Improve E-Mail Metrics With Newsletters

As I mentioned in my previous column, a major shift in email will be from standalone email acquisition to relationship email marketing. Driving this will be permission-based newsletters.

Tired of sending spam? Interested in reducing unnecessary mailing costs while improving your overall transaction levels and building relationships with your prospects and customers? Seriously consider developing a newsletter. Flat out, a properly conceived and implemented newsletter will dramatically improve your email business.

A newsletter is a strategic method to diffuse heavy-handed selling via email. It’s a way to conversationally engage recipients, not repel them, as standalone email offers can do. A newsletter creates familiarity, trust, and credibility, morphing over time into loyalty and revenue.

For the email world, newsletters are perfect for promoting products and services because they can be editorially packaged to avoid shamelessly promoting offers and deals. Executed correctly, your e-newsletter is received by consumers who have a homogenous interest in the subject matter. In fact, depending on your mailing system’s database capabilities, you may already know each subscriber’s specific interests.

Building subscriber relationships is easier than with conventional email promotions because subscription offers can be positioned on Web sites to attract targeted visitors. Newsletter subscribers are self-selecting themselves as interested in your product or service. You can go deeper. Newsletters lend themselves to data collection. Bear this in mind and be sure to include survey forms and demographic questions to help segment subscribers.

Provide Readers With Value

My purpose isn’t to teach email newsletter production methods, but rather to emphasize the benefits of developing a relationship with a prospect or customer. These benefits directly improve email response metrics, including reducing the unsubscribes from your email list.

That said, I’ll restate a critical factor: providing value to the reader.

Do whatever you can to involve the prospect. Include testimonials, letters to the editor, or a feedback section. Sell computer equipment? Tell people what technology is around the corner. Cosmetics? Volunteer makeover tips and product reviews. Make sure the newsletter has a printable version. Keep in mind many people download newsletters to their PDAs, so test how the copy truncates on all browsers and devices.

You’re not a writer and unsure where to obtain newsletter content? A number of sources offer content for free or at a fairly low cost. Search “syndicated content” in your favorite search engine, or check out sites such as EContent, IdeaMarketers, and Content-Wire.

E-newsletter publishers once relied on text formats. Today, use HTML at the very least. Broadband penetration is about 20 percent of U.S. households and growing exponentially. There’s no reason to ignore rich media, especially when your newsletter sells higher-end products or services targeted to upper-income individuals.

I suspect over 80 percent of your subscribes would choose to receive HTML. Depending on their browser or email client, not all prospects and customers can. Consider a dual text/HTML version. This enables 95 percent of recipients to receive it without too many problems.

In terms of distribution, you have several choices. You can mail to your base or first ask them to subscribe. Among subscribers, expect a monthly unsubscribe rate of 3 to 6 percent. You can reduce that 25 to 50 percent by including a pass-along subscription referral process. People always know people who like the same things they do.

Like standalone email, newsletters can be tracked in terms of opens, clicks, and, most important, actions. You can include code that tracks links readers click and related actions. All this data should be stored and appended to subscriber names to improve your ability to communicate effectively with them in the future.

If you’re not able to construct or distribute a newsletter internally, there are excellent newsletter companies that offer the requisite services.

I heartily recommend adding a newsletter to your communication arsenal. It will help your company overcome many problems associated with standalone email. The upside greatly exceeds the costs associated with publishing.

Keep reading.

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

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