By Karen J. Bannan
Getting executive buy-in for your e-mail newsletter is crucial. Without it, your e-mail newsletter may get stuck in the planning stages. Here are some tips from Nicole Romoli, senior marketing manager for CRM vendor NetSuite, and John Colbert, VP of marketing with software consulting firm BMP Partners.
Pitch it like any other marketing initiative. When San Mateo, Calif.-based NetSuite set out to create its own e-mail newsletter at the end of 2003, its marketing department designed several different versions and formats. Each one was presented to the company’s CEO along with a primer on why the company needed a newsletter. "We wanted to make sure we explained it completely and gave our CEO several options to choose from," Romoli said. A key factor in the marketing department’s favor: They weren’t looking for additional funding. Everything was done in-house.
Start small. BMP Partners’ Colbert said his team sent out a sample newsletter and was able to get the go-ahead for future issues once his CEO saw hard results. "We had a 70% open rate, a 30% click-through and another strong percentage of customers downloading white papers," he said. "[By] showing the success, it becomes incredibly easy to get buy-in because execs know they are getting a cost-effective ad campaign—better than traditional advertising or speaking at a conference." Now the newsletter goes out to between 4,000 and 5,000 readers every three to four weeks.
Ask your CEO to write a message for the newsletter—your target audience will appreciate hearing from a high-ranking executive—and make it easy for him or her to do so. Chances are, unless your CEO is very hands-on, he or she won’t have the time or patience to craft a letter, even once a month. NetSuite’s marketing and communications groups write the letter for their executive and have him sign off on it each month. A good strategy: Secure a short five-minute sit-down so you know what key issues he or she would like you to address.
Give the CEO final approval. Both Romoli and Colbert said their executives have final say. "All our marketing goes through the CEO, including the newsletter," Romoli said.
There’s always a risk of letting the executive make your newsletter too much of a sales push, Colbert said. "You have to be very careful and get them to understand that your newsletter should be thought of as more of an educational piece," he said. "It shouldn’t be a hard sell."