hot Latin Plates,” which included a link to a shrimp tapas recipe, or “Chic Terrace Dinner,” which connected to pages of Boyajian smoked salmon, caviar servers, and Queen martini glasses. Talk about hitting a select market! Best of all, the text amounts to only a short paragraph or two, and the design and product images are dazzling… a true “feast” for the senses.

There are plenty of other great content-based retail newsletters, of course too many to list here. And I daresay that other types of businesses, besides retail, can probably learn a thing or two from promotions such as these. The main lessons? Keep it interesting and unique. KNOW your core audience and what they like. Deliver content that fits. Give ’em lots of variety.

Oh yeah… and try and sell a thing or two while you’re at it.

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