The Essential Marketing Communication Tool

There are so many marketing communication vehicles available to us as marketers, but none more important than the NEWSLETTER. Every company should have one. Whether it is used to stay in contact and top-of-mind with current customers, or to build credibility within your prospect pool, the newsletter is your most powerful marketing tool.

Still, many companies do not use newsletters for communicating to their prospects and customers. They see the amount of work to produce and deliver a newsletter regularly as a major roadblock they simply cannot break through. And, some of those who do use newsletters in their marketing mix are missing the boat by not implementing some of the best practices of successful newsletter marketing.

Whether published in print or email, the key to taking advantage of this essential marketing communication tool is to effectively manage the content, structure and format, subscription process, delivery tools, and metrics of your newsletter process.

  • CONTENT. Do not use your articles or tips to promote your products or services directly. Make sure your article content is relevant, educational in nature, and VALUE-ADD. The presumed time commitment to build valuable content often paralyzes the most well intended marketing team. This is often the roadblock to a company successfully launching and maintaining a newsletter strategy. Yet, there are many ways you can provide content in a way that best meets the needs of your prospects and customers. Specifically, you can solicit content from your partners, experts in your industry, or simply write the content yourself (using the various expertise amongst your staff).
  • Let’s focus on content you can provide:

  • Determine frequency of your newsletter (minimum 1x per quarter, maximum 1x per week, recommended 1x per month) and create an editorial calendar that scopes out what topics you want to cover over the next six months.
  • Assign topics to the people in your organization who best know the topic for that issue and give them the deadlines for submission. If there is one writer, I’ve found it is most efficient to have that writer sit down and write as many as three at a time to “prime the pump” with articles.
  • Start small with one article or 1-page tip. Newsletters do not have to be multi-article masterpieces. If the topics are relevant to your audience, a short abstract or 2-page feature might fit the bill of the busy prospect even better.
  • Assign no more than 20% of your newsletter content to product or company promotion.
  • STRUCTURE AND FORMAT. Today’s newsletters can be produced in print or email and I do recommend you consider publishing both. Even if you don’t want to print and mail thousands of newsletters, consider having a small quantity printed to use in your collateral kits, give to prospects you meet, or handout at conferences or tradeshows.
  • Let’s focus on the email version:

  • Make sure the “from” line is from a person or brand that the recipient can trust.
  • Use the subject line to identify the newsletter name and feature article (show the value).
  • Use the email format to introduce the topics, but link to your website for the full articles or tips.
  • Keep most of the newsletter content above the fold and relegate the small amount of promotional material to the bottom.
  • Include your company name, physical address, copyright statement, and opt-out process.
  • Send your email in both HTML and text formats. Even though HTML emails yield a much higher response rate, many of your target’s email programs may not accept HTML emails.
  • SUBSCRIPTION PROCESS. Hopefully you have an email list you can start with (your current customers perhaps), but if not it’s time to implement a subscription process. I recommend three avenues for building your opt-in list-a) use your traditional marketing pieces to advertise your newsletter, b) purchase an email sponsorship from a publication that specifically targets your audience, and c) use your website!
  • Let’s focus on your website:

  • Make sure you have your subscription process visible from EVERY page on your website.
  • Use a space on your home page (if not on every page) to actually PROMOTE subscription.
  • Make past issues available to give visitors a taste of what they’ll receive.
  • Consider adding an “email to a friend” on each newsletter page to encourage viral subscriptions.
  • DELIVERY TOOLS. There are many options for delivering your eNewsletter, including your own email system, an Internet-hosted solution, or dedicated email campaign software that integrates with your own database.
  • Let’s focus on the following solutions:

  • Hosted Solutions, make it easy and affordable to build and manage permission email lists, create and send eye-catching HTML email newsletters, announcements and promotions, and track results through an online, hosted solution.
  • Dedicated Email Software that implements and manages personalized email projects from any browser, anywhere in the world.
  • ENEWSLETTER METRICS. When your newsletter has been running for a few months, you will want to use metrics to measure its success and determine what, if any, changes you want to make to structure, lists, frequency of delivery, etc.
  • Let’s look at the minimum items you should track:

  • A good email newsletter should achieve at least 30-40% open rate and 2-3% click-through rate.
  • Also, your unsubscribe rate should be less than 2%. If your unsubscribe rate is higher, you will want to reconsider the relevancy of your content as it pertains to the audience needs and/or whether you have the right list or have reached list fatigue.
  • If you don’t have a newsletter as part of your marketing plan, it’s time to add one! If you already produce a newsletter-good for you! Please use the information above as a checklist audit to help make your newsletter process even more effective as a marketing communication and lead generation tool.