Newsletters.com – promoting a business using E-mail – Log On – Industry Trend or Event – Column
You already know that E-Mail is an effective one-on-one communications tool that lets you correspond quickly and efficiently with clients and business partners alike. Bulk e-mailings can also be one of the most cost-effective and flexible promotional tools for getting your name out to potential clients, as well as for keeping your name fresh in the minds of those you’ve worked with in the past. Using a regularly distributed e-mail newsletter to promote your business requires a bit of sensitivity to the mores of the Internet, but the overhead is remarkably low and the rewards can be handsome.
Brightening Up Monday Joyce Wycoff, executive director and founder of the Innovative Thinking Network (ITN) and author of Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Creativity and Problem Solving (Berkley; $10), sends out Monday e-mail cheerily titled Good Morning, Thinkers! Each week’s installment has a creatiity-inspiring quote and a mental exercise designed to get your Monday-morning brain moving in fun and unusual directions.
Wycoff’s weekly message promotes ITN’s conferences, referral network, and group-creativity products, but she combines her business contact information with entertaining data, even including the occasional reader poll on such topics as “When you eat a doughnut, what happens to the hole?” The list started among 125 ITN members hoping to improve their creativity and use of group thinking skills. Wycoff built up her subscription list by encouraging all recipients to forward her weekly message to nonmembers. By October 1995, her list of 125 had expanded to 6,000 weekly readers–not bad, considering she only started in February. (To receive the weekly Good Morning, Thinkers!, send e-mail to email@example.com with the message “subscribe wake-up_brain.”)
The Inside Scoop Where Wycoff ‘s message is short, sweet, and general in nature, Robert Seidman’s is highly focused and filled with hard facts. Seidman ‘s Online Insider (formerly In, Around, and Online), a roundup of Internet- and online-service news and analysis, has become a must-read among Internet cognoscenti and at the same time built him a significant reputation. It’s already taken Seidman from a job at a company developing news-filtering technology for the Net up to a position at IBM–and may carry him into the ranks of the self-employed as his robust side project grows into a business of its own.
Like Wycoff, Seidman charges nothing for the newsletter and encourages readers to distribute it (for noncommercial purposes). The newsletter has evolved from a simple digest of news stories to an entity with its own analyses and, in some cases, its own reportage. Seidman has interviewed most major figures in the online industry and says that the exposure and perspective has “offered me a lot of opportunities. I’ve met many people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. It doesn’t hurt to have your name out there.” Currently he estimates that SOI takes about 25 hours each week to research and write. (To subscribe, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message “subscribe online-l firstname lastname,” substituting your name in the appropriate spots.)
What happens when a side project works its way to the middle of things? Seidman acknowledges that he’s “still not 100 percent sure, but more and more it seems that [the newsletter] will have to become a for-profit entity, or I’ll have to give it up…it will either become my career or go away.” Of course, that’s not exactly a complaint: “I’m in a position that offers me a lot of opportunities. I may have some difficult decisions to make, but it’s a good position to be in!”
E-Mail Do’s and Don’ts Unlike unsolicited mail sent through the postal system, which is merely annoying, unsolicited e -mail is likely to offend some recipients. Remember that many people pay for the time it takes to download your message. In effect, you,re asking them to subsidize your ad campaign. In addition, whether your mailing reaches a general audience or a specific group of clients and colleagues, it should always sound as if you,re addressing a group of respected peers. Here are some tips for informing a wide audience about your business without coming off like a huckster.
* DO work with your Internet provider to set up a mailing list. Your provider can help you automate much of the drudgery of sending out dozens or hundreds of messages each week, as well as monitor the constant process of adding and deleting people from the list. Currently, online services such as AOL and CompuServe don’t offer this service. Although they may ramp up to this in the future, your only current option is a local full-service provider.
* DO consider making your list “closed.” An “open” list is one where any e-mail sent to a certain address is automatically sent out to the entire list. Your Internet provider can help you set up a closed list that only you can post to. Wycoff points out that excessive volume significantly diminishes the value of many Internet mailing lists. Restricting subscribers from sending messages directly to the list lets you guarantee that subscribing won’t overwhelm your readers, mailboxes.
* DO make sure that the recipients of your e-mail want to receive it. Blindly emailing to random people or to a mailing list that’s not your own is called “spamming”–a major Net no-no–and it will backfire. There’s no faster way to make a bad name for yourself and your business online. E-mail lists need time to mature. Encouraging subscribers to forward copies to friends ensures that the people on your list are receptive to your mailing.
* DO include relevant and helpful general information pertaining to the area of business you,re concerned with. Since the whole point of maintaining a list is to give your business positive name recognition, your list should be both fun and worthwhile. No one wants to read a nonstop ad for your business.
* DO use your readers as a resource, even on a closed list. Let them know that they can e-mail you with suggestions or contributions, which you can edit and include if relevant. Crediting them as readers of the list will encourage others to write in as well.
* DO take advantage of the many venues on the Internet that allow and encourage advertising for mailing lists. One of the most popular is itself an Internet mailing list called new-list. To announce the birth of your list, send e-mail to vml.nodak.edu with a brief description of your subject matter and the address for subscriptions.
* DON’T neglect your list. If someone asks you to add them to or remove them from the list, do so promptly.
* DON’T send megabytes of mail. Keep mailings concise and to the point to ensure that they don’t automatically land on the “save-for-later” stack. A screen or two is sufficient to get your clients, attention without making them feel like your e-mail takes valuable time from their day. If you have something large to send, add a brief note to the list asking interested parties to send a request for the longer item. If you regularly send out such files or plan to make back issues of the newsletter available, consider creating a Web page.
* DO be a faithful correspondent. If you plan to send out a weekly bulletin, choose a day of the week and stick with it. If you,re late sending out the weekly installment, don’t forget to mention why. Take your mailing as seriously as you would any other business responsibility.
* DO make every e-mail you send work for you. Be sure to include information about your newsletter and your business in the signature file at the bottom of your regular e-mail along with your regular mail and business telephone information.
Contributing editor Angela Gunn has been reporting on the online world for eight years and was the founding editor of WebWeek.
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