By: Mary Westheimer
|Mary Westheimer is CEO of BookZone, the Net's largest publishing community at www.bookzone.com BookZone offers design, development, hosting and promotion to more than 3,500 publishing professionals, as well as BookZonePro, the publishing industry portal that offers information and assistance. For more information, contact BookZone at email@example.com or 800-536-6162 (480-481-9737).|
If someone told you there was an easy, quick and ridiculously inexpensive way to reach members of your target audience in their own home or workplace, you'd probably expect to hear the alarm clock ring at any moment to wake you from your dream. Having your own own "ezine," or email newsletter, however, can help you do just that.
According to a February 1999 Louis Harris & Associates survey, email continues to be the most popular use of the Internet. Of the 2,015 U.S. adults surveyed, 63 percent said they send email often, up from 53 percent just five months earlier.
Businesses have quickly caught on to the value of email with, according to Forrester Research, 70 percent of business owners considering this low-cost, highly targeted contact tool an important part of their online marketing strategy. Why? The Forrester study found that email click-through rates -- which measure how many people click on a Web address included in the email to visit a site -- range from 14 percent to 22 percent, compared to a click-through rate of just 1 percent for graphic banner ads.
Response rates are good because people who are interested in a subject request the ezine. Too, that invited information ends up right in their inbox, which makes it far easier to read than, for instance, a Web forum or newsgroup, which must be visited.
Although there are sophisticated email programs that personalize each message and follow up automatically, establishing an effective ezine is surprisingly easy. Here are some do's and don'ts for setting up your own "exposure machine."
DO use software that automates the process. It lets people sign up on your Web site or by email, then lets you broadcast a message to everyone who is subscribed by sending a single email to a special address (or with a password). Your Internet Service Provider or Internet Presence Provider should be able to supply this service for you, or you can use one of the free services like egroups at www.egroups.com in exchange for their ad on your messages.
DO keep your paragraphs short. Four sentences per paragraph is usually maximum, so that people have a place for their eyes to rest.
DO double-space between paragraphs. Yes, you can indent, but give readers' eyes a break!
DO include information about how to unsubscribe. You always hope they won't, but you can cause ill will if you don't at least give them the chance. As the BookZone monthly newsletter says, "There's unsubscribe information at the end of the newsletter, but at least read it first!" And make sure that the unsubscribe instructions work, too. There's one ezine I have tried to unsubscribe from at least a half-dozen times to no avail.
DO include every possible way they can contact you. That means email, phone (both toll-free and direct), and even mail and fax if it applies.
DO include full Web site addresses (http://www.whatever.com/page.html). If you include the http:// most email programs allow people to click through right to your site.
DO offer special deals just for subscribers. This creates incentive to read future issues.
DO use a conversational tone. Depending upon the subject, you can even make it fun. If it's easy to digest, you're more likely to retain and attract subscribers.
DO use bulleted lists and other typographic niceties to make the email easy to read. Most people really don't like to read online. Make it easy on them.
DO keep the lines of text manageable. If you don't, you can have wrapping problems, which makes email hard to read and thereby reduces the chance that recipients will do so. Rule of thumb is 60-65 characters across. To make sure it looks good when it arrives ...
DO test by sending your ezine to yourself or a friend first. This simple step can save you lots of embarrassment.
DO encourage recipients to pass along your email message -- in its entirety -- to others. Be sure to include sign-up information right in the text or a click-through Web address to subscription (and advertising) details to make it easy.
DO consider archiving past issues on your site, especially if they are information rich. This provides content for your site as well as offering additional opportunities for people to read the information.
DON'T send HTML formatted email messages. Some people hate them, others can't see the formatting, and such messages take longer to open than regular email. Sure, someday it will be commonplace, but for now, why alienate anyone?
DON'T just send a lot of sales hype. People want information, not just "buy buy buy" the same old stuff.
DON'T sign up people for your ezine unless they request it. If you want to let them know about it, use an "opt-in" rather than an "opt-out" approach. In other words, let them know they can subscribe, but don't just sign them up yourself and force them to unsubscribe.
DON'T try to charge for an ezine immediately. You need to build up your traffic first. Even then, consider selling advertising to cover your costs instead of charging for the ezine itself.
DON'T set a schedule that will exhaust you. If you start with a monthly, you can always increase it to a twice-monthly or weekly, but it's not as easy to go the other direction.
DON'T forget to get your ezine listed in ezine directories such as the World Ezine Library at www.ezinelibrary.com
© 2001, Mary Westheimer, BookZone. All rights reserved.
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