A: Despite their proliferation, e-newsletters require considerable dedicated resources, not the least of which is content. And although they can be ideal companywide communication vehicles, without the ability to segment subscriber files and dynamically version content to discrete segments (via database-driven publishing), an e-mail newsletter may not be functioning at its optimum potential. E-newsletters are fertile ground for testing as well, yet all of these tactics are no match for the novice or resource-constrained e-mail marketer.
However, there are several excellent and much easier-to-execute alternatives to the e-newsletter that not only heighten subscriber involvement but also raise the relevancy factor of your e-mails. Each involves the creation of a limited-time series of messages. Because you create different topical series for different prospect or customer segments, the audience typically self-selects. And because you disclose the limited-time nature of the series, subscribers are more likely to anticipate, pay attention and stay involved with your messages throughout because they know the program won't go on indefinitely. On the contrary, it will guide them through a finite dialogue at a specific point in time when what you have to offer is most relevant to their needs.
The single-subject series works by guiding an audience through a complex product or service explanation or buying decision a step at a time. Take manufacturing compliance as an example. A well-orchestrated six-to-eight-message series of e-mails is enough to a) explain what to look for in a compliance specialist, b) articulate your unique selling proposition and c) introduce a line of products and services. Once responses are generated and leads advance through a pipeline, at some juncture recipients will be offered the chance to sign up for longer term e-mail communication, or different topical series.
The story-telling, or teaser series, on the other hand, builds anticipation by divulging just enough information to pique a reader's interest without giving away answers or results all at once. Like a good serial drama, our natural curiosity keeps us coming back to find out what happens next. This approach is ideal for telling rather than showing, so organizations with strong case studies and real-life customer success stories can benefit from it. Companies that target individuals at certain points in their work life or customer life cycles also usually have suitable content. Topics such as, "Surviving Mergers/Acquisitions," "Navigating the Rocky Waters of Web Site Development," or "The Six Fatal Mistakes of Employee Termination and How to Avoid Them" are specific, timely and useful when presented to a relevant audience.
A fundamental principle of the limited-time series is that it is allowed to end, but ideally not before a brief introduction to a longer-term relationship and request for ongoing e-mail sign-up occur. Nonetheless, a certain percentage of your e-mail series list members for whom you're no longer relevant, members whom your series of e-mails has successfully guided through a career stage or business decision, will choose not to stay onboard. In those instances, have the wisdom to let them go.
Karen Talavera is the owner of Synchronicity Marketing ( www.synchronicitymarketing.com), an integrated marketing consulting firm specializing in e-mail marketing strategy, campaign development and education.