Email Newsletter Marketing Is Alive and Well: The Case for Continuing Newsletter Efforts

With the arrival of syndication or RSS technology, many claim the email newsletter is dead. Not true. Newsletters continue to offer companies a marketing tool that allows them to build and retain relationships with their clients.

RSS complements, not replaces the email newsletter. Some readers refuse to read email newsletters and only view content in RSS feed readers. So cover your bases by offering both options.

The same thing applies to weblogs, also known as blogs. These online journals are updated on a daily, weekly or whenever basis. When you release a new issue, keep your bases covered by linking to your newsletter and its feed in the blog.

By the numbers: email marketing prevails

In October 2004, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) released the Internet Activity Index (IAI) stating users go online for two primary reasons, content and communications -- 40 percent for each. Pew Internet and American Life Project's data from November 2004 indicates 59 percent of adults have been online and 92 percent send email. This data supports the idea that email marketing is still the most effective use of the Internet for marketing purposes today.

Web pages are static and require users to search for them. Once found, the page must be bookmarked, or it will be lost again. Email, however, lands directly in a user's inbox, avoiding spam filters and must be actively deleted to be lost. If the email also satisfies the second most common use by supplying valuable information to the reader, then it has a greater impact.

Email marketing fuses email and research into a single channel and provides marketers with a powerful, yet affordable, tool. This type of marketing remains inexpensive, supple and easily tailored for any given demographic. You might think that email marketing reaches a small audience, and other more traditional marketing channels will provide better saturation, but that is rapidly changing.

Internet World Stats indicated 182 million users used the Internet as of September 2004. About 25 percent sign on each year, and in 2005, we'll reach one billion users. According to Burst! Media, 60 percent of those connecting to the Internet from business use it for email. The second reason is to check the news, followed by looking up weather information.

It's the content, baby

When a newsletter full of valuable information arrives in the user's inbox, it capitalizes on these two main uses: email and information.

When applied in a business-to-business application, email newsletter marketing has even more power. Almost 60 percent of employed people have Internet access at work. Eighty percent of professionals and managers use the Internet, and 70 percent of those in sales, technical or administrative support positions use it. Therefore, email newsletters in a B2B application miss only a small percentage of your target market, the decision makers. And even this small gap is rapidly closing.

Internet use in the workplace is growing at a vigorous 54 percent rate annually. Soon, email newsletters will saturate a market as completely as direct mail, print, radio or television advertising.

Not all email newsletters are effective, however, despite the impressive demographic support. Here are tips on how to maximize your capitalization on Americans' Internet use patterns.

Ask permission

An effective email newsletter gains a readers' permission before putting them on the mailing list. Such marketing builds communication and goodwill without annoying the reader.

We know about spam all too well and we don't want to put such email in people's inboxes. Spam causes serious and expensive overloads to both ISPs and individual recipients. Since it is poorly targeted, it is ineffective. Therefore, build your mailing list by asking people to opt-in to receive your newsletter.

As you know, opt-in email asks users to agree to become part of an email list, and they are not subscribed to the newsletter unless they take action. Such lists are powerful because they indicate every person on the list has given permission to have their email addresses included in the marketer's database.

Content is king (or queen)

The second most important hallmark of an effective email newsletter is its content. People will give permission to send them your newsletter if you give them something in return, like content that helps them in their lives. Newsletters distributed with information that is relevant to the audience's lives are anticipated and eagerly read.

Many marketers, whether professionals or otherwise, reflexively want to tout their own company's achievements. They want to climb onto the mountaintops and scream about how great they are, how many sales their company made, the partnerships they are forming, and how their product is the best thing to happen since sliced bread.

The problem with this is these marketers are distributing information that is important to them, not to their readers. Select articles or other content that pass the following litmus test: Does the content provide value to my customers, or is it self-serving?

Once your newsletter is in tip-top shape, make the most of your online marketing efforts by integrating all available options including email newsletters, RSS feeds, blogs, and a Web site. It's a cheap and effective way to reach your prospects and clients.

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl's notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn't wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

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