Make an E-mail Newsletter Part of Your Marketing Plan

By Karen Leland Feb 11, 2009
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A successful e-mail newsletter requires more than just putting together a decent-looking document and sending it through cyberspace with a few quick clicks of the mouse. Creating an e-zine or e-mail newsletter that hits the sweet spot and leads to sales requires crafting collateral that brings relevant meaning and the right message to a targeted audience.

Create a permissions-based list. “The No. 1 mistake that people make is sending an e-mail newsletter to someone who doesn’t want it,” says John Arnold, author of E-Mail Marketing For Dummies. Too often, consultants forget that an e-mail newsletter has to be requested or wanted by the person who is receiving it, or it can be seen as spam.

For this reason, Arnold advises against buying or renting lists—even ones that owners claim are permission-based. Instead, HR consultants should strive to assemble a roster of recipients that is built on relationships with current clients, potential clients, business associates and people who opt in on a web site.

“I’ve been sending out my electronic newsletter since 2002,” says Eric Herrenkohl, president of Herrenkohl Consulting. “Whenever I speak to a business or professional group, I use the opportunity to let them know they can subscribe to the newsletter on my web site, or give me their business card, and I will do it for them.” Herrenkohl says that after a talk, the number of business cards he receives is a good sign of how well he connected with the audience.

Reflect your brand. If clients don’t recognize that the communication is from someone they know, often they won’t open it. To avoid this, Arnold suggests including the company logo in the newsletter and using the same colors that comprise the consultant’s other marketing materials, such as letterhead, brochures, web site and business cards.

In addition, HR consultants should choose carefully which name they put in the “from” line. “People often make the mistake of putting their name in the ‘from’ line, when it’s the company name that has the brand recognition, and vice versa,” says Arnold.Whichever name the clients are most familiar with is the one that should be entered.

Use attention-getting subject lines. If you want to prompt someone to open an e-mail newsletter, the magic is in making the immediate benefit clear in the subject line. For example, a bad subject line would be: June Newsletter. The reason? Too generic and vague. A better subject line would be: Three tips for finding the perfect candidate in a down market. “You only have 40 to 50 characters to get your message across,” says Arnold. “You want to make those first few words really count.”

Davis Woodruff, president of Management Methods Inc., says he sits down at the beginning of each year and plans out an editorial calendar. For example, January: customer service; March: training; May: safety; and so on. Woodruff says that planning out what he is going to concentrate on helps him craft a newsletter and relevant subject line that focuses on providing specific value for his clients.

Keep it short and to the point. The ideal length of a newsletter is something that, if printed out, would fit easily onto a standard-size sheet of paper. Since the content of most e-newsletters is longer than this, Arnold suggests posting summaries and snippets of an article with links to a web site, where the full version is available. “If it’s too long, readers will park it to read later, usually won’t get around to it and delete it in a week because it’s old,” says Arnold. “If you make it concise and easy to read, customers will scan it right away.”

Denise Kay, president of Employment Practices Solutions Inc., says her firm has organized its monthly e-newsletter as a simple scroll-down page with one partial feature article, which links to the full piece on the web site. This is followed by a news brief about relevant items that impact HR professionals, such as any changes in the law and major legal cases that have been decided recently.

“We have received great benefit in name recognition from our e-newsletter,” says Kay. “People really seem to value the articles, and we make sure they are newsworthy and full of the type of helpful information people need to get their jobs done.”

Use images that help tell the story. Cute clip art just for the sake of having a picture is not effective, says Arnold. Instead, pictures should be relevant to the content of the newsletter and help tell the story. “The key is to find stock photography that helps to build confidence in your brand,” says Arnold. A few good sources for high-quality, reasonably priced stock photos include:

·Stockxpert.com

·Iphoto.com

·Jupiterimages.com

In the end, the most important thing to remember is that anything you send should be about building and strengthening your relationship with your clients and potential clients—not just about putting information into cyberspace.

E-Mail Service Providers

While any consultant with an e-mail account can create and send an e-mail newsletter, a professional e-mail marketing services firm can make the process a whole lot easier. Among them:

·Constant Contact. With over 250,000 users, they are the biggest player in the field, but they are limited to working strictly online, offering e-mail newsletters and surveys.

·Vertical Response. They handle sending direct-mail postcards in addition to offering online marketing services.

·Exact Target. A more customizable, higher-end solution, they can be considerably more expensive than their competitors.

Karen Leland is a freelance writer based in Sausalito, Calif., and the president of Sterling Consulting Group. She is the author of “Time Management in an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day” (Career Press, 2008).
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