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7. Creating Newsletters That Sell As Well As Inform
The popularity of online newsletters is based on the need for information. The main reason people are online is because they want and need information and that is exactly what newsletters provide. Newsletters are mostly delivered via email, some however are delivered as HTML pages or blogs. Newsletters which are delivered as HTML or blogs pages still utilize email, as the publisher will often email subscribers notifying them that a new issue or update is ready.
There are many advantages of starting your own newsletter, however newsletters do require a bit of work to get started and maintain so they may not be for everyone.
The two main advantages are:
- Being able to maintain regular contact, and
- Being able to build a relationship with your subscribers
Newsletters allow you to maintain regular contact with your website visitors. This is vital to success because rarely do people buy on their first visit. In fact, people usually have to be exposed to an offer 7 to 10 times before they actually buy. A newsletter allows you to keep the connection with your site visitors, reminding them of how your product is suited for them.
Newsletters give you the "excuse" to send potential customers emails packed with articles and, of course, your sales message. Newsletters are great for building trust and relationships online. If your newsletter provides consistent quality content your subscribers can really use, they will start to trust your opinion and begin to feel that they know you. This is important, as developing relationships is vital for every business.
The other often overlooked advantage of having a newsletter is the income it can generate, not from selling your products and services, but from selling advertising space in it. You do need a medium-to-large subscriber base before other businesses will be interested in advertising, but this is not that hard to achieve, especially if your newsletter is regularly full of quality content. You can earn a few hundred bucks extra every month just from advertising if you play your cards right.
Many of your subscribers will eventually become your customers if they trust the information you regularly send them. Put simply, a newsletter is a way to build trust with your subscribers by providing value. If you help people online, eventually they will buy from you.
However, running your own newsletter involves a considerable amount of work. It is vital that you regularly write or acquire quality content before your next newsletter mail-out. Ideally, a newsletter should be sent out every week or two. This is not always easy. In fact it's never easy; the next thing that adds to your work load when it comes to newsletters is maintaining your email addresses. Many of the email addresses may be wrong because some people subscribe with an invalid address or people change their email addresses. Maintaining a list of working email addresses is crucial.
7.1 Advantages of Newsletters as a Marketing Tool
Just as in the old days, trust builds relationships, and relationships build sales. Used properly, newsletters can help build business relationships based on trust. And the key word is trust. Trustworthiness in content, subject lines, mailing lists, regularity, and ability for your readers to quickly subscribe and unsubscribe are all critical to your success. Given below are some of the key advantages of newsletters:
Newsletters Demonstrate Value
Newsletters deliver valuable information that solves the day-today problems of readers, helps them stay on top of industry trends, and saves time by distilling practical information such as real world best practices and industry advances from many sources.
As stated earlier, the most crucial benefit arising out of newsletters is building trust. Newsletters can very easily become customers’ trusted information source on business problems. Trust helps you to position your company as a credible source, which in turn retains your customer base.
Online business owners can portray themselves as a reliable source of information.
Newsletters deliver accurate and timely information that is vital to the success of your customers and visitors’ business at regular intervals over time.
Newsletters serve as an attention getter.
Valuable and relevant information can always prove to be a great attention getter. Most people dread junk emails. However, once you build a sense of trust amongst your potential customers, you can reinforce your value to your visitors with each newsletter issue.
Newsletters offer better prospects for closing a sale.
Not only do newsletters make it easy for potential customers to contact you, they also let you harvest the relationship built around them and simplify sales for your sales team. Sales teams dream about knowing their prospect’s hot buttons prior to making that first call.
Creating a successful newsletter can be extremely rewarding. Subscribers and customers respond with glowing feedback, online sales jump and your customer relationships and brand loyalty strengthens. Here are some useful tips that will you create a successful newsletter:
Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of my newsletter?” A newsletter is a substantial investment of company resources in terms of time and energy, and you need to define in as tangible terms as possible the purpose of your newsletter.
Establish a voice or editorial personality – whether newsy, serious, gossipy or funny – that is synergistic with the image you want to portray and connects with your audience. Remember that email newsletters aren't email promotions designed to stimulate immediate action. Sales and promotional copy don't suit e-newsletters. Nor does the traditional tone of broadcast corporate communications.
Think of your newsletter as a one-on-one conversation. Just imagine sitting in a coffee shop talking informally with a customer. That's the starting point for your approach--a more personable and appropriate "human" voice will come naturally. Drop the jargon, drop the sales pitch, be as honest as you can, and talk like a human being.
You can have as much or as little personality as is appropriate. Consider including a brief editorial, a comment or two, an editor's note, a couple of lines of commentary, a touch of opinion; add a little human element here and there. Sign editorials, give authors a byline, or list some names down in the administrative section of each issue to which your readers can relate to.
Whether a person’s name, name of the newsletter or company name – decide what resonates best with your readers and stick with it.
“Vol. 1, Issue #8” or “Company News” are not enticing subject lines. They are certainly consistent and simple, but they don’t tell your readers anything that will motivate them to open your email. Your subject line is your calling card - entice your readers with the most interesting or intriguing information in your newsletter.
Establish a format and layout of your newsletter's various elements (table of contents, article, sponsor ad, "Tips", subscription information, etc.) that is clean, simple and consistent with each issue.
Figure out what your readers want and give it to them. Seek continuous improvement by obtaining reader feedback and monitoring click-through rates to determine what types of articles are most popular.
Another dilemma that we all confront is too much information and too little time. The newsletter’s job is to keep readers on top of trends and the latest developments in the industry. Aim for articles and feature stories to meet one of the following criteria by including either: major industry occurrences, forward-thinking industry ideas, education on issues or new techniques, or business opportunities.
Whether your customers work out of a corporate or home office, employees need answers to questions and tips for improving business activities. E-newsletters provide you with an opportunity to point out work inefficiencies, and share relevant best practice. When you create a newsletter, try changing your focus from selling products and services to solving your customers’ problems. Think about what they need and give options they don’t know exist.
Determine how frequently your readers want to hear from you and what you can commit to. As a rule of thumb, a weekly newsletter is ideal. However, don’t launch a weekly newsletter if you are not absolutely certain that you can distribute a quality newsletter every week. A bi-weekly newsletter is a good option too.
Test and pick a day and time that works best and stick to it. Readers should almost be able to set their watches by the receipt time of your newsletter.
Make it Viral
Provide information to readers that inspires them to forward that information to friends and peers, which in turn stimulates purchases or requests for additional information. Make it easy for readers to forward articles and information to their circle of influence such as providing a “Forward to a Friend” link that enables readers to forward your newsletter with a personalized note.
Make it easy to find articles of interest and back issues. Provide a table of contents and links to articles within the newsletter and to resources and past articles on your site.
Consider providing “printer-friendly formats” on your website.
At minimum, address your reader by name. The most successful newsletters have a human being associated with them — and a personality. If possible, your newsletter should be written by a person at your company, not the company.
Write in Layman Terms with Simple Vocabulary
Not everyone has the vocabulary that you and editors do. Use words that are easy to understand, and if you do use technical terms, provide a definition that people can relate to. There is nothing more frustrating then a definition that makes less sense than the word itself.
Test your newsletter on a few personal email addresses to check for errors and other issues before sending to the entire distribution list.
If you lack experience in print media, seek out assistance if you know someone in the field. If not, don't worry. The above-mentioned principles apply. Plan to research your material thoroughly and avoid factual or editing errors, as they will make you seem less credible.
Add hyperlinks and include updates on old material should new information surface. The typical form of newsletter is a one-way communication where you provide information to customers, such as product updates and announcements. You have the option of formatting your email by including colorized text and a variety of fonts, but not all email software supports HTML mail. Consider writing your newsletter in plain text or offer two mailing lists — one for plain text mailings and the other for HTML email.
Make sure you Include:
- Table of Contents
- Hyperlinks for customers who want more information for a featured topic
- Exciting secrets or tips related to your product or service
- Contact information
E-newsletters can take up a good amount of time if not managed correctly. The use of an autoresponder is a good option. It will automatically manage a list of email addresses and other important subscriber information that you’ve collected. Once your newsletter is ready, you can send it out to your entire mailing list (or sub-sections of your list) with one single click through your autoresponder, and each message will be personalized to each individual subscriber.
7.3 Steps for a Successful Newsletter Campaign
Marketing your business with newsletters is probably one of the most effective online marketing strategies. However, the whole process of devising and implementing a newsletter campaign involves a considerable amount of planning. Given below are a few guidelines that will help you make your campaign a success:
- Step 1: Determine what you can sell online, or how to monetize your site.
- Step 2: People use the Internet for information. Try to figure out what information is unique to your business? Everybody is an expert in his or her chosen field. This information is valuable to others.
- Step 3: Identify your target audience. Define your audience, and then find out where they are going online for information. E.g. which sites, newsgroups and discussions boards are the most popular. This technique alone will greatly build your traffic as well as your name. You’d be amazed at how many businesses still define their audience as "all people" or "EVERYONE needs my product". This is absolutely not true! Contrary to popular business myth, the Internet is not a mainstream medium. Communities are usually quite passionate about their interests. Find your community and become an authority to them.
- Step 4: Create content. By providing quality content, you can build a successful business online. Content works in becoming your company’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition). The quality of the content you provide will mean the difference between your site being a significant online business or just a “brochure site”.
- Step 5: Create and maintain your mailing list.
- Step 6: Produce your newsletter. Email newsletters are great because you can include “hot links” that will open a web page. Make sure you include the http:// because this is what most email software requires in order to understand text to be a live Internet address, make it clickable, and open the page in an Internet browser.
- Step 7: Make sure you have autoresponders in place to field often-asked questions, and to subscribe and unsubscribe your recipients automatically. You will always lose a few but don’t take it personally. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe from your mailing list.
- Step 8: Never SPAM. Spamming is the practice of sending information to people who didn’t actually ask for it. It has been an accepted practice in the offline direct marketing world but not online. Don’t even try it. You could find yourself switched off by your internet service provider or having other serious actions taken against you. Review the Federal Trade Commission website for more details at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/canspam.htm
7.4 Getting Subscribers for Your Newsletter
There are many different ways of getting subscribers to your newsletter. Obviously, the first place you should start is on your website, as doing this can get you an immediate flow of subscribers. You should advertise your newsletter and place a sign-up box on every page of your site. Always use the sign-up box instead of a simple email link when you can because the results will be much better. The top of the page is the best place for your sign-up box as it gets more exposure, but if you don’t have room at the top, use the bottom. Always include a privacy statement telling people exactly how you are going to use their email address and how you will keep it private. With all the talk about spam nowadays, this will reassure them, which in turn will increase the number of new subscribers you acquire.
Offer an incentive to your visitors. You should, whenever possible, offer them a free gift if they subscribe, such as a free report or ebook. There a hundreds of free ebooks which you can give away. You are bound to increase your sign-ups by doing this, provided you offer them something related to your site's theme. In fact…
If your website is related to the content of this ebook, you can give away this PDF file, “Dotcomology – The Science of Making Money Online” to all your subscribers as a free gift.
Next, you should submit your newsletter to all the newsletter directories you can find. There a plenty of them on the net and some of them get a lot of traffic every month. If your articles are good quality and informative, newsletter and website publishers will be interested and your work could get published in hundreds of different newsletters and websites. Not only will this increase your credibility, it could result in thousands more visitors to your site. This is because at the end of all your articles which you allow others to publish will be an “About the Author” section and a link back to your website. Also, if lots of your articles are published on other websites then your link popularity will improve dramatically. This will result in higher search engine rankings in Google and the other engines that use link popularity as a ranking factor, which or course means lots more visitors and profit for you.
Include details of your newsletter in your signature file. This is the little bit of text that you attach to every email you send to people you are in contact with. In fact, your email signature file will also be included with any email discussion group correspondence you have. Email discussion groups like those provided through Topica.com offer a great way to communicate with people who have similar interests as the topic of your newsletter. Contribute to the discussion by posting useful information and solutions to problems. You can also mention "We have put together more in-depth advice on xxx. Feel free to visit our website. You’ll find loads of free information and resources."
This technique alone will drive much more traffic into your site. It also begins to establish you, the author, as an authority in your field. Once your online customers come to trust your information, they will also trust your recommendations for products/services you endorse.
Similar mediums to email discussion lists are newsgroups and online discussion forums. Remember that you cannot advertise your newsletter directly in any of these mediums, but listing your website in your signature is perfectly OK (in most cases). The amount of subscribers you get through your forum signature file will depend on the quality of your post. If you post interesting and useful information, people will think that your newsletter/website will also be helpful.
Apart from these, ad swaps are a very effective way to gain subscribers. You should find other publishers with newsletters similar to yours and trade ads with them. You run their ad and they will run yours. This helps both parties. You should swap ads with publishers who have a comparable list size to your own. Another method of swapping would be to have the other webmaster recommend your newsletter in the confirmation email he or she sends to people who have just subscribed, and you in turn could do the same for them.
7.5 Advertising in Newsletters
We discussed earlier the advantages of having advertising space in your newsletters. Similarly, advertising in other company’s newsletters is equally beneficial. By advertising in other newsletters, you can reach an audience which is highly targeted and cost effective. There are so many newsletters out there covering so many different topics that it's easy to find highly targeted ones to advertise in. If you've matched the audience of the newsletter to the product you're selling, you will successfully reach your target market.
Almost all newsletters are archived online, and thousands of people read these archives, allowing your ad to be seen by these people at no extra cost. This can bring in exposure and extra sales on a long term basis. In addition, newsletter publishers may have already developed a trust between themselves and their readers. Just by placing your ad in their newsletter, it's more likely to be read because it appears in a publication they like and trust.
Newsletter advertising is not only effective, it's cheap as well. A five-line ad in a newsletter that goes to 3000 people might cost you between $5 - $25 per issue. With so little risk involved, it’s usually worth the investment.
Buying Ads in Other Newsletters
Just as you can sell advertising, you can also buy advertising in newsletters. You can use those ads to promote your business or to invite people who read newsletters to start reading your newsletter.
Again, you have to pick your partners carefully. There’s no point just picking a newsletter with the cheapest rates; you want to make sure you choose an outlet that appeals to the same buyers as you. You also need to think about where your ad is going to be placed. In general, the higher the position the better.
And the more the merrier too. Don’t expect a huge response from a single ad. It’s always best to think of advertising in terms of a campaign. You’ll get a better deal — and better results — if you reserve an advertising slot for 4-5 issues than if you buy them one at a time.
7.6 Promoting Affiliate Programs through Newsletters
As many webmasters are now discovering, making money with affiliate programs can be hard work. It is not as simple as uploading some banners then sitting back and collecting commission checks. A more effective way to distribute this content is through newsletters. As a more creative approach, web-savvy marketers are finding that creating a “niche specific” email newsletter is one of the most effective ways to boost profits with affiliate programs. For example, a website about pets could offer a free newsletter about caring for a pet. The newsletter could include informative articles such as “How to exercise with your dog” and “10 tips on keeping your fishbowl clean”, etc. Pet products such as a dog leash, bowl, and toys should then be included with an affiliate link to encourage a purchase.
One of the main reasons why newsletters are a great way to promote affiliate programs is because of the click-through rates. Click-through rates for a targeted newsletter can reach anywhere from 10 to 15%. This can be significantly higher than banners and buttons. Obviously, if you receive more click-throughs you will have a better chance of success.
Moreover, promoting affiliate programs through email allows for the removal of some of those slow-loading banners from a website. Instead, websites can be filled with much stickier content such as interactive bulletin boards, articles, chat rooms, voting booths, etc.
Common sense dictates that featured affiliate products should be related to a newsletter’s target market. If a newsletter is geared towards senior citizens, this market is probably not interested in the latest skateboard gear. Instead, a better fit might be to feature an online greeting card service that pays a commission for each free registration.
Remember, a newsletter should always be opt-in. A subscriber must request to be on the list and be given instructions on how to unsubscribe. Benefits of an opt-in newsletter include: higher response rates, fewer undeliverable emails, and time saved on list management. Never send commercial email to people who have not requested it.
A blog (also known as weblog) is a place to collect and share things that you find interesting. It could be your political commentary, a personal diary, or links to websites you want to remember or tell others about. Actually, it can be about anything at all.
A blog is often a kind of hybrid diary/guide website, although there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people. Blogs can be used to introduce products to potential customers.
Truth is, people published blogs long before the term was coined, but the trend gained momentum with the introduction of automated publishing systems, most notably Google’s Blogger at Blogger.com. Millions of people ranging from business executives to teenagers at home sharing their personal thoughts online use services such as Blogger to simplify and accelerate the online publishing process.
Blogs offer huge marketing potential. They are highly strategic tools that can strengthen relationships, share knowledge, increase collaboration, and improve branding. Blogs give site owners a chance to interact with their visitors on a more regular and personal basis.
A blog can take the form of a diary, a news service (or summaries of and links to current news items on a topic), a collection of links to other websites, a series of book reviews or products, reports of activity on a project, the journal of an expedition, and much more. In fact, businesses can even use blogs to advertise their products or services.
One of the most interesting ways to use a blog is by allowing it to function as a discussion forum for customers of your products or services. In this case, the webmaster can give posting rights to other people – visitors and customers, and their posts may or may not be reviewed before they are published to the web page. Customers can then post favorable comments about the website’s offerings. Some blogs are set up in such a way that only the owner has posting rights, but in most cases anyone can add comments to blog posts.
Blogs combined with newsletters offer huge marketing potential. For example, articles within newsletters can be linked to a blog which dramatically extends the article’s shelf life. Once the article is posted online, it becomes a searchable document available to be located through search engines and other means of online syndication.
Most blogs are now created using software or services designed specifically for this purpose. Some of the software is free - and some of the organizations that provide blog software will also provide free server space to house a blog so that it is publicly accessible on the Internet. There are also commercial versions of some of the free software; these commercial versions often provide more features. Some blog software is available only as commercial software. Alternatively, bloggers can create and maintain their blog using free software or a free weblog service, but use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to load the resulting blog to their own hosted website.
There are many blogging softwares available online. One of the most popular blog-generating technology is Google’s Blogger which you can start using instantly and at no cost at Blogger.com. Blogger is probably the easiest and most widely used blogging software on the market today. You can be publishing your own blog within 5 minutes using Blogger. However, if you want your blog hosted on your own remotely hosted domain, you will need some basic knowledge of FTP.
Adapting Blog Concepts to Your Newsletters
As mentioned before, blogs combine very well with newsletter marketing strategies. Keep in mind, however, that a blog is not intended to replace your newsletter. Its purpose is to extend and complement your newsletter marketing strategy, serving customers and prospects in a way that extends your reach even further.
Another potential for blogs is that they can serve the purpose of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) resource site. Blogs can be automatically archived by age in days, weeks, or months. And they're searchable, allowing readers to easily retrieve the information they need, when they need it.
Creating an effective blog requires careful planning. Blogs should present as much information as possible while representing the voice of your website. Here are a few guidelines on how to plan and create a blog to go along with your newsletter.
Like all good communication vehicles, you want to establish goals and objectives. Define your audience, what its needs are, and how best to meet those needs.
Find someone who can step into the role of pundit, who's willing to be the host. Keep in mind that over time, your blog will develop a personality. Look for a potential leader who's waiting to be unleashed and empowered. In fact, you could be the right person for the job.
Search carefully for the right software to publish your Blog. Research the search engines by looking up “blogs”, “create a blog” and “blog software” to find a blogging tool that fits your needs.
Before you officially launch your blog, plan topics that you will discuss. Keep in mind that you'll want to include an easy way for readers to respond to the content on your blog. Most blogging software such as Blogger have this feature already built-in to your blog with an easy ON/OFF switch to allow or not allow reader interaction.
Use your newsletter to announce and promote the blog. Offer to email it to subscribers or provide the option, through an icon or link, to visit the blog directly.
You'll want to periodically check in on reader responses and see if you are getting the kind of feedback and response you intend. If not, as with any marketing strategy, you may need to refine your approach, depending on the feedback and analysis you receive.
NOTE: Become a Plug-In Profit Site member and I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of setting up your own money making blog. Even if you don’t have anything to publish, I’ll provide a source of content that you can use on your own blog starting immediately. If you have not signed up yet, click here to enroll now.
Here are some more ideas you can use in your newsletter or blog:
These are great opportunities for joint ventures. You don’t have to interview a competitor, but you can probably find people who work in related fields or clients who have used your product in a unique way. Just drop them an email and ask if they want to participate (and seeing as they’re getting free publicity for their business, why shouldn’t they?). You can even do the interview by email.
You probably already read the newspapers and magazines that relate to your businesses. They’re going to be full of great content that you can use in your own newsletter. Obviously, you can’t just paste them into your newsletter and send them out, but you can report what other people are reporting, provided you give due credit. Heck, you probably notice that other people do it all the time. How many times have you seen phrases like, “according to AP” or “Reuters reports that” in the mainstream media? If it’s good enough for CNN, it’s good enough for you.
One of the best ways to guarantee that your newsletter or blog will be read by your subscribers is to invite them to write in with their questions. You could devote a section to a Q&A column. You’ll have to be careful with privacy. Feel free to edit what they write so that it flows better, but don’t be afraid to let your readers speak straight to you. It’s the best way to come across as an expert and provide advice that you know they’ll find valuable.
You must be creative in your advertising. Instead of asking for cash in return for newsletter or blog advertising space, you could ask for a reciprocal promotion on a partner’s newsletter. As long as you’re not competing, joint ventures with complementary businesses are a great way to increase your customer base and boost your sales.
For example, you could trade banner space, text links, articles, etc. In fact, you might even join each other’s affiliate programs and agree to promote each other’s products in your available ad space.
We’ll talk more about joint ventures in the next chapter, but just remember that nearly any type of joint venture you set up for your business can be applied to your newsletter and/or your blog. In fact, publishing your own newsletter and blog is one of your greatest assets. Once you are doing this and have a readership, you’ve got a hot commodity that a lot of other businesses would like to get their hands on and you can use their interest to YOUR advantage.
As you build up your subscriber list (if you’re trying to do this without an autoresponder), you’re going to develop a big problem. Whichever mail program you’re using, whether it’s Outlook or Eudora or something else, it’s just not going to be set up to deal with the kind of mass mailing involved with newsletters.
If you have more than 50 people on your list, you’ll need to use an autoresponder. Don’t even try to do this by yourself!
There are some free autoresponder services on the market, but I don’t recommend using any of them unless you simply don’t have ANY money. An autoresponder is really the most important tool for conducting an online marketing campaign.
One of the biggest problems with most free autoresponder services is that they stuff their own ads onto your newsletter. This draws the attention away from you and your products and pulls the attention of your readers toward other company’s products/services.
If you’re going to do a newsletter (and you should) it’s worth investing in a professional service. That is, after all, what you are offering, isn’t it? Otherwise, you simply have a hobby and hobbies don’t usually pay the bills.
Remember, newsletters and blogs are great ways to keep customers and revenue flowing in. They remind people you’re still out there, provide news about deals and bargains, and give customers the confidence to buy. You can put them together in a snap, or even pay someone a small fee to do it for you. However you do it, the thing is to just do it. Publishing a newsletter and/or a blog on the Internet is one of the most important keys for unlocking your online profits.