Targeted Email Marketing (2)
Foreword By The Author
In Part (1) of this article we looked at targeted email marketing, first from the point of choosing an electronic newsletter (or ezine) over a transparently false ‘personal letter’ (unless, that is, you have a particular talent for creating them), and next we looked at what we need to know in order to ensure that our newsletter is truly effective. This was determined by asking three questions:
- What do they (the readers) think of us (the organization represented by the newsletter)?
- What would we like them to think?
- How do we get them to think it?
Armed with the knowledge gained from answering these questions, and by using ‘balanced content’, we can more efficiently achieve our goal. Part (2), then, is about what our goal is (or should be) and what type of content is likely to get us there.
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Of the three questions, the latter is the most important and therefore the one that needs most careful thought. Practically every day I see examples of newsletters that don’t pay enough heed to question 3. They read like flyers and get clicked to the trash without hesitation by most readers. A sure-fire way of losing readers is to miss the opportunity to disseminate information and promote goodwill through targeted email marketing and, instead, try to sell a product or service. A sales spiel in a newsletter (even a marketing newsletter) under the guise of editorial, will invariably have the opposite effect to that which is intended. A newsletter is not a brochure or a catalog.
The Objective Of Targeted Email Marketing
For many managers and entrepreneurs this begs the question “if I can’t use our own newsletter to sell our product (or service) then what is the point of it?” They sideline newsletters altogether when they don’t get a satisfactory answer. Practical and busy people do not want to be involved in something the benefits of which are vague or difficult to quantify. If they can’t measure a practical result they start to doubt that the effort is worthwhile. Unfortunately, this thinking results from a basic misunderstanding of the role of PR in the marketing mix—to create an atmosphere of trust and goodwill. These are crucial elements in the sales process; they must exist for a sale to take place. This is precisely why newsletters are just as important a tool for organizations that sell things as they are for special interest groups, non-profits etc.
Trust comes from people knowing who they are dealing with. A regular newsletter sends a message to readers that they are dealing with a valid concern, probably with an established clientele, and in business for the long haul. Likewise, once they perceive you (or the person or organization represented by the newsletter) as an expert in your particular field they will trust your advice.
Goodwill is a result of doing good things and telling people about them. A newsletter is the perfect communication vehicle for this. They may be things that involve time and effort, or even money, like supporting charities or other good causes. Even the very act of publishing a newsletter can itself be a ‘good thing’ if done properly. Helping people by announcing upcoming events, reporting past events, offering free advice (such as running an ‘Ask the Expert’ column) can all be seen as offering a valuable community service that engenders goodwill.
Why Readers Read Newsletters
Once you come to terms with the fact that one of the primary purposes of a good newsletter or ezine is to promote trust and goodwill by targeted email marketing, and that, for entrepreneurial concerns, this has a positive effect on the company bottom line, you probably need to be reminded that readers read it for entirely different reasons. They want to be informed, amused and even entertained. News is an essential component of a newsletter and, since the focus of most newsletters is fairly tight, so too should be the type of news featured. A fund-raising organization’s newsletter, for example, could report how funds are used, including perhaps some personal interest stories about individuals affected by the group’s efforts, personnel involved, future plans and goals etc. Similarly, a club newsletter might have the usual types of club news (committee meetings etc) plus details of tournaments planned (if its a sports club), reminders about club rules and so on. An employee newsletter or HR newsletter would have news about retiring personnel, new people joining, company news including policy explanations, success stories like contracts won etc.
One question that is sometimes asked is “what about marketing newsletters? If I can’t sell my products or services, what do I include?” The answer is that you can, of course, promote these things in your newsletter but avoid the temptation of using editorial content to do so. It is far better to publish ‘reviews’ of your products or services in such a way that the publication itself appears to retain its independence. As regards content in general, report on your general field of expertise. In other words a hairdresser might include news about a new product range she is trialing as well as featuring supporting items on hair care, the latest hair fashions etc. A Real Estate newsletter could have news about current market trends in her area plus things like ‘How to add value to your home’, ‘The pros and cons of solar heating’ etc.
Hard News Or Soft News
Worth noting also is the value of being able to balance hard news (up-to-the-minute facts) with soft news (unusual, little-known, quirky or amusing facts such as magazines use). Plenty of soft news items, suitable for many types of newsletter, are available at ClipCopy Content Solutions and more are being added all the time.
With hard news, try to follow the journalist’s code: what happened, where, why, how and when did it happen and who did it happen to? Many community events could be described as soft news and they can be particularly valuable in almost all locally and regionally distributed newsletters, especially when coverage can be seen as a service to the community.
To sum up then, the primary goals of a newsletter, regardless of the type of organization publishing it, should be to:
- Promote trust and goodwill towards the principal organization on the part of the target group.
- Disseminate information to the target group about the principal organization.
This is best achieved by using a good balance of:
- Hard news.
- Soft news.
- Supporting material.
Targeted email marketing, when enacted with these principles in mind, will be a winner every time.
© 2000 Mike Alexander (Revised 2009), All Rights Reserved
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