E-mail secrets and lies: Keeping newsletter readers engaged

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The performance of permission e-mail marketing has held steady, despite the ever-increasing incidence of spam. The lesson, said Tony Quin, founder and CEO of interactive agency IQ Interactive, is that good information is still welcomed in the business world.

Still, many smart marketers regularly squander their e-mail marketing opportunities by sending out the wrong content or neglecting their newsletter’s design. Quin let us in on one secret and one lie that he said marketers should know about to increase the chance that readers will open messages—and be receptive to them.

Secret: Don’t use your newsletter to sell your product. It sounds counterintuitive, but Quin said hawking products can turn a strong prospect into a former subscriber. A better bet, he said, is to sell a constituency of interest.

“If we’re working on a new campaign for IBM, we don’t want to talk about IBM’s new server,” he explained. “We talk about the business challenge that a potential IBM client might face. That’s going to be much more interesting for the customer. What is the business challenge that this piece of technology solves?”

But even messages about a customer’s needs must be carefully delivered, Quin said, because thinly veiled advertising is still advertising. Alternatives include providing case studies with plenty of statistics and return-on-investment metrics, as well as customer commentary, which brings more believability and authenticity to your newsletter.

Lie: E-mail marketing is inexpensive, so you shouldn’t spend too money much creating content. “This is something we see all the time,” Quin said. “People say, ‘It’s only the e-mail newsletter. My secretary can write it. Anyone can write it.’ But consider the fact that everything you send either enhances or diminishes your brand.”

Quin said companies will do best leaving the writing to their marketing team or professional writers, either on-staff or freelance. The same thing applies when designing e-mail newsletters and messages. Sure, you might be able to design your newsletter in a do-it-yourself HTML editor, but a rich media e-mail may help you get your message across better.

However, Quin had a word of warning about adding video and audio to your newsletter: “Don’t just recycle your TV commercial,” he said. “In the b-to-b world, there’s a lot to tell, but it has to be in context with a [customer or prospect’s] business problems and interests,” he said.

This may mean sending multiple campaigns to different business segments. “You should always be thinking, ‘If the people on my list are qualified, are we being successful engaging them?’” Quin said.


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