Keeping your e-mail content fresh

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Staring at a blank e-mail template can be nerve-wracking. Where do you get your content? How much should be company-related and how much, industry-related? To answer such questions, consider how well you know your readers. When you know what they want, everything should flow from there, said Al DiGuido, CEO at Zeta Interactive.

Zeta Interactive’s client Century 21 faced just this conundrum recently when it realized it needed a better way to send out information from its offices to its agents. “The agents needed more insight about how they could market more aggressively. … [the company] also needed to be able to target specific messages to different regions in the country,” he said. Once it knew what agents needed, Century 21 could seek out content that met those needs. DiGuido provides these five tips—some of which were used by Century 21—to help your company offer up the most relevant newsletter fodder with the least amount of fuss.

1) Ask the customer. It’s important to track which stories get the best click-throughs on your existing newsletters, but it’s equally important to ask what else your customers and prospects are reading when they’re not spending time with your e-mails. If, for example, you know a large percentage of your readership subscribes to a specific journal, you can provide value by analyzing specific articles or creating an online community—with a link in your e-mail—where they can discuss those issues. “You can be the filter that fine-tunes information and makes it more interesting,” DiGuido said.

2) Aggregate blogs. As an industry expert, you’re probably already reading the most pertinent blogs and checking into the social media groups that matter. You can create a digest version of this—the best social content out there. Comment and link to blogs, fan groups and industry groups, and you create a one-two punch, DiGuido said. Not only will you pick up links back to your own blog but your readers will see your company as one that’s in the forefront of breaking news and opinion. One thing to remember: Always provide a source, and give credit for data and commentary that’s not yours.

3) Be careful about sponsorships. You might be tempted to sponsor the blogs, journals or trade publications you’re linking to, but this can backfire, DiGuido said. “You want to avoid making it look like you purchased your content. If you are linking to copy, the businessperson will think you are providing it in an unbiased way,” he said. “The moment you are perceived as selling something, though, it damages your brand.”

4) Don’t bash the competition. You’ll probably come across negative information or reviews about competitors or their products, but just because you find them doesn’t mean you should point them out in your newsletter. “You don’t ever want to raise the pains of the competitor as a way to sell your product,” DiGuido said. “Showing a side-by-side comparison is one thing, but championing that the other guy has a problem is something totally different.”

5) Reconsider frequency. You may have a bimonthly or weekly schedule for your newsletter, but don’t be afraid—as long as your readers have given you permission to contact them more frequently—to chime in on breaking industry news when it happens. “If there is something significant—new legislation, new issues—it’s smart to come out and give your take,” DiGuido said. “It could even be that a competitor or partner announced a new product and your customers are left wondering what impact that is going to have on their currently installed products. You always want to provide information that will help your customers deal with a change.”

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