5.4 Newsletters

Most companies send out newsletters (also called ezines) to clients and prospective clients, usually in email form. Titles cover every conceivable subject, and the first thing a company will do is check the demand and competition with keyword research programs.

The majority of Internet users still expect free information, even though that's unrealistic, since anything worth reading takes time and specialized knowledge to create. 'Free' newsletters are anything but free to the subsidizing company, of course, but the effort is more than repaid by the purposes served.

Companies use newsletters to:

1. Personalized the selling pitch.
2. Better control company announcements and promotions.
3. Collect email addresses for later or third-party marketing.
4. Generate feedback, which creates a community, and can sometimes be 'sold back' to readers.
5. Promote their expertise and/or website.
6. Gain advertising revenues.

Newsletters: Selling Features

Newsletters are closest to newspapers, and therefore employ the journalist's skills to succeed. They must:

1. Occupy or create some recognized market niche.
2. Provide something that can't be found elsewhere, or not in that particular form.
3. Engage their readers' outlooks, interests and demographic orientations.
4. Look attractive, perhaps with multimedia and HTML layout facilities.
5. Be thoroughly professional: facts checked, no typos, codes of conduct followed.
6. Have feedback, which creates a community, and can sometimes be 'sold back' to readers.

Emails versus Ezines

You've information to sell, but which to chose: email or ezine?

1. Emails are perceived as friendlier and more personal.
2. Emails are pushed to recipients, with no effort required on their part.
3. Both need to be kept current, but a late email will earn more complaints.
4. Layout is less critical on emails.
5. Emails need to be more engagingly written.
6. Multimedia is easier with ezines.
7. You're not so tied to content and length with emails.
8. Security is easier to manage with emails: access passwords can't be passed round like the common cold.

Finding Subscribers

Subscribers are found by:

1. Searching specialist magazines, websites and user clubs.
2. Purchasing email lists.
3. Creating a small website to promote the newsletter, the website being positioned by keyword research programs, and possibly promoted by pay-per-click advertising.
4. Trawling the Internet for email address with specialist software (a much frowned-on practice).

Managing Subscriptions

In the early months, when subscribers are in the low hundreds, companies can manually add each new subscriber to a mailing list. Subsequently they will need bulk mailing programs or services to save email addresses and customer details in a database, organize that information, and automate the mailing process.

In theory, companies could run the whole business by email — no website, no online payment systems: payment by posted checks. But since they will need a website anyway for marketing, they generally prefer to use one of the online payment systems. These can be very simple: transfers in encrypted email, wallet systems, or one of several ways of taking credit cards, probably employing an Internet Payment Service Provider. Only the larger newsletter businesses will need a merchant account, perhaps when sales exceed $1,000/month.

Given the resistance to paying a subscription, many companies provide a free newsletter that carries advertising or subtle promotions of other newsletters or products. These other newsletters may be entirely free, but they collect email addresses for subsequent marketing, and will therefore pay, usually from 25 cents to a few dollars per sign-up. Brokers also exist to arrange the sale of popular newsletters their originators no longer have the time or interest to maintain.

Resources

A small selection of the software and services an Internet search will locate:

Bulk Mailing Software

      Arclab Database Mailer. Basic program that allows HTML formats and database merges.
      Gammadyne. Sends and receives emails, and manages the subscription list.
      V3 Mail. Adds layout, graphics, voice and video (MP3) clips to an email program

Bulk Mailing Services

      AWeber. Scalable email services for companies of all sizes.
      SimplyCast. Services to create, deliver and manage newsletter marketing campaigns.
      Topica. Email management and subscription acquisition services.

Checking the Competition

      Ezine Search. Searchable database of thousands of ezines grouped under some 50 headings.
      Ezine Seek. Directory of email newsletters that can be searched or added to.
      Newsletter Access. Some 4,000 newsletters listed, grouped by market category.

Selling Advertising Space

      Advertising.Com. Includes tutorials.
      All Advertising Online. Free listings under directory-like headings.

Paying Commissions for Sign Ups

      Focalex. Handle several million subscriptions.
      PostMaster Direct. Provide a variety of services..
      YesMail. Primarily an email-marketing company but offer a Network Partner Service.

Questions

1. How do companies use newsletters?
2. How are subscription lists built up?
3. Describe, with suggested software, how you would manage a 15,000 subscriber company newsletter.
4. Compare newsletters to webzines.

Sources and Further Reading

Need the references and resources for further study? Consider our affordable (US $ 4.95)  pdf ebook. It includes extensive (3,000) references, plus text, tables and illustrations you can copy, and is formatted to provide comfortable sequential reading on screens as small as 7 inches.

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