How to Use E-Mail Newsletters to Generate New Business

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During my 20-plus years in marketing, I've found e-mail newsletters to be one of the most cost-effective ways to generate new business.

Hereunder are my Top 10 Tips on how you can use e-mail newsletters as a way to generate new business.

1. Laser-target your audience. And honestly ask what type of content would really be valuable to them which you can provide.

2. Don't be a "house organ.". Warmed over sales pitches and press releases touting how great you are do not make for a successful newsletter. No one will be amused by it -- except for you and your staff.

3. Subscribe to all your competitors' newsletters. What do you like about them that you can learn from and copy? What mistakes are they making that you can avoid?

4. Subscribe to the e-mail newsletters that are published by Agora. Two that I subscribe to are "Early to Rise" (sort of motivational) and "The Daily Reckoning" (financial). These folks do an excellent job of making an appropriate transfer from solid interesting content to a well-honed product pitch.

5. Read your own newsletter(s). Sounds dumb, but you'd be surprised how many firms publish newsletters where the senior management doesn't read the publication. This is deadly.

6. Here's the product, what's the content? A secret I learned years ago on Madison Avenue is to write backwards from the end point. Just make sure the content in front of the product pitch doesn't seem like a pure shill, else you can seriously hurt you brand image.

7. Think about how and where you will get subscribers. Unbelievably, many firms create the newsletter and only think about subscriber acquisition when they're ready to publish. Think about it, and budget for it.

8. Bake value into the name of your newsletter and its tagline (if any). The advantage of your newsletter should be quickly apparent. In this info-glut day and age, you won't get a second chance to explain yourself.

9. "Oh boy, it's here!" That's what your readers should think when they see your newsletter when it lands in their IN box. OK, this is a tall order, but shoot for it anyway.

10. Short copy versus long copy. Conventional wisdom says shorter is better online. But I've seen extremely long copy in newsletters and on Web sites that blows the barn doors off average response rates. The answer is, use as much copy as it takes to get the story told or to get the product sold.

Bonus tip: 11. Get the perspective of an outsider who will ask the tough questions and change assumptions that need to be challenged before you go public. You may even want your adviser to "fly the plane" with you for a while until you get the feel of what a successful launch feels like. When my publishing schedule permits, I work with firms on such matters. If you're budgeted to launch a serious effort and need my help, just reply to this e-mail. If my time and your budget permit, we'll get to work on your newsletter.

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