Releasing (and managing) the beast

E-newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your people and your clients (Read What’s so great about e-newsletters?). But putting out your e-newsletter regularly – and managing your subscriber list – can feel like releasing a beast with the potential to consume you… and your valuable resources.

The fear of releasing a huge, uncontrollable beast is the most common reason not to start an e-newsletter. But unlike print newsletters, it doesn’t need to be a major production or expense.

Producing and managing your e-newsletter in-house may seem like the best solution, but there are always hidden costs (especially staff hours) and subscriber lists tend to grow.

Outsourcing the writing can save you (and your staff) hours of nutting out articles, or avoiding doing the e-newsletter altogether. And using a regular copywriter (…shameless self-promotion) means they’ll soon be coming up with ideas relevant to your internal or external audiences, and producing your enewsletter will be their priority.

Using an external vendor to manage your subscriber list is also very cost effective. It has the added advantage that their system is easy to use and you won’t hyperventilate (or call in the zookeepers) every time you go to hit the send button…

Vendors’ systems manage almost everything for you for a very low monthly fee. Free templates are usually provided, so you can customise your e-newsletter with your corporate logo and colours.

Vendor packages generally include:

  • Subscribing – auto-send welcome emails with a double opt-in (confirmation) facility
  • Unsubscribing – auto-sends confirmation and removal from database
  • List – auto-manages and reports on bounces, adds/removals, change of details, etc
  • Distribution and formatting – html and plain text options
  • Statistics – tracks opens, deletes, links followed, etc in html versions
  • Templates – free templates or design options
  • SPAM compliance checks on each issue
  • Sending – immediate or scheduled sending

We use Vision 6 for The Buzz, and love it so much we recommend it to all our clients. Constant Contact is a USA-based vendor that also comes highly recommended.

Whether you decide to use the DIY or vendor option, allocate production management to one staff member and regularly review your e-newsletter formula.

Most importantly, be patient. E-newsletters work over time, so don’t expect an instant return on your investment. The key is to bring it out regularly, tame the beast and enjoy the ride!

What’s so great about e-newsletters?

Not so long ago, getting an e-newsletter was a novelty. These days, our inboxes are inundated with them. Sometimes we can’t even remember subscribing to them… or can’t work out how to unsubscribe to them. Which can be pretty annoying! 

In fact, spam laws, junk filters, our delete-happy index fingers, and the rise of social media should have spelled the end for e-newsletters. Instead, it’s made us sit up and pay attention to what our readers want. And that has to be a good thing.

E-newsletters are an excellent communication tool because they help you build relationships. 

In 2004, global chairman of DDB advertising agency, Keith Reinhard, said “companies need to turn consumers into friends and lovers if they want to grow their brands in the 21st Century… Many consumers don’t have time to examine lots of brands and use ‘information shortcuts'”(The Australian, Friday April 2, 2004). A lot has changed since 2004, but I can safely say that looking for information shortcuts hasn’t. 

E-newsletters can also:

  • Keep your business or organisation in people’s heads (hopefully, in a good way!)
  • Build credibility and establish you as an expert in the field
  • Allow easy feedback – it’s simple to hit the reply button (you can always tell when an article appeals to people – and when you get it wrong)
  • Allow tracking – so you can find out if your html e-newsletter is being opened and which links are clicked on 
  • Force you to plan more than just your production schedule – it will help you think about your expertise and how you can share this with your readers (because the idea is to give value to your subscribers, not to aggressively market your services)
  • Reach beyond the people you know – it’s easy for subscribers to pass an e-newsletter on to friends and colleagues.

E-newsletters also make it possible to respond to reader interest and feedback quickly and easily. Unlike print newsletters, where printing and distribution take time, you can make changes to an e-newsletter up to the moment you hit the send button.

If you know the value of e-newsletters but haven’t had the time to launch one yet, you’re not alone. You may be wondering how you’ll manage your databases, what you’ll write about, and even who you are writing for.

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More on e-newsletters: Tips for releasing (and managing) the beast – without needing a team of zookeepers on standby… 

Bistaarai, bistaarai… slowly, slowly

bistaarai-bistaaraiWhen my partner and I were trekking in Nepal recently, and we hit some tough spots, our sherpas would smile and say ‘bistaarai, bistaarai’ – go slowly and carefully.

That’s not bad advice as we charge headlong into 2009, armed with resolutions that usually involve losing x number of kgs, spending more time with people we love, and doing more meaningful stuff with our lives (aka working smarter not harder).

 

Bistaarai, bistaarai… go slowly, or you’ll be dumping resolutions as quickly as you made them.

 

Look at the losing weight scenario. It might have taken me ten years to gain those (undisclosed!) extra kilos, but I want ’em off in 10 weeks. Talk about setting myself up for being a loser – and not in a good way.

 

Long term weight loss takes time…and so does changing those stressed-out habits. It’s also  pretty impossible to fit in time to hang out with the people you love, get more exercise, chill out, and get away more often… unless you make some space in your diary.

 

It’s a lot easier when you remember who controls your diary (um, you do).

 

Here’s some quick tips to help you slow down to an easy pace, work smarter – and have more time to keep those New Year’s Resolutions.

 

  • Exercise. The first thing you put in your diary every week is when you’ll exercise. That should be at least three half-hour spots, if not more. Because exercise gives you the energy and a sense of well-being that helps you deal with everything else…
  • Be realistic. Put six things (max!) a day on your to-do list. Get done what you can do, and the things you can’t get to either don’t matter enough, or go to the top of the next day’s list.
  • Start the day right…with a decent breakfast and at least 15 minutes ‘chill’ time. That might mean sitting doing nothing, reading, wandering through your garden – or someone else’s (slightly more tricky). The important thing is to allow yourself to do nothing – which is a tough one.
  • Back to the diary… schedule in blocks of  ‘project work’ time, where you don’t answer phones or emails. And when someone says they want to meet with you, give them two or three options, not ‘whenever it suits you’ (aka valuing your time, and you!).
  • Say no to 24:7 availability.  That means not always having your mobile/blackberry in your hip pocket, checking and answering emails as soon as they arrive, or having your office door/space ‘open’. People can and will wait. Really. Which leads to…
  • Stop driving the emergency response vehicle. Let others take some responsibility for their own stuff. If you’re always rushing to meet their needs or taking up the slack, you’re teaching them to be dependant and incapable. Remember this one? “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine…”
  • Handle stuff once… from paperwork to emails. Process, file, chuck/delete. That’s it. It will unclutter your desk, your inbox – and your mind.
  • Delegate. You don’t have to be the master of everything. If you’ve got the resources, use them. If you haven’t, get them.
  • Breathe. No, it’s not an optional extra and we do forget to do it. You can usually tell you’re not breathing properly when your shoulders are creeping up around your ears (blue lips are also a sign). When the stress gets to you, stop, drop your shoulders and take a deep, deep breath…then let it out slowly, slowly.

 

Whisper it, shout it, but say it over and over: Bistaarai, bistaarai. Slowly, slowly…

Namaste,

Louise