We’ve used e-mail to acquire leads, but now we need a cost-effective strategy for customer retention. Any suggestions?

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Solution: A regular e-newsletter can be an effective way to build customer loyalty. In addition, it can help expand your customer base, reduce customer service costs and increase revenue.

Start by building a list for the newsletter. Use an existing customer list or implement an online survey to capture e-mail addresses (with permission, of course). If you have a large customer base, consider dividing your list into smaller segments based on customer profiles, and create appropriate retention-focused messages for each segment. Recent studies show that smaller lists deliver higher open and click-through rates.

Add new subscribers with an e-newsletter sign-up on your Web site. Sign up prospects at trade shows you attend. Have your call center ask customers if they’d like to receive your newsletter. Co-promotions with a complementary vendor can help you cost-effectively acquire new subscriber lists because you’re accessing a list without the cost while also sharing promotion costs.

The key to a successful b-to-b e-newsletter is content—relevant content that your customers want and can use. Implement a low-cost online survey to find out what content they value. When a customer opts in to your newsletter, ask for their content preferences. Keep in mind that recipients appreciate a newsletter that acts as a first-to-know vehicle.

Don’t include so much content that your readers miss the message. Keep it simple and quick to read, and be sure to include a call to action. Drive traffic to your Web site or call center. Add tracking mechanisms to help you measure the newsletter’s effectiveness.

To keep your newsletter targeted to customer needs, continually seek their input. Test the newsletter by creating A/B versions with different messaging, graphics or content, and use the results to achieve the optimal content mix, format and frequency.

Be sure to include a viral marketing option such as a forward-to-a-colleague link. Build trust by telling readers you will not share their info, and provide a link to your privacy policy. Be sure to comply with CAN-SPAM laws: provide the opportunity for recipients to opt out.

Jennifer Modarelli-DeVoe is principal and CEO of White Horse (, a Portland, Ore., interactive agency.

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