Why your business still needs a newsletter

Marketing gurus pushed email newsletters hard back in the days before social networking. If you believe everything you read online these days, you’d think that Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other Web 2.0 services have left such vehicles in the virtual dust.

Not so. Nor has the scourge of spam destroyed newsletters’ effectiveness. Email marketing still achieves huge results–and pairing an effective email newsletter with a social media campaign can snag many more customers for your business than relying on social media alone.

Perhaps the best time to evaluate consumer behavior is during the holiday shopping season, when everyone is looking for the best bargains. In an opinion survey following the most recent season, conducted by the market-research firm Crowd Science, print and email newsletters smacked down Facebook and Twitter when it came to wooing online shoppers.

Survey respondents named email newsletters and notifications as their third-favourite means of discovering what a merchant had to offer, behind a direct visit to a company’s Web site (in which case you’ve likely already earned the consumer’s loyalty) and print materials (which are considerably more expensive to produce and send). By contrast, Facebook was the favourite of just 3 per cent of holiday shoppers surveyed; Twitter, a measly 1 per cent.

Email newsletter services don’t ignore the presence of social media; nearly all options on the market integrate email newsletter campaigns with your social media presence. Most offer social media monitoring tools, such as VerticalResponse’s Roost, which lets you manage your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn campaigns from a single tool.

The point of an email newsletter

Email newsletters perform one major function: reminding potential clients that you’re here, waiting for their business. While it is a good idea to include helpful tips and company news in your newsletter, you should send each newsletter out with some kind of promotion tied to one of your products or services, such as a promo code or a coupon. This action will help you track the effectiveness of each email newsletter campaign. Benchmark Email, an email newsletter service provider, says that the frequency depends entirely on your business, but the firm recommends sending no fewer than two every month.

DIY email newsletters are a bad idea

You can try to put together your own email newsletters with CMS (content management system) plug-ins or within customer-management packages such as Goldmine. The problem with doing it yourself, however, is that you are not an email newsletter specialist. You don’t have automatic handling in place to tell you whether a recipient wants the email in plain text or HTML, and failure to send it in the right format means that many of your recipients could end up trying to read a garbled mess, in which case they’ll likely hit the Delete key or–worse–the unsubscribe link.

You will also need to run your email list through an email validator on occasion to confirm that the addresses are correct. You may even risk mass evacuation from your email list by sending duplicate or even triplicate messages. Each mail-out comes with a thousand potential pitfalls, and hiring a professional service allows you to sidestep all of them and just concentrate on your content and promotions. But the best reason to outsource email newsletters to a professional company is to circumvent spam filters. No matter how carefully you craft your message, an email newsletter will inevitably set off the majority of spam filters, even if you’ve created the most useful content ever. Engaging in email marketing is pointless if nobody is reading your message.

Email newsletter service providers

Ready to consult an email newsletter service provider? Constant Contact is one of the biggest, providing more than half a million customers an array of products, including event marketing, online surveys, and social campaigns. The email newsletter service, however, remains the core of its business.

Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial for companies with mailing lists of up to 100 addresses. Competitor VerticalResponse offers a similar basket of services, including a free trial. MailChimp, meanwhile, is another major player in this market, although email handling is the only service it offers.

Whereas each of the companies mentioned above serves the small and medium-size business market, iContact tailors its email marketing services to the needs of large enterprises and advertising agencies. The company’s iContact Plus suite of products offers integration with Salesforce, special consideration for large-volume mailings, and other premium services. Do you have a solution for email newsletters that I haven’t mentioned here, or do you have any comments on email newsletter services? Talk about it in our comments section.

Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring waitstaff with Pip-Boys. She’s written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter (@angelawest) and on Facebook.

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