Many companies send out regular print communications to their customers – brochures, new price lists, special offers, even a Christmas card. However, these print communications can prove expensive and not always effective.

An alternative is to send out an email newsletter with links to your website to drive traffic to special offers, new and updated information, and so on. This has the advantage of building a mailing list for your customers and potential website visitors who you can contact regularly to build an ongoing relationship.

There are several methods for sending out email newsletters, and there are also rules, or netiquette, to observe.

Firstly, you must not send an e-mail newsletter to anyone who has not signed up, subscribed or requested you to contact them. Otherwise your email is ‘unsolicited commercial email’ and there are laws governing this.

It is reasonably simple to add a sign-up box to your website. It is also a good idea to include a small advert for your newsletter to encourage sign ups to every print item leaving your business – invoices, letters, delivery notes, and so on. This will also remind people to visit your website and subscribe.

Any email newsletter you send should be simple to unsubscribe from, and should always include contact details eg phone number as well as your business email address.

Secondly, email newsletters need to be formatted so that they can be easily read in any email or webmail client. Many readers may be receiving the emails on mobile devices such as SmartPhones or a Blackberry, so you need to consider them as well.

Many individuals and companies do not like to receive HTML emails (formatted with HTML code to include images etc), so you need to offer the choice of plain text or HTML emails.

As HTML viruses and trojans become more commonplace, you need to be aware of why your customers may be choosing to receive plain text emails

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The newsletter needs to be short, for instance, each item should have a headline, short description, and a link to more information on the website.

This is particularly important for mobile users who may not wish to use their mobile download access to view the site right now. They can see that there is information of interest to check over a normal broadband connection when back in the office, or at home.

Similarly, do not embed large images, or worse, videos and other rich media directly into your emails. Put a link to this content on your website.

Text emails need to have a maximum of 64 characters per line and can be easily created in a simple program such as Notepad.

Also, there are known problems with links in emails, particularly for AOL users, so you need to ensure that all links to your site are ‘clickable’ for everyone.

If you are cautious or not confident about your writing skills, consider hiring a good copywriter.

Neither the task of building your mailing list, nor writing it should be onerous, time-consuming, nor expensive, and the value to your business can be noticeable as you retain customers as well as acquire them.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.