Keep the dialog going with an e-newsletter

How do you keep a prospect interested over the course of an 18-month sales cycle? How do you head off competitors’ inroads into the prospect while your sales rep is working through the steps in the meantime ?

One answer being discovered by companies in every industry is the promotional newsletter — often used in conjunction with other promotional mailings.

Part gentle reminder, part public relations tool, part sales device, the promotional newsletter gives you an entry into the prospect company when your salesperson can’t be there. It helps keep the prospect informed on product features and benefits, company successes, and more, and it generally maintains a favorable impression of your company in the prospect’s mind between sales calls.

As for customers, a newsletter is the perfect “follow-up sales call” whether it’s published on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly basis. It keeps customers “in the loop” on new products, informs them on effective product use through case studies involving your company and products, and provides opportunities for product research, aftermarket sales of support and training, cross-selling of related products, and upgrades of the products they purchased.

Over the years, promotional newsletters have been used by companies to:
•    Create an awareness of the company and its capabilities
•    Burnish the company’s image
•    Establish the company’s expertise and credibility in the marketplace
•    Show competitive strengths
•    Demonstrate the superiority of products and/or services

Enter the e-newsletter
All that was true of print newsletters forever, as I outlined in my book, Streetwise Direct Marketing. Now with the Internet and e-newsletters in the mix, it all applies – on steroids!

The mavens at www.email-marketing-reports.com list the following as benefits of publishing an email newsletter:
•    Provide direct revenue, through offers for your own products and services, subscriptions, advertising sales and affiliate referral fees.
•    Provide indirect revenue, by building customer and partner relationships, contributing to branding efforts, increasing awareness, improving customer services and adding value to a purchase or registration.
•    Complement website promotion, by encouraging subscribers to return to a website

First, though, you need to decide what you want your newsletter and website to do. Sell subscriptions? Bring people to the website? Get leads for sales and info followup?
Sell products online?

Do businesspeople really want e-newsletters cluttering up their inboxes?

Surprisingly, yes. A recent survey by Bred-In Business shows that
Email newsletters still matter, even in the age of Facebook and Twitter.  79% of respondents said email newsletters are as, or more, relevant than ever. 97% rate them an important or very important source of business management advice, ranking them higher than print and broadcast media, major company websites and social networks.

Readers really engage with email newsletters. 58% spend more than a minute reading an email newsletter in their inboxes, and 73% spend more than a minute reading (or watching) content that they click through to from the newsletters. Other findings in the survey include:

•    Readers want to hear from you more often than you think. 42% prefer weekly delivery, 27% monthly and 12% daily. Only 5% prefer quarterly.
•    Readers want “how-to” information. On a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (important), how-to content rated 3.6, slightly ahead of case studies, perspective pieces, product information and offers, and company news. Ideally, your newsletter should include a mix of these elements.
•    Readers prefer information about their industry. They also want a quick and easy read. Roughly 80% rated these features important or very important newsletter criteria.
•    SMBs use email newsletters themselves. After having a website (70%), an email newsletter is the second most popular online marketing tactic (63%).
That said, Larry Chase, in his Web Digest for Marketers  larrychase@wdfm.komunik.biz), makes a good point about e-newsletters having proliferated to the point where they’re beginning to blur together in an undifferentiated mass of info-porn. The answer? Be sure your material is fresh, hopefully, important, “need to have” information (vs “nice to have”). Having edited a few e-newsletters, I would add make sure your topic is virtually limitless or you’ll soon be scrounging around the Internet for scraps.
You’ll also want to employ one of the many new e-mail tools and/or service providers to help you design, distribute and manage your lists. You won’t need HTML programming ability and the provider can protect you from violating the CAN SPAM act. For my own “Tips” monthly, I use Constant Contact (constantcontact.com). Others include Lyris, Blue Sky Factory, YesMail Direct, and Vertical Response. A Google search will turn up many more.
There’s a great deal more to e-newsletters, of course. The following article lays out helpful tips for a promotional newsletter. It was originally writtenfor print newsletters, but most of it applies equally well to e-newstletters. Try visiting the site mentioned earlier, www.email-marketing-reports.com, for valuable details and a comprehensive marketing guide. eM+C magazines and Silverpop are additional sources of newsletter savvy.

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