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!

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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…