I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but e-newsletters are really quite polarizing in the world of marketing, online and off. On the one pole you have people who role their eyes and make vomit sounds when you mention e-newsletters. You might hear something like, “OMG I get like, 27 gazillion a day. The whole reason I went to the Inbox Zero conference is because I need to figure out how to get RID of the e-newsletters!” On the other pole you don’t have as much talking. It’s really more about action. These are the folks who send all of those e-newsletters. Though I cannot prove it, I would bet there is even some overlap between these two disparate groups of people.
So what is going on here? Why are we getting so many e-newsletters, all of which drive us nuts, all while we keep sending our own? I have a theory. I think that just like we see in the world of social media, the thought is that creating an e-newsletter and sending it is so cheap and so easy that there’s no earthly reason why NOT to do it. As a result, people tend to jump into the process without really thinking about it first.
I’m going to give you a little quiz at this time. Now, whether or not you tell me the results, hopefully it will get those little brain hamsters rolling a bit. Ready?
1. Have you added people to your recipients list without their knowledge or permission?
2. Do you make efforts to indicate to your recipients that you want them to talk back?
3. Do you use your e-newsletters to sell, inform, or both?
4. Do you send your e-newsletters on a regular schedule?
5. Do you have a content plan for your e-newsletters?
Now, let’s talk about each of these five things in a bit more detail.
Who is receiving your e-newsletters?
One of the reasons that e-newsletters are perceived of as being really easy is that it IS really easy to add a person to an email database, especially now that platforms like Constant Contact and MailChimp exist. You literally just type peoples’ contact information in. Pretty darned easy. There’s an important step that I fear a lot of people miss, however, and that is making sure that people opt in to your e-newsletter. In fact, best practices indicate that people should opt in twice, once to sign up for your e-newsletter and then again via an invitate to unsubscribe if they wish.
I receive at least one e-newsletter from a person whom I know. We’ve had online conversations only, never phone or skype or anything like that. I’ve never met them in person. I’ve visited their blog a few times. And yet I receive their e-newsletter. Now how did that happen? When I converse with you, am I opting in to your e-newsletter? I don’t think so.
Always remember that the people who receive your e-newsletter will feel just like you do when you receive an e-newsletter you didn’t ask for. It may make them think less of you. They may unsubscribe. They may wonder what other sneaky things you do to try to grow your business. Going through the business cards you gather at a trade show and inputting all of those e-mail addresses is NOT the way to build your e-newsletter list. Stray away from this practice.
Are you inviting your readers to talk back?
Just like anything that is done in the marketing world today, it’s important to remember that your readers are the same people who have adjusted to the realities of Web 2.0 (or are we at 3.0 now?). They want to be able to talk back to you. They want to feel like you WANT them to talk back to you. Are your e-newsletters leaving some breathing room for participation? Do you actually invite your readers to respond or reply?
What are you using your e-newsletters for in the grand scheme of your marketing campaign? Are you using them to sell your products or services? Are they loud and filled with images? There are ways to reach out to existing and potential customers with your e-newsletters, but nobody is going to be happy to receive a yelling salesman in his or her inbox, right? Besides, spam filters are getting pretty clever (except for all of the actual spam email, which seems to always get through). Images with blatant sales messages in the headline and lots of images may not even reach your readers.
Truthfully, your e-newsletter is a chance to help you nurture relationships with existing and potential clients. Yelling and screaming, doing nothing but selling, or creating extremely aggressive messaging is a great way to make people run away. Hard to nurture relationships that way, don’t you think?
Now for your regularly scheduled programming
Like a blog site, e-newsletters can be used to build a sense of expectation. If you send daily, try to send around the same time every day. If you send weekly, try to send on the same day. And so on. Scheduling your e-newsletters not only helps your recipients know when to expect your content, it also helps you track traffic to your website more reliably to when your e-newsletter went out. If your traffic keeps spiking at the same time you send out your e-newsletter, it’s a lot easier to make that connection.
A Man, A Plan, An E-newsletter…
Ok, that’s not exactly a palindrome, but having a plan for your e-newsletter content can be a great help in integrating your content into the rest of your marketing campaign. For example, if you are going to be exhibiting at a trade show, talking about that in your e-newsletter can be useful. While the plan does not need to be rigid or highly detailed, having some idea of what you will talk about can help prevent things like last-minute ideas and repetition.
These five aspects of e-newsletter planning and sending represent only the tip of the iceberg, and we’ve just touched on each one a bit. Now, is it possible to send an e-newsletter without all of these considerations? Sure. But what are you risking? Being black-listed as a spammer. Losing your reputation as an up-and-up business person. Losing relationships with existing or potential customers. That seems like a lot to risk just because of the myth that e-newsletters are easy to create and send.
Don’t you think?
1st image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xiaming/50391986/ via Creative Commons
2nd image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/3593686294/ via Creative Commons