Saturday, June 5, 2010

I Have a Newsletter, Now What?

The other night, while at Bronto, I attended a workshop on e-mail marketing. I arrived near the end of the presentation, but heard enough to spark a few questions. The first question was to understand the purpose of an e-mail newsletter when used in conjunction with a blog. To me, they both seem to convey messages to readers, but should they say the same thing or something different?

The second question I never asked because I didn't get much direction from the first. To the best of my recollection, the presenter basically said to ask you, the readers, what you want from the newsletter. Do you prefer an e-mailed version of the blog? A personalized letter? A summary of all the blogs for the week? Or is there something else?

The questions I received from the Bronto presenter reminded me of something I would say if asked about the web. There are many uses for the web, but it really depends upon what one seeks to achieve. What are the goals? What is the desired outcome? Ultimately, the answer rests somewhere between you and me.

Maybe the best way to find purpose is to reflect on why I initially decided to start an e-mail newsletter. With a quick search of my blog, I actually wrote about this back on January 31, 2010. Entitled, "Why I Started an E-Mail Newsletter," I outline two reasons: To connect with readers and to build a loyal reader base. In addition, I made a list of things I could talk about, which include:

  • Blog posts: Share the title, summary, and link to articles hosted on my web site.
  • Upcoming events: Announce and remind readers about important or interesting events.
  • Interesting finds from the web: List the most popular stories I find and share via the web.
  • Archived blog posts: One way to revive older, but still relevant information, is to introduce archived articles.
  • Giveaways: As an added bonus for loyalty, I can provide free gifts and prizes.
  • News/Announcements: Sometimes, blog posts are too formal, but you still want to convey an important message to your readers. Consider sending an update on site changes, product launch, or new service offerings.
So far, all of this sounds good. However, looking back over my list of sent messages, I have only sent one newsletter. What happened? Why did I stop writing after the first message?

The answer to that question may be too far behind me to remember exactly, but I'll tell you what I'm thinking now. Writing a blog and a newsletter seems redundant. For the most part, what I want to say goes on the blog first because it has more subscribers than the newsletter. Therefore, writing a note twice seems unattractive.

Maybe I should use it simply as a marketing tool. Instead of creating content for the newsletter, I just disseminate my blog posts through it. The downside to that idea is that FeedBurner already does that for those individuals who wish to receive blogs via e-mail. Adding a newsletter that replicates another services isn't worth the money.

Tim Arthur suggested that I use the newsletter similarly to Chris Brogan, a well known blogger. This means composing a personal letter to subscribers and talking with them more casually, almost by name. I can see the advantage of doing that, as early adopters and loyal supporters care more about me than the site visitor coming only to read a particular story. However, there are those who subscribe via RSS. What about them? Don't they care, too?

As you can see, I haven't quite figured out how to take full advantage of the e-mail list. So, I'm wondering if you might be able to help me brainstorm. What are some of your favorite newsletters? What do you like about them? What don't you like about them? What do you hope they would do differently? What would you expect a newsletter or e-mail message to say coming from me? Any and all ideas are greatly appreciated.

Looking forward to seeing your comments.

Until next time...

If you like what you've read, take this opportunity to subscribe to my RSS Feed and Newsletter.  However, don't forget to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, or Friendfeed.


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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