Newsletters as we know them are regularly distributed publications about a topic that is of interest to its subscribers. You might consider also newspapers and leaflets as types of newsletters. In most cases this newsletters are published by clubs, churches, companies or any type of association a member might have with an institution and it provides information of interest to them, being upcoming events, promotions, or general information of the organization.
Now, what I’m gonna cover on this project is how this newsletters are changing its shapes with the evolution of the Web and Internet and, how the majority of institutions and companies are depending on them for their success. Primarily I’ll focus on the marketing part of the topic simply because I work for a company that depends a lot on successful marketing campaigns for the success of its business and most importantly to build relationships with its customers.
Next, I’ll cover some of the new ways this newsletters are transforming into e-newsletters blogs, news feed(RSS) and online subscriptions(I’ll cover these with more detail later) in more openly interactive ways. Interactive not in a way we can interact by click through a website links but mostly the open path it creates to communicate better and almost instantly with the organization and other affiliates or customers of that organization.
Finally, I’ll cover the technical details required for electronic newsletters (emails) so they can become successful campaigns and work in complete harmony for companies customers. As simple as it might sound to send an email to customers inbox, there are considerable things to take into account for you company to succeed on its campaigns.
2. Effective email campaigns.
Letâ€™s start with a quick question: â€œHow many different media do you need to personalize, adapt to individual groups, test price, determine whether straight text generates more response than a produced message, test message length, be able to read results within one or two days, test incentives, make a different message to business information from messages to consumers, and provide hundreds of demographic layers?â€
You’ve probably guessed it already, the answer is emails.
Email represents the evolution of a communications revolution that started with the telephone, suplementing, increasing and eventually replacing the one-to-one relationships with bulk, manufactured, artificial one-to-one pseudo-relationships with a more direct and straight way to let your audience decide what they want to do, and not running with the risk of occasional annoyances to people might encounter on a dialog. Not to mention the fact that you don’t need to have personal answering phones for customers.
Even during the early experimental period, successful and astute e-mail marketers realized that no previous medium offered the advantages e-mail brings to the marketing arena. While other dotcom start-ups flared with egotistical self-promotion before flaming out, e-marketers charted a steady course, spending so little on each contact that failure was harder to achieve than success. Those qualifiers thin the ranks considerably, because successful and astute e-mailers quickly see the value of testing. They tabulate test results exactly the way expensive (but in this case unnecessary) researchers would tabulate them. Then, unlike career researchers, they quickly implement the results of their research, constantly alert to changing market conditions that might dictate a change in course. All this may strike as primitive. I hope it does because that means you accept testing and skeptical acceptance of test results as an absolute necessity for successful e-marketing.
In this regard you might want to hear Jacob Nielsen about email marketing:
â€œEmail newsletters let you maintain a relationship with your customers that lasts beyond their visits to your site. The newsletter is the perfect website companion because it answers a different user need: newsletters keep customers informed and in touch with the company; websites give customers detailed information and let them perform business transactions.
Newsletters are fairly cheap. They require little technology and mustnâ€™t be published too frequently. If you donâ€™t have a newsletter, then publishing one is probably the single-highest ROI action you can take to improve your Internet presence. If you do have a newsletter, then improving it according to research findings will likely make it several times more valuable to your organization.â€
Marketers who separate e-mail from the rest of the marketing mix are either unaware of a subject matter or are ignoring it: The customers and contacts havenâ€™t changed. They are the same people you would want to reach if e-mail didnâ€™t exist. Whether by e-mail, direct mail, television, or a newspaper success comes from reaching and influencing, at the lowest possible cost, the largest number of people who can and will respond to your offer. What e-mail has given the world of force-communication is a quantum leap in timing, an astounding reduction in cost, and an automatic one-to-one relationship. And, yes, these are gigantic improvements, but they donâ€™t change the intention. Which means what? It means that in e-mail, as in television and printing, technology should be subordinate to principles of psychology. The most expensive method may not be the most effective.
3. Adapting the message to your campaigns.
Part of e-mailâ€™s power is inherent in the medium itself. People turn on their computers and deliberately check who has contacted them since the last time they logged on… which could have been only half an hour before.
Newspaper and magazine subscribers usually donâ€™t buy these publications because they want to see advertising. Television viewers dislike commercials so intently that gadgets designed for cutting out the commercials enjoy a brisk sale. Direct mail, the incestuous first cousin of e-mail, comes unannounced as does commercial e-mail, but it lacks the cachet of the glamorous new medium.
Just by being there with their fingers on a mouse, your e-mail targets signal that they expect you. Do they welcome you? The subject line and first sentence answer that question quickly.
On the other, e-mail newsletters are seen as time savers. They point an specific content or provide shortcuts to larger amounts of information. Therefore, newsletters should be conducive to scanning. In a consumer group study that Jakob Nielsen released, 23% of the newsletters were read thoroughly, 50% were skimmed or partly read, and the remaining 27% were never opened.
While e-mail newsletters are enjoying some success, they are in danger of being associated with spam, or junk e-mail, according to the study. Nielsen recommended that companies avoid words like “free” and “debt” in their subject lines to distinguish their newsletters from spam.
If you don’t want your emails to end up as spam emails or in the junk folder of your customer here are a few things you might want to take in consideration:
Maintain a control message. To really understand if a change to an email actually affects response rates, it must be compared to a control group. Testing email is so easy that inexperienced marketers are tempted to test multiple facets of a message at once. Don’t. Stick to altering one part of the message, then compare it to the email with the best response so far. Testing more than one facet is unnecessarily complicated.
Test significant differences. Ensure what you’re testing differs significantly from the control group. For example, rather than slightly rewording your offer, try one hard sell and one soft sell. Or send one message with a discount and one without. Over time, alter the size of the discount.
Test formatting. Consumers receive a significant number of poorly formatted HTML messages because the sender didn’t test appearance in different email software. Unless you have a lab with a complete array of email clients, it’s best to have your service provider perform this function.
Start with the basics. I still receive email messages from large companies that leave the sender line, subject line, or both blank. This is the single best way to kill response. Imagine receiving in the mail a credit card solicitation in a plain white envelope with no return address. Marketers who are just beginning to test their messages should begin with altering subject lines. Do you personalize it? Include an offer? Is the offer dollars off or percent off? A hard or soft sell?
4. Getting the opt-ins.
Before worrying about people who opt out, first worry about how to get them to opt inâ€”because if you donâ€™t have any names, opt-outs are an academic issue.
Where do the names come from? The three major sources are:
Acquisition of the online names and the addresses of existing customers, clients, or inquirers. This becomes considerable easier when tied to a benefit for supplying your name, entry in a sweepstakes, a first-order discount, or a subscription to a pertinent newsletter.
Recruitment through media advertising, public relations and news releases, and telemarketing. These tend to give a more solid base than names acquired through list rentals, because no matter how relevant a rented list may be, it’s comparatively deficient in preconceived loyalty.
Rented names from list brokers.
How can you catch more opt-ins? Here are 5 useful points:
An attention getting headline. Remember that online readers SKIM copy – they don’t read it word for word. So the headline in your opt-in box may be the ONLY thing they read, which determines whether they sign up or not.
A raving description of your company. Work hard at putting together a description of your company that gets prospective customers excited to sign up!
A Field to Enter Their FIRST NAME. Getting people’s names along with their e-mails allows you to personalize your company for them.
A Field to Enter Their Primary EMAIL ADDRESS.
A BUTTON That Says “Subscribe” or “Sign Me Up Now”
5. Technical details for email campaigns
Having a good understanding of the technicalities of email campaigns is paramount if you want successful campaigns. Even though and email might sound like a simple process to implement, there are several factors to take into account when sending your campaigns to customers or subscribers.
Some of the concepts explained here, if not familiar with HTML(Hypertext Markup language) or CSS(Cascading Style Sheets) might sound foreign to you. But for the most part, the idea is to illustrate the approaches to take into account when emailing and more importantly to point the consequences of a badly built email.
The focus would be primarily on how to tackle the how your email is gonna be seen in several email clients. Each particular client, just to mention the most important ones: Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL, Gmail, etc. has its support for certain HTML tags or CSS properties that help style and layout your email templates. When designing your template and viewing it on your browser everything might render accurately and pristine. Now, once you start testing your email on several accounts the is when the nightmare becomes.
Fortunately there are things that you can take consider when designing your templates that will improve not only the way you have your templates design, but also the performance of your emails (in terms of results, convertions, etc.) and most importantly, what words you should be using for your email not to end up as ‘spam’ or in the ‘junk folder’ of your customers. Here are some guidelines:
Never use images for important content like headlines, links and any calls to action.
Use alt text for all images for a better experience in Gmail and always add the height and width to the image to ensure that the blank placeholder image doesn’t throw your design out.
Add a text-based link to a web version of your design at the top of your email.
Ensure your most compelling content is at the top (and preferably to the left).
Test your design in a preview pane, full screen and with images turned on and off before you send it.
Ask your subscriber to add your From address to their address book at every opportunity.
Allow for the preview pane. Around 75% of people who use preview panes go for the horizontal version, while the remaining 25% prefer the vertical version.
Of course, this is only an overview of the minimun you need to take into account when you are designing your templates. Certainly there are more extensive resources and lot to study to get the best results, but those technicalities are out of the scope of this project. However, you are more than welcome to poke through the references and check our resources. You’ll find a wealth of information regarding how to build your email templates for optimum performance.
6. The future as for other options
At the beginning of the project it was mention something like blogs and RSS. Now this is the section where you’ll learn more about this.
Blogs are increasingly growing and it has become one of the ways many companies are communicating in a daily basis with their customers. Not only because they can post information about their institution really easy, but most importantly, because they customer can participate by posting comments on different articles or announcements the company might be giving. This has become a currency on the web and is still growing in the web community.
We can even find websites like flickr, Blogger, Typepad, TextPattern, WordPress all of them design for people and companies to install, use or incorporate a blog on your site if so you please and get a much quicker response from your customers or for you to give an answer much quicker to your customers.
The second option mentioned is RSS (Real Simple Syndication). This is pretty much a type of subscription many websites are offering for people to get updated on news and events without having to go through their site. You can simply download a piece of software or if you are running or using the latest browsers, like Firefox, Opera or Internet Explorer 7, by clicking on the RSS icon of the site you are visiting, you are subscribing to their news feed however often they might be posting those news or announcements.
7. Final thoughts
Email has a tremendous power to reach people. Even more power than websites. Things might be changing along the way; the means to reach people; the way we advertise our services; but emails will remain strong for a long long time. After all we are people, we like to be considered, we like to be noticed, we like to be heard, we like to know that somewhere out there has something we might want. Electronic mailing, makes as feel in all those ways in the best way than no other way of communication can and it will keep doing so until those email find our inboxes.