E-Newsletter Bloopers

Whenever I bare my soul about my latest e-newsletter blunders, I end up comparing myself to celebrities. Last time it was Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.

This time, I keep hearing Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again.”

I just got a phone call from a writer colleague to tell me he tried to find my phone number and e-mail address on a previous copy of my e-newsletter. It was nowhere to be found!

I checked. Sure enough, he was right. I’d put my address on the bottom to comply with CAN-SPAM, but my most basic contact info was missing!

The worst of it is I come from a direct marketing background. The rule is to write the call to action first, then write the rest of the message to support it.

Funny thing is, I’ve published about four quarterly issues so far and it’s never come up as a problem. In fact, I’ve gotten so many calls and e-mail messages in regard to the e-newsletter (not to mention many new clients), I’ve considered it a hugely successful marketing effort.

So today’s lesson: before you write your e-newsletter, ask yourself what you want your reader to do as a result of reading it. Place that call to action at the top of your e-newsletter template so you never have to think about it again. (Of course, you can put other call to actions in your e-newsletter, as I do at the bottom of each column.)

Here’s another cardinal rule of e-newsletter publishing I violated: always have a few issues “in the can” so you don’t miss your publishing dates.

This is a rule I’d been advised about but decided to disregard. After all, I’m a writer and I always meet my deadlines — no matter what. This column has been written every two weeks for five years, except for the two “vacation” slots I’m allowed each year. And I never, ever miss a client deadline unless there’s a really huge emergency.

Well, guess what happened. This summer has been a nonstop family emergency. One of my relatives was diagnosed with cancer. As a result, her 92-year-old, legally blind mother and her 89-year-old aunt with cardiac problems had to be admitted into an assisted living facility. And all three women have needed constant support and care. It’s been a constant crisis.

Despite it all, I was able to keep up with all my client deadlines, this column, and my two school-aged children. What slipped? My own e-newsletter.

And I’m not beating myself up about it. This is a first-things-first situation. And due to my previous e-newsletter marketing efforts, I have a healthy roster of great corporate clients who are keeping my creative consultancy practice at full capacity. I even have some great speaking engagements coming up this fall.

To get back on track, I’m going to try to bang out the next issue on a plane ride to a client conference in Phoenix this weekend (though I’d dearly just like to relax with a magazine!).

Going forward, I’ll try to streamline the e-newsletter to make it easier to write. I’ll also bank a few issues for the future.

Despite this publishing hiatus (which I doubt any of my readers even noticed), even an imperfect e-newsletter effort is better than none at all. Once you create the template, set up the database, and sign on an e-newsletter provider, you’re good to go. It’s just a matter of filling in the content. The results can be incredible. So if you haven’t created your own e-newsletter yet, make it one of your fall priorities. You’ll enjoy better sales in 2007.

And if you make a few mistakes along the way? Congratulations! That means you’re learning.

Want your case study featured in a future column? Send along your B2B best to Karen.

Meet Karen at E-Mail Marketing, the first in the new ClickZ Specifics conference series, October 24-25 in New York City.

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

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