By Raj Khera & Ivy Dunyoh
ROCKVILLE, MD--E-mail newsletters and campaigns have become one of the cheaper ways to keep in contact with clients, customers and members. You can use e-mail newsletters to report breaking news, conduct selective email marketing, send out reminders and advise customers and clients about urgent issues. You can also use them for community building by sending newsletters to patrons, announcing seminars, conferences, and other events, sharing tips, informing clients and customers of developments and other information about your business or company.
There are two types of tools to design and maintain e-mail newsletters: services and software. E-mail list management services can carry out just about everything you need to do it: creating a list signup form, adding/removing subscribers, purging duplicate e-mail addresses, gathering demographic information, filtering your list member database to target messages, personalizing each message and tracking clicks on every link inside your messages. E-mail newsletter software contains many of the same features that a service does. The downfall of email newsletter software is that while many of the features in software packages are similar to these found in services, software requires your internet service provider (ISP) to allow you to send bulk email--something few ISPs allow these days. Additionally, software requires maintenance and technical expertise.
E-mail campaigns can be a bust if the right techniques are not implemented. People are very fickle, and they tend to lose interest quickly. Keeping them interested is necessary for your mailings to be a success. The article is about starting and running an email newsletter. The article offers tips on obtaining members, creating your message and calculating your result.
How to get members to sign up.
There are several ways to do this. You can post an announcement in your company Web site. Some e-mail list services will provide you with a sign-up page for your Web site Remember, do not assume because they are patrons of your business or company that they will want to subscribe. Some might even file spam complaints, so get their permission first. Search engines like Overture and Google (Adword's Select program) is another way to get members to sign up for your mailing. This allows companies to bid for advertisement rankings by keyword. They have alliances to display their top two or three fee-based placements on other major search engines, which can dramatically increase your newsletter's exposure. Another nice thing about these fee-based listings is that you pay only for the traffic they generate to your site.
Never ever purchase, trade or borrow an e-mail list!
If you have established a loyal list of subscribers, you may want to eventually expand your membership. Do not borrow or purchase a list from an individual or a company. This is the cardinal rule of e-mail list management. Almost all of the s and groups that sell lists for purchase DO NOT have permission from those on the lists. Even if these organizations have presented to you that buying their lists is not spam, do not be fooled. Sending e-mails to people that have not registered for your mailings is almost always regarded as spam. This can not only cause problems with your business's list management service provider, but also damage your business's reputation by being labeled as a spammer. It might even get you blacklisted by spam watchdog groups. Reputable list management companies have strict policies against the use of purchased or traded lists and will terminate your business's account if you violate those policies.
Make signing up for your list easy and visible.
If people can find your sign-up form easily, you will get many more subscribers. Put your form, or a link to your form, on your home page. Ask subscribers for their e-mail address, first/last names and perhaps one or two other questions about interests or demographics so you can target your mailings. Asking too many questions on the sign-up form discourages people from subscribing.
Keep records of the people who have signed up.
In today's hair trigger spam complaint environment, you may get a complaint from someone who has forgotten that he or she subscribed to your business's or company's list or who is using an e-mail filtering tool that flagged your mail as spam. That person should be able to request his or her sign-up information from you. Keeping subscription records, including the Web site address from which each person has signed up, each person's membership information and the date each person has registered for the mailing, will enable you to justify your mailings to your Internet or bulk e-mail service provider. Most services collect and retain this information automatically for Web-based sign ups.
Be sure to use double "opt-in" subscription.
There are two options for online newsletter registration: single opt-in and double opt-in. Single opt-in allows the subscriber to enter in their e-mail address and automatically register to get the newsletter. It is very simple and easy for the subscriber, but it increases the likelihood complaints. Double opt-in is the preferred method for e-mail newsletter registration. Double opt-in means that subscribers must confirm their subscription after they have signed up. After they have registered for the mailing on your Web site, they automatically get an e-mail informing them that if they want to complete the subscription, they must click on the link to confirm. Double opt-in ensures certainty that registrants really want to receive the mailings, thereby eliminating the risk that someone could sabotage your list by adding addresses to it without permission.
Crafting Your Message
Use a newsletter template for your mailing.
Recipients will be conditioned to expect your e-mail when they recognize it. You can pick your theme by selecting your colors, logo and general layout. You can even design a newsletter that matches the design of your business's Web site. E-mail list management companies like MailerMailer provide different designs to make this task much easier. Just fill in the blanks in the template, and it automatically formats the newsletter for you.
Target your messages.
You can target your messages by using your audience's demographic information and interests. For example, you can use the following information on your sign-up page:
What are your areas of interest?
___ Special Offers
___ Special Events
Not only can you send news and advice for specific interest areas those affected, but you can also inform subscribers about changes in their specific areas of interest.
Your mailing will be successful only if you create messages that resonate with the subscribers.
Be careful of how you word your subject line.
Many people check their inboxes by simply scrolling the subject line and deleting or reporting what seems dubious to them. When writing in the subject line, always consider, "If I read only the subject line and nothing else, would I question whether the e-mail were legitimate?" Make sure the tone does not resemble subject lines often found in spam. Avoid words and phrases like URGENT!, FREE!!!, Breaking News, $$$ and other similar terms. Instead, use an official name for your mailing or the mailing topic and date in the subject line. Instead say, for example, "This week's edition of Kate's Hardware Store Newsletter." If the recipient sees something recognizable in the subject line, you will likely see an increased open rate while simultaneously eliminating spam complaints.
Preview the message visually before you send it.
Make sure you verify that the message will be easy to read for your subscribers. E-mail the message to yourself first to preview the text and layout. If the text is too small, your subscribers will not bother to read it. Text with darker colors on a lighter background is easier to read.
Calculating Your Results
Depending on the intent of your newsletter or mailing, your definition of success will be different. If you merely want people to read your message, your success rate will be different from someone who wants people to take action as a result of reading the message. Here are the two most common kinds of result tracking rates:
The "open rate" shows the number of times a message was read, so you effectively have a "total open rate" and a "unique open rate" (the unique rate is the number of times a particular recipient's address logged a hit to the open rate counter whereas the total rate includes multiple accesses from the same address). Determining the open rate is only possible for HTML-formatted messages. HTML-formatted messages allow you to use graphics, colors and pictures while text-only messages allow words. The rate is calculated by placing an invisible micro-sized image, known as the open rate counter, within the message. The e-mail list hosting tool you use usually does this automatically. If a recipient's e-mail browser displays a portion of the HTML message in the preview pane, open rate trackers will count it as an "open", even if the recipient does not read the message. Due to the way open rates are determined, it is really just a "best guess" at the number of people who opened a message and not an exact count.
The "click rate" represents the number of clicks to a particular link within the message. This also has total and unique counts similar to the open rate. Unlike the open rate counter, the click rate tracking method actually counts each click to a particular link and therefore provides a very accurate number.
Staying out of Trouble
Sometimes, a subscriber may forget about having registered for your newsletter and report a complaint. As the rise of spam in our inboxes increases, so will the false reports of spam. Here are several ways to reduce complaints:
Remind people that they have subscribed to your business's mailing at the top of your messages; include a reminder each time you send a mailing.
A short note such as, "Thank you for subscribing to the newsletter. Here is our latest issue:" can make a big difference in keeping your subscribers aware that you are not sending them something they did not request. If you collect the first names of your subscribers, personalizing the message also helps to reduce complaints and increase readership. Some list management tools offer "mail merge" capabilities to personalize a message to each recipient automatically.
Always include an easy unsubscribe option.
Every e-mail message should have a link for subscribers to unsubscribe from the mailing or newsletter. Virtually every list management software or service includes this feature to save you time.
Always be sure to include an alternate means of contact to your subscribers.
Put your business's or company's phone number or postal mailing address at the bottom of your message or, at the very minimum, include a link to this information on your business's Web site. Some ISPs are regarding e-mails without a non-Internet means of contact to be spam, which could result in the blocking of your e-mails.
Try to send mailings to your subscribers on a regular basis.
Sending your emails regularly makes it less likely for recipients to forget that they have signed up. Sticking to a mailing schedule will condition your subscribers to expect them. The frequency of your mailings depends on their content and intent. Sending something monthly or even weekly is usually acceptable. Infrequent mailings can result in people filing spam complaints because they do not remember signing up for your list.
Keeping your audience is a must for a thriving mailing, and these simple suggestions will ensure you a successful campaign and increase your open rate.
Copyright 2003 by MailerMailer LLC. All rights reserved.
MailerMailer is a secure Web-based e-mail list management and hosting service for creating and tracking opt-in newsletters and e-mail campaigns. It enables you to create and send personalized, targeted e-mails based on your subscribers' interests and demographics. This low-cost, do-it-yourself service automates e-mail list set up and maintenance and includes newsletter templates for easy management. For information and a free trial, visit www.mailermailer.com.