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Building Relationships through Email Newsletters

Building Relationships through Email Newsletters

A Marketing article written by Lynne Newbury

Effective email marketing programs are about increasing the value proposition provided to your subscribers and clients. Most organisations think that "email marketing" is sending advertisements to a list of email addresses but this could not be further from the truth.

Effective email marketing programs are about building relationships and increasing the value proposition you provide to your subscribers and clients. This is where the power is and you can't get there by sending ads to third-party lists. The content has to be appreciated, even expected, by the recipient before a relationship can form.

But what makes an email newsletter good? Here are some thoughts based on experience.

Making It Good

It must be personal as people build relationships with other people, not with faceless corporations. So your newsletter needs to be written by a real person and that person's personality needs to come through in the writing.

It must provide information of value to the subscribers and be aimed at helping them to build a sustainable competitive advantage within their own business. Look for topics that will not only attract your target audience but include unique topics that are not adequately covered elsewhere.

It must provide useful content which is meaningful and enlightening to your target audience. People read newsletters to learn more about the industry, your company or specific topics of interest.

It must be simple to read content both in structure and in writing style. If the subscriber cannot find and digest the content quickly they will not read it at all and will probably unsubscribe after a couple of newsletters have been received. The newsletter structure can be simplified through the creation of a table of contents, providing of a brief summary of each article and a link to the whole article. That way, readers can drill down through the table of contents and article summaries to the full articles of most interest to them.

It must be regular and reliable with the frequency being dependent upon your content. If content changes weekly, then you should mail every week but you must avoid sending more content than they can read. Newsletters should be sent at least once a month as any less frequently than that, people may forget they signed up to receive it and see it as "spam" which will do more harm than good.

Putting It Together

We've talked about content. Now let's talk about the mechanics: How do you actually compose and send an email newsletter?

The first choice is whether to send a text-based email or HTML as both offer distinct advantages. As a rule of thumb text is best suited for large email campaigns where subscribers are of "unknown" origin as many email editors are not configured to accept HTML, which means messages in this format will be unreadable. The best approach is to let clients choose between the two when subscribing.

Text-based emails ensure readability by all subscribers and should be composed using a text editor such as "MS Notepad" as this program's output is "plain Jane" text that will be readable by any email client.

One rule to follow when composing a text email is that hard line breaks should be inserted after every 70 characters of text. The reason is that most email programs put a hard return after about 80 characters as the message is being sent out and if you don't put the hard return in, your lines could end up breaking oddly, leaving the lines of your newsletter grossly uneven and jagged, and hyperlinks greater than 80 characters in length not working.

HTML newsletters, on the other hand, can be sent using a pre-formatted template that includes colour, branding, images, interactivity and can be linked to backend databases that enable you to collect demographic and client preference information from your mailout. The only concern here is that HTML must be enabled on the subscriber's email for these interactive emails to be received properly.

Sending It Out

To send your email newsletter out, you need some sort of list management software which does the job of adding and removing email addresses as well as emailing your newsletter. There are basically three solutions but all have trade-offs:

  1. Free hosting services which reduce costs but they insert advertising in your newsletter
  2. Paid hosting services that cost approximately $150 per month for lists with 50,000+ subscribers
  3. Mailing list software that run locally but are limited by the speed of your Internet connection

A new breed of email newsletter providers has recently emerged that not only provide FREE hosting and mailing services but also a FREE email generation system that outputs both text and HTML emails. These systems allow you to build your email newsletter online through a web browser interface, configure colour and graphic design preferences, set the send schedule as well as build the subscriber list which can be added to directly from your own website or newsletter. The trade-off for these systems is always through advertisements to your customers which are usually in the form of interactive banners.

The major benefit of these systems is the professionalism of the final email newsletter sent.