Absolutely. E-letters should be an integral part of nearly every company’s marketing plan. They are both time and cost effective, reaching all of your clients and as many potential clients as you have permission to solicit via email. I am a huge advocate of e-letters; our company sends one out every month and we receive additional work because of contacts made through our e-letters. Developing e-letters is part of our client services.
So why have I recently talked clients out of using e-letters for their businesses? Because e-letters are not a quick fix solution. They should be one tactic in an established marketing strategy.
Have a marketing plan If you don’t know where you’re going and what you’ll say when you get there, don’t bother communicating. You need to have your company’s branding messages developed.
- Mission – The basis for your brand is what your company provides to customers and why should they care.
- Visual elements – Logo, identity, tagline, colors. All the graphic elements that stimulate customer recognition and support your Mission.
- Message planning – The marketing messages you want to focus on for the next 12 – 24 months.
- Tactics – The specific action points that will communicate your brand and message.
- Consistently use a masthead, including e-letter name that immediately connects clients to your company identity.
- Use photography and other graphic elements to create excitement. A picture is still worth a thousand words!
- Design a layout that is appealing and a format for articles that’s easy on the eyes. Font type and size as well as colors used are a major issue in viewing any written Internet communication. Take various systems into account and test on as many as you can until you are sure your e-letter will display equally well on most servers.
- Follow all the rules. Read the Can-Spam Act and use only your own permission based mail list.
- If no one on your staff has the ability to craft well written articles, hire a professional or use a publishing service that allows reprints of articles at no cost, like ezinearticles.com
- Keep articles to 250 – 300 words. If an article must be longer, show the opening paragraphs on your e-letter and link to the full story.
- Add humor, points of interest that are relevant to your industry and link articles and photos to appropriate web sites that might be useful to your readers. Our own web site receives the most click thru’s from our e-letter; second place goes to “Cool Site, ” a feature about other sites that we like and find very entertaining.
Getting your brand in the door One of the big reasons I believe in email as a marketing or branding tactic is because it supports visual recognition. Certainly content is important, but recognition allows the receiver to acknowledge the brand and let the message in. Let’s give it a quick test right now. Think about Coca Cola. Unless you have never seen their logo, chances are that right now you are visualizing the white script on red background. You let the brand in immediately and now you’re ready for the message.
Well-executed e-letters work the same way. Your letter’s identity is the first image your readers will see and a positive reaction gets you in the door to tell your story. Maximize that opportunity:
Your in, now make it worth their while Once your e-letter achieves entry, give the reader something of value. Do not use an e-letter for blatant advertising or you risk losing subscribers. Support your brand with information related to your company’s industry, articles that can inform and educate, even entertain, without a hard sell. For instance, if you are in the automotive business offer topics like “Fill Your Tank Less Often” or “Lease or Buy, Which is Best for You?” rather than directly selling cars.
Decide what success looks like Reports are available from all e-letter service companies and you should regularly review them to measure the effectiveness of this marketing tactic. We looked at click thru’s to develop future content and bounces to correct addresses. Even more importantly, we listen to the feedback we receive and react to it. Our readers know what they like and we think servicing this customer is part of our overall client service objective.
Consistency counts Don’t embark on an e-letter campaign unless you are able to maintain it. We have clients that distribute monthly, bi-monthly and even quarterly. How often is not as important as consistency. Your readers should know what to expect and when to expect it. And this is where we began…why I have talked clients out of developing e-letters. If you don’t have a brand identity or marketing plan, if you don’t have the ability to develop content, if you don’t have a permission based mail list, don’t start an e-letter campaign. You will be very disappointed with the results and abandon the effort after one or two issues.
With well thought out planning and focused execution, your e-letter campaign will support your brand and might just be the most cost effective way to communicate with your audience. It will definitely be worth the effort.
Claudia Trusty develops strong marketing and branding messages that drive results for small and mid-size companies. For twenty years Trusty and Company has produced communication solutions for clients in retail and service industries. Visit them on the web at http://trustyandcompany.com/ .