You have read over and over that it is less expensive to get an existing
customer to make a purchase than to get a new customer to make a
purchase. The most recent figures I've read suggest that it is six times
as expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain a customer.
You have also read that the least expensive way to market to existing
customers is via targeted e-mail.
Yet, you have been reluctant to begin any marketing via e-mail because
(choose all that apply):
-- You have yet to ask your customers or visitors for permission to
market to them,
-- You don't want to look like an amateur,
-- You don't have any systems in place to actually send the mail, let
alone deal with irate customers, handle unsubscribe requests, handle
bounced messages, etc.,
-- You don't have content other than the promotion you would like to
-- You don't have any e-mail addresses.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to take you through the entire
process of starting your own newsletter. I went through all the steps
outlined below myself, identifying and testing each product. I also
corresponded with the developers of the various tools you may need; I
will also have tips from them on getting the best results.
Yes, you can do e-mail promotions without doing a newsletter. However,
if you want to grab and hold the attention of busy customers or members,
then you have to provide them with more than just the information about
the products or services. You have to give them a reason to care about
Procrastinate No Longer
Every reason you've been putting off starting a newsletter is easily
In brief, here's the list of tasks you need to perform to start your own
-- Get a list of e-mail addresses.
-- Verify that these addresses are still good (valid).
-- Get the addresses into either a bulk mailing package or sign up with
a list-management ASP.
-- Design the newsletter.
-- Develop or purchase content for the newsletter.
-- Send the newsletter.
-- Manage bounced messages, handle unsubscribe and subscribe requests.
If you're really ambitious, you might want to do the following, as well.
-- Grow your list.
-- Get sponsors for the newsletter.
-- Find resources to stay abreast of newsletter trends.
Getting a List to Get Started
Getting a list together is actually much easier than it sounds. If you
have a customer database then that should be the first place you start.
If you have a membership database, use that. If you have been selling in
the physical world - for example, a law firm or a dentist - and you
hadn't been in the practice of asking clients or patients for their
e-mail addresses, then the time has come to start.
If your business is not the kind that's inclined to having lists of
interested parties - such as online publishing, consulting, or any site
without a membership requirement - then you'll have to rely on other
sources of lists. In fact, pack rats have an advantage over the rest of
the world in this regard.
To Purchase a List or Not?
It isn't necessary, or even advisable, to purchase a list for a
newsletter. There are good lists and good list providers, but purchasing
a list is generally better for a one-time mailing. An alternative to
purchasing a list is coordinating a mailing with the trusted list owner.
For example, if I want to create a newsletter in order to market
software that optimizes hard drives, then I might do a joint mailing
with a hard-drive manufacturer, thereby having access to a list of
customers who have demonstrated an interest in hard drives. If I were to
purchase that list for direct marketing without the "social
introduction" that the hard-drive manufacturer provides, I'd get a much
lower open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate, because many
people would delete it based on the fact that they don't recognize me.
Other than being ignored, the problem with purchased lists -
particularly when you purchase them from someone offering you one
million addresses for $99 - is the quality of the addresses. There may
be one million e-mail addresses, but how many of them are still good?
Since you may end up paying for list services based on how many messages
you send, you will really regret paying for 500,000 messages that
Harvesting Addresses from Your Inbox
My own recommendation is - if you're not the super-neat sort who only
has 12 messages in your inbox at any given time - is to harvest all the
addresses from your mail folders. Anyone who has ever written to you or
to your company is fair game. Personally, I never delete messages. If
you wrote to me two years ago, I still have it in a folder.
It's relatively easy to harvest addresses from an Outlook Express folder
or from any text folder. When it comes to harvesting, you can either
harvest only from the sender's address or you can harvest from the
entire message. The advantage of harvesting from the entire message is
that if someone sends something to you and eight other people, you'll
get the sender's address as well as those of the seven other people. The
disadvantages of harvesting from the entire message are that you'll get
more junk addresses on your list, and you are more likely to have your
newsletter seen as spam by people who have never corresponded with you.
On the other hand, if your newsletter is going to be inspirational, for
example, and you've received inspirational messages in the past that
were addressed to 40 people, then those people might also appreciate
your newsletter. This is definitely a judgment call on your part.
There is pretty good software available for harvesting from the entire
message. E-mail Address Extractor
MazePath Software, is a very fast product for harvesting from the entire
inbox. My inbox, including all subfolders, yielded over 5,000 addresses.
If you don't use Outlook Express, then you need to export all your
messages into a text file and harvest from that. The harvested addresses
go into a text file, with one address on each line and no duplicates. If
you are harvesting from several files, be sure to save the harvested
text files with different names or you'll overlay your previous file; by
default all addresses go into addresslist.txt.
For harvesting the sender's address from Outlook Express, you can use
Outlook Express Archive Pro
(http://www.mazepath.com/home.html?hop=mazepath01.mazepath), also from
MazePath Software. In addition to backing up your folders, Outlook
Express Archive Pro will also permit you to filter messages or extract
all senders' e-mail addresses into a text file with one address on each
line and no duplicates.
By now, you should have a text file with one address on each line.
For a lot of reasons, you don't want to try sending mail to every
address you've harvested from your inbox. First of all, some addresses
are probably personal, and you might not want to send your business
newsletter to everyone in your family. Next, many addresses that appear
on your list are administrative addresses - the one that appears most in
my box is email@example.com. Finally, some of the addresses are no
Whether those addresses came from a database, your order-management
system, or your inbox, you're ready to verify that the addresses
Verifying E-mail Addresses
Avoid sending newsletters to bad addresses. If you ultimately decide to
use a commercial service to manage your list and send your newsletters,
you will usually pay either by the number of messages sent or by the
size of your list. If you handle the newsletter mailing yourself, then
it becomes a time issue. In either case, you will have to deal with
bounced messages. In my own experience, of the 5,000 addresses I
harvested from my inbox, roughly one third were bad for one reason or
I suggest that the first thing you do is verify the addresses using a
tool like Advanced Email Verifier (http://www.glocksoft.com/). With
Advanced Email Verifier, you import your list of harvested addresses,
and click "Start." For some addresses, such as AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, and
other non-SMTP mail, you can't verify whether or not the address is
good. The mail server won't cooperate, so you can set the options of
Advanced Email Verifier either to assume they're all good or assume
they're all bad. You won't know definitively until some bounce. The tool
is fast, but not instantaneous. Speed depends on the size of your list,
your connection, and the speed of the Web. If your list is really big,
run it at night.
You need to have access to port 25 for this to work. If you're operating
within a restrictive firewall, as most users of large ISPs are, then you
won't be able to use this tool. You need either unrestricted access or a
hole in your corporate firewall for port 25 access. This software does
what your SMTP e-mail server does, which is confirm that the person
exists before sending the message. If you don't have port 25 access, the
tools I discuss next week won't work. In my experience, smaller local
ISPs don't block port 25.
There is a demo version of this software, but you can't save the
results. When you've completed the verification using a licensed copy,
you can export the good addresses to a file. This will be the list you
use for your newsletter.
Unfortunately, verifying the addresses using a tool isn't enough. Unless
your addresses came from a customer database, you probably want to
manually remove all administrative addresses such as orders@ anything,
support@ anything, listserv@ anything. There are more, but that's a good
start. If you don't remove these, then you'll receive automated replies
from a lot of places. When you're doing the manual clean up, you can
also remove any personal addresses to which you don't want the
In the first two parts of this series, I've taken you through the steps
involved in finding the addresses in your system to start your own
newsletter, and verifying the addresses. In this part, I'll take you
through the biggest decision you'll make about your newsletter: whether
to send an HTML version or a plain-text version.
HTML vs. Plain Text: Tradeoffs
HTML vs. plain text is an ongoing debate. HTML is better than text for a
lot of reasons, but that doesn't mean you should use it. When you use
HTML, you can lay out the newsletter exactly as you wish. You can
include graphics (actually links to graphics), multiple columns, and
various fonts and colors. The figure below shows a newsletter with three
columns. By using multiple columns, you can include promotions for your
own products in the margin, while still providing content of substance
in the middle of the newsletter.
Typically, HTML mailings have a higher click-through rate than text
e-mail. In addition to the formatting and presentation advantages of
HTML e-mail, there are also the interactivity advantages. If you want to
include a survey in your newsletter, you can include the FORM tags right
in your HTML. When the user checks a box, a radio button, or types in an
answer, and clicks "Submit," the script on your server is activated and
receives the form information. You can include a subscription box right
on your newsletter, in the hopes that it will be forwarded to a new
reader who will want to subscribe. You can also format your newsletter
to look exactly like your Web site.
HTML formatting also permits you to include links to tracking code,
which enables you to receive reports about how many times a message is
opened by the recipient, or what percent of the messages sent were
HTML Gone Wrong
In short, HTML e-mails are ideal if you can be sure the recipients can
open them. You might have heard (correctly) that the vast majority of
AOL users (with some small exception for some AOL 6.0 users) cannot read
HTML-enabled e-mail. This is true. You absolutely must do a plain-text
version of your newsletter to send to AOL.com addresses. However,
perhaps you didn't know that Lotus Notes can also be set by the
administrator not to accept rich-text e-mails. It's impossible to know
which mail reader recipients are using. Most people choose rich-text
enabled mail clients, but many corporations prevent virus spread by
delivering all email as text only.
Most people who are constrained by corporate policy to receive only text
e-mail messages are smart enough to look in the first line or two of a
message for a link to the online version. This means that even those who
get the gobbledygook of HTML in their messages can still pull up a
rich-text version of the newsletter.
Plain-Text Done Right
Even your plain-text e-mail should be formatted as well as you possibly
can. Since you can't really force white space - white space helps tell
your eyes where to focus - in plain-text newsletters, make sure your
newsletters include all of the following formatting conventions:
-- Dashes, tildes or asterisks to separate sections of the newsletter
-- Short sentences and short paragraphs
-- Bullets or numbered lists to make points
-- Headings and sub-headings to break up the text
Many, many newsletters send out only plain-text versions, but to me,
that's like formatting your Web site for 640x480 display, or even for
Palm Pilot display, since some visitors might conceivably miss something
or be annoyed if you format for higher resolution.
Pleasing All of the People All of the Time
Ideally, you'd send the HTML version to everyone who can open HTML
e-mail and the plain-text version to everyone who can't. How can you
possibly achieve this optimal arrangement? By sending both versions to
The secret is to use a MIME type of multipart/alternative in the header
of your message. Unfortunately, most e-mail software doesn't allow you
to change the header. You'll either have to use software that sends in
multipart/alternative format or a service that claims to auto-detect the
browser so that the right version shows. All they're doing is sending it
in multipart/alternative format, but "auto-detect" sounds so much
Outlook Express Is Not Enough
Don't spend the next week trying to make Outlook Express send
multipart/alternative e-mail (it won't work), but start noticing how
e-mail is coming into your mailbox. In Outlook Express, while you have a
message open (not just previewed, but actually open), click
File|Properties, then click the Details tab and Message Source. You'll
see a line in bold that says "Content-Type: text/html," "Content-Type:
text/plain," or "Content-Type: multipart/alternative."
Now that you've decided whether HTML or plain text would be more
appropriate for your newsletter, it's time to do a mailing. The next
three steps have to be performed together. Doing the actual mailings
-- Designing the newsletter,
-- Sending the newsletter,
-- Processing failed-mail messages, subscribe requests, and unsubscribe
Going It Alone
In this part, I'm going to assume you want to take on this task
yourself. It's rather time-consuming to go it alone, but if you have the
time you can save money. However, by the end of next week's column, you
may decide that you would rather sign up with a service to handle these
things. In two weeks, I'll describe four services that exist and how
they work if you want to use those services.
There is still another option, and that's to outsource creation and
mailing to someone else - someone who really understands the ins and
outs of e-mail marketing, is a great writer, and is creative about
content and promotion. If you don't have the resources in-house to
create content for a professional newsletter, then you might be better
off letting someone else handle it. I'll cover the pros and cons of
outsourcing it in upcoming articles, as well.
Designing Your Newsletter
If you're going to use plain text, then design isn't much of an issue.
However, if you've decided to use HTML, then the sky is the limit. The
easiest thing to do is to use your site layout as your newsletter
template. If your banner isn't too graphics-intensive, this can work. If
you rely on flash or large graphics, then the load time of your
newsletter may be a problem.
Another option is to use seasonal designs in your newsletter. One of the
services I'll describe in two weeks gives you seasonal layouts from
which to choose, but unless you have a lot of time to kill, you probably
don't want to play with the design once you have something with which
You probably have certain navigational elements in your banner, which
may not be entirely appropriate for your newsletter. I suggest you copy
your banner, then add or modify the links in your banner to include
whichever of the following are appropriate:
-- Sponsorship information
-- Link (or email) to subscribe
-- Link (or email) to unsubscribe
-- Link to forward to a friend
Have a link to subscribe to both the HTML version and the text version
of the newsletter. If you offer both, you should let people know. They
might want to read your newsletter from their AOL accounts.
Letting people unsubscribe is very important. You are legally required
to give people a way to unsubscribe from your newsletter right in the
newsletter. In my case, I send out newsletters using software that
permits me to embed the email address in links, so when a reader clicks
on the unsubscribe link, his address is automatically sent to the form
on my site that removes addresses. There's no possibility that he will
send a message from the wrong account, trying to unsubscribe an address
that isn't even on the list, and then when he continues to receive the
newsletter, get upset with me. So far, this system has worked
Forward to a Friend
The forward to a friend link can be handled two different ways. If you
want to get fancy, you can have the link open a Web page, which allows
the visitor to enter his own email address and his friend's email
address. Alternatively, you can have the link open the e-mail software
on his own computer so he can send the link himself. The disadvantage of
the latter solution is that if he is reading your newsletter from a
public or shared computer, it might not be configured to send mail from
his account. Also, you can't keep track of how many times the message
was forwarded - although there are other tools that handle this that
we'll discuss later.
The advantage of using a link that opens e-mail is that he will have
access to his own address book, and be familiar with how to send the
message. This is the code I use to permit readers to forward my
newsletter to a friend (you will need to change a few things):
Forward to a friend</A>
The first thing you probably notice is the bit of HTML code "%20." This
represents a space to your computer. You can't include spaces in links,
so you can't tell the software to use a subject line of "I Think You
Should Read The E-Business Thought Leader Newsletter." In order to avoid
having your subject line be one long word, use "%20" everywhere you want
a space. If you're familiar with HTML, you probably noticed that there
is no "To" address in the link. The way a mailto link usually works is
<A href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">Send me mail</a>
The reason the Forward-to-a-Friend link has no e-mail address is because
it is not known. The reader will have to provide that, and he'll see,
when his e-mail client opens up, that the "To" field is blank.
Including a Subject and a Body
Back to our big, hairy link up above. By including the "?Subject=" in
the link, you provide the subject line for the message. Pick one that
the recipient will want to receive. By including the "&Body=" in the
link, you tell the e-mail client what to put in the body of the message.
If you click the Forward-to-a-Friend link up above, you'll see that it
puts the URL of my newsletter into the body of the message. I don't
recommend sending the entire newsletter, although you could do it. Of
course, in order for this link to work, the newsletter needs to be
somewhere on your Web site, so you can provide the URL.
None of this will work in plain text e-mail. You'll just have to rely on
people hitting the forward button to forward your newsletter.
If you're committed to publishing your own newsletter with your own
software, then you'll have to decide which software you're going to use.
You really can't beat the price of sending newsletters yourself. All the
products I list below are $60 or less. If you go with a service, you'll
likely pay $20 or more per month, depending on the size of your list and
the frequency of the mailings. When you own the software, you can do as
many mailings as you want, as frequently as you want, without any
additional costs incurred.
E-mail is simply the cheapest way to communicate with customers, and if
you do it right, they'll look forward to receiving your messages. The
important thing is to know that you're sending out something of interest
to your customers, and should not do so more often than they want to
Let My People Go
Just in case you've guessed wrong about their interest in your
newsletter, you must include a way to unsubscribe in your messages.
People are very skeptical of unsubscribe information on messages, so
ensure that whatever instructions you give work, and work in a visible
way. For example, if your instructions say to send a message to
email@example.com, make sure that address works, and set it up
in advance to send an automatic confirmation message stating that the
unsubscribe request was successful. If you provide a Web form for
readers to unsubscribe, don't make them click more than once or twice to
get off your list. If there's one thing I hate, it's being told to
"click here to be removed," then when I click, I am taken to a page with
twenty options. Your customers don't want to have to read the fine print
to get off your list. I suggest you embed a link in every message that
includes the e-mail address of the recipient so that one click removes
it from your list
Know What You Want
Do-it-yourself mailing software offers a variety of different features.
As with any software acquisition, you'll be happiest with what you
purchase if you know which features are most important to you before you
buy (see Preventing Project Failure parts 1
_721661,00.html] and 2
_728611,00.html]). I tested out four packages for this series. They
offer a variety of different features including built-in tools to design
a basic HTML newsletter, choices of delivery methods, the ability to
request receipts indicating messages were received or opened, and the
ability to retrieve unsubscribe requests from a server. None of the
packages offers every feature I find useful, so there is no slam-dunk
when making a decision.
How to Send
There are three ways you can send e-mail to a group of people in such a
way that each recipient doesn't see the addresses of the other
recipients - absolutely essential for a reputable newsletter:
1) Send a unique message to each recipient using your regular SMTP
(simple mail transfer protocol)
(http://e-comm.webopedia.com/TERM/S/SMTP.html) server. If you have more
than about 200 messages to send, this will be quite slow. Some mail
servers are configured to avoid unauthorized use and require you to
check mail before sending. If yours is configured as such, then be sure
to check mail on the outgoing account before you try to send the
2) Use SMTP server software to send a unique message to each recipient.
Using SMTP server software circumvents your regular e-mail server, so it
is much faster. In order to use SMTP server software, you have to have
access to port 25, which most major ISPs don't allow. If you have a
direct connection to the Internet, then make sure your firewall has port
25 open. If you can't get to port 25 for whatever reason, then make sure
the tool you select permits you to send via your ISP's SMTP server.
3) Send a message to all your recipients at once (or in groups of 50) by
blind carbon copying (BCC) them. I strongly discourage you from sending
mail this way. Busy people who receive a lot of mail often have filters
set up on their inbox. It's pretty easy to send all BCC mail to a spam
folder or even directly to the trash. Ninety-nine percent of all BCC
mail I receive is spam with the remainder being press releases from
companies that don't realize that BCC spells amateur.
HTML Design Tool Built In?
Some tools offer newsletter design functionality. The alternative is to
use an HTML design tool such as HomeSite (http://www.allaire.com/),
Dreamweaver (http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/), or
FrontPage (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/). If you are going to use
the same design as your Web site, or planning to send plain text, then
you probably don't need the built-in tool.
If you're going to be sending HTML email, make sure you understand how
to make the tool you're using set the MIME type to HTML/text, or else
everyone will receive a copy of the HTML, rather than HTML that is
rendered as your newsletter. This is where testing comes in
Last week I told you about the multipart/alternative content type, which
permits you to send one message to everyone in such a way that rich-mail
capable e-mail clients will get the good version, but text-only e-mail
clients will still be able to read the text. None of the software
permits you to send multipart/alternative mail in a way that replaces
the need to send two different versions. G-Lock Easy Mail automatically
creates a plain text version, but if you use multiple columns in your
message, you can't really predict what will be in the plain text
version, or how much of your original message will make it. It also
doesn't include any links in the plain-text version. If you're going to
do your own mailings, and you'd like to use HTML, plan to send out two
Remove Blocked Senders
Depending on how you maintain your list of subscribed addresses, you
might need to keep a separate list of people who have unsubscribed. The
alternative is to remove people from your subscribed list as they
unsubscribe. Some of the tools permit you to mark some addresses as
blocked or do-not-mail. Mail Them Pro even permits you to check your
unsubscribe and bounced accounts and harvests addresses from those. If
you're willing to manage your mailing entirely with one software
package, then this ability can help you avoid ever sending a message
again to someone who has unsubscribed from your list.
Reply-to vs. From Addresses
I like being able to specify a different REPLY-TO address than the FROM
address. The FROM address is automatically used to return failed mail to
you. If you are sending to more than 100 addresses, and you haven't
verified addresses as mentioned in part two, then you probably want to
set up a separate account to use as the FROM address, such as
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bounced messages go to the FROM address,
human replies go to the REPLY-TO address. You'll want to check the
bounced account before you do the next mailing so you can clean up your
Embedding Unique Codes or Addresses into Messages
All of the packages I tested permit you to embed uniquely identifiable
codes into the messages so that you can create unsubscribe links or
track who opened the messages. This is an important feature, which
you'll appreciate in two weeks...
The four packages I evaluated were: Mail Them Pro v5.2
(http://www.mailthem.net/), G-Lock Easy Mail
v3.22 (http://www.glocksoft.com/), Mail Bomber v5.0
(http://www.softheap.com/bomber.html), and Dynamic Mailer v1.0
(http://www.sohoany.com/). They were all quite easy to use. My personal
favorite was Mail Them Pro, which was the most intuitive. I also liked
the ability to send either through my ISP's SMTP server or via the
built-in SMTP server. For some reason, some addresses on my list
wouldn't accept the messages from the built-in SMTP server, but would
take them without bouncing if I sent them through my ISP's mail server.
Be sure to review your error logs - they all produce them - to see how
many of your messages actually went out.
Before You Send ...
There's an old adage that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask
for permission. While I generally subscribe to that philosophy, in this
one case, I urge you to contact your ISP or whoever manages your e-mail
server and/or domain before you do your first mailing, and explain what
you're doing. If someone who receives your message really has it in for
you, he can raise a fuss and potentially get your domain-hosting
services cancelled. Some ISPs deal very harshly with what they perceive
as spam. If you contact them ahead of time and talk to someone in a
position of authority about what you're doing, how you got your list,
your opt-out procedures, etc. before you mail, then any complaints from
recipients will be seen in a more balanced light. Some recipients might
be angry enough about having received an unsolicited message from you to
really make trouble. Some might write to email@example.com,
complaining of your message. Some might see who hosts your domain, which
can be done via WHOIS on Network Solutions' site
(http://www.netsol.com/en_US/index.jhtml?_requestid=191272), and contact
directly to complain.
Chances are, no one will get that angry at your mailing - surely they
can't waste this kind of outrage on every piece of spam they get. But
the consequences of having your domain hosting cancelled are extremely
severe. If you have a direct connection to the Web, you don't have to
worry about this. If, however, you rely on another company to host your
site or your e-mail, then by all means make them an ally before they
hear about how unethical you are from someone who doesn't want to be on
Test Before You Send
I have sent out eight newsletters in the process of testing all the
products for this series. You'd think by the eighth week in a row, I'd
be able to skip testing. Wrong. I'm pleased with myself if I only have
to send myself a test message three or four times. There are simply so
many links to check - particularly subscribe and unsubscribe links -
that it takes a few tests to get it right. Import your list into your
tool at the end. Start by importing (or creating) the message, then send
it to yourself on two different accounts: for example, one Yahoo or
Hotmail and account one that you check using Outlook Express or another
standard e-mail client. Make sure they both look right and that all the
links and graphics work. When you're sure it's perfect, send it off.
While you wouldn't be the first person ever to send a newsletter only to
have to re-send because the links don't work, you don't want to make a
habit of it.
In two weeks I'll talk about what you can do to count how many people
open your newsletter and even who opens your newsletter. Next week, I'll
talk about four services you can use to send your newsletter if you
don't have the time to do it yourself.
Perhaps by now you've downloaded the demo version of one of the
do-it-yourself newsletter products I mentioned last week. You've learned
that - whoa, Nelly! - it is a lot of work to send your own newsletter.
On the other hand, if you went ahead with it, you probably saw a big
spike in traffic on your site. On my own site, alexisgutzman.com, half
the traffic that comes in a week typically comes in the 48 hours
immediately following a newsletter.
Avoiding Gray Hair When Publishing a Newsletter
If you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself - expect to
earn more than a few gray hairs trying - then you might be looking for a
service provider that can handle the mechanics of the mailing. When you
first sign up with one, you'll have to upload your list of addresses,
then every week or whatever you'll sign in via a Web interface and
upload your latest newsletter, test, and tell it to send the mailing.
After the mailing is complete, there will be a secure page you can go to
review the results of the campaign.
For the purposes of writing this column, I interviewed several mailing
list companies - there are many, many out there, so don't think my list
(later in this column) is comprehensive. Most of them offered me the
chance to test out their software by sending my own newsletter, but I
couldn't take them all up on it. I decided to use GotMarketing.com's
(http://www.gotmarketing.com/) newsletter service to run a test.
GotMarketing recently signed an agreement with Yahoo! to offer their
e-mail marketing service to Yahoo!'s small business customers. I really
liked GotMarketing's service; the interface, the speed, and the
reporting feature were excellent, and when I ran into a snag during
testing, there was a toll-free number to call for assistance.
Features to Compare
If you're shopping for a newsletter service, make sure you compare all
of the following features. The prices are pretty close, but the services
provided might not be.
-- Ease of uploading your list. Most service providers will let you
upload either a text file or a comma-separated values (CSV) file with
your addresses. If you have to type them all in by hand, run away. On
the other hand, if you don't yet have much of a list, then you might be
able to key them in by hand and use built-in tools to grow the list.
-- List management. You should be able to add and remove people from
your list via the Web interface. You should also be provided some HTML
code that you put on your Web pages, which, when clicked, opens a pop-up
box permitting visitors to subscribe to your newsletter.
-- Ability to send HTML or text, or even better yet,
multi-part/alternative mail. If you let subscribers tell you which
version they prefer, then you should be able to use that parameter to
send out the correct version. AOL members should automatically receive
either a text or an HTML-light version - meaning no images and limited
to the small subset of HTML that AOL accepts. Ideally, the system you
select will permit you to send both versions to everyone so that their
own e-mail clients can decide to open the appropriate ones. Some
services call this an e-mail client sniffer or some sort of auto-detect
function, and they usually imply that they have some top-secret code
that permits them (alone!) to do this. That's bunk. I'd avoid any
service that tries to tell you they have auto-sniffing capabilities. If
they're going to lie to you about that, who knows what else they'll lie
to you about.
-- Ability to personalize the message. Later in this series, I'll devote
an entire column to the pros and cons of personalization. For now,
you'll simply want to make sure that if you choose to employ
personalization, you can. In addition to the e-mail address, you should
be able to define fields relevant to your own newsletter. You won't be
able to implement customized links so that people can unsubscribe with a
single click, if you can't implement personalization.
-- Ability to send unlimited test messages. I have never managed to get
my mailing out with fewer than three test messages. I like to re-read
every word of the newsletter in my inbox, so that it looks to me exactly
as it looks to recipients. You need not only to be able to send test
messages - to a POP client, as well as a Web-based client, and an AOL
address - but also to have all links, including personalized links,
working in the test messages. Testing deserves a separate column.
-- Ability to schedule when messages are sent. Once you're happy with
your newsletter, you should be able to schedule it to be sent whenever
you want, so it arrives in conjunction with other activities, such as a
site update, a sale, or a catalog arriving by mail.
-- Reporting how many opened the e-mail, and tracking desired links
should be available. Forty-two percent of the people who received my
newsletter opened it. Of course, text versions of the newsletter cannot
be tracked, which includes all AOL recipients. If you have a high
proportion of AOL users, this open statistic will not be very accurate.
In total, 2020 people received the newsletter. My list only included
2107 people, but the software reports that it was forwarded and opened
by an additional 13 people - a very interesting statistic to have. The
service can also track clickthroughs from your newsletter to your
various sponsors' sites, if you have sponsors. This is another useful
statistic to have for marketing purposes.
-- Pricing. There are three ways services charge. Some charge by the
piece of mail. If you're sending out newsletters or promotions
infrequently, this may be the way to go. The next option is to pay based
on the size of your list. You can send out as much as you want under
this model, but as the list grows, the fee increases. The final model is
paying per month by the total number of messages sent or by the total
number of bytes sent. One provider, Xpedite, which offers a service
called MessageReach.com, also charges each time a recipient downloads a
file that resides on their servers or clicks on a clickthrough link.
It's difficult to give you hard numbers for each of these services,
since they typically have sliding scale pricing. The two things I would
note is that you can avoid set up fees altogether. Most providers don't
charge one. Also, if you don't have your newsletter layout in place, you
can frequently use a template provided by the service provider. Some
charge for this, but most providers that offer templates don't charge.
You'll still have to do considerable customization to the template to
make it look professional, so I would not pay for a template. I'd rather
hire a graphic artist to produce a customized template in the first
Companies to Consider
As I mentioned above, there are many companies that provide this
service. I thought GotMarketing.com did an excellent job of delivering a
first-rate service. Here are others to consider: EMail Labs
(http://emaillabs.com/), Xpedite (http://messagereach.com/), Sparklist
(http://www.sparklist.com/) and Constant Contact
(http://www.constantcontact.com/home.jsp). You can also look at the Open
Part of running a successful business is knowing what to do yourself,
what to hire others to do, and what to outsource altogether. Payroll is
an obvious candidate for outsourcing. Perhaps somewhere in the last six
parts of this series, you decided that, while you really would like to
publish a newsletter, you simply don't have the cycles free to do it
Five Must-Haves for a Successful Newsletter
Even if you decide to outsource your newsletter, you'll still have to
handle many of the functions yourself. A successful newsletter requires
all of the following:
-- A purpose for the newsletter. What will you provide via your
newsletter, other than your weekly specials?
-- A voice. Who will be talking to your subscribers? The voice of
Corporate America is not all that appealing. Personalize it by creating
a likeable voice that will speak to your subscribers. Notice right now,
that I'm not giving you advice in the abstract, I'm talking with you
about this process. Don't have your newsletter talk at the recipients,
have it talk to them.
-- Constant promotion. Rare, indeed, is the newsletter that grows on its
own. If you decide to publish a newsletter, you'll need to promote it
everywhere your business is promoted. Add its name to your signature
file. Offer people a way to subscribe "above the fold" on your home page
and any other pages that search engines rank highly.
-- Content. What will you say on the theme of your newsletter each week
(or whatever interval you publish)? You'll need consistent, high-quality
content that recipients can't get anywhere else or aren't likely to come
-- Distribution. How will you distribute your newsletter? Parts 5 and 6
of this series covered this in detail.
Of the five must-haves I listed above, only the last two really lend
themselves to outsourcing.
Finding Content Providers
There are many places you can look to find people willing to create
content and distribute it for you. I heard from a reader from India who
runs Ezynes.com (http://www.ezynes.com/). For a price you won't match in
the U.S., they'll write the content and do the distribution, or just
write the content. For whatever market you're publishing, make sure the
content rings true and sounds like it was written by a native speaker.
That is one thing that impressed me about the samples this reader sent
me. There was no discernable foreign intonation.
You can also look for writers at eMarketplaces such as eLance.com
(http://www.elance.com/) and Guru.com (http://www.guru.com/). Be sure to
check references and writing samples. Make sure that the person or
company whose services you enlist is able to meet your deadlines and
speak with the voice that you want to convey. If you work with a
company, get a guarantee that you'll work with the same writer every
time. This way, you'll avoid having to train several writers in your
If you continually see the type of content you'd like to provide on a
news and information site such as internet.com, see if you can syndicate
the content. One good thing about syndication is that you're sure the
content will be high quality. That's one of the big "ifs" when
Another place to look for writers is among content experts. To whom do
you look for expertise in your field? Contact them and see if you can't
arrange some combination of pay and barter in exchange for frequent
contributions. You will likely pay more than if you obtained a writer
from eLance.com or Guru.com, but you will also be far more likely to get
content that your readers will be willing to open, read, print, and
There is so much information available for free on the Web that yours
will need to stand out both in terms of quality and in terms of
relevance to keep from being deleted before being read. Tune in next
week for Part 8, which will cover tracking who is reading your
E-mail Newsletter Strategies Conference
I'll be there, will you? Take a look at the speaker list and topics for
this conference. Where else are you going to find so much expertise all
in one place? It's being held in San Francisco on December 3 and 4. I'm
speaking on December 4 at 2:15pm. Please introduce yourself if you're
there. I always like to meet readers in person (mostly to confirm that
you're really out there).
It is not until you send your first e-mail message that you begin to
realize that even the freshest list will contain many undeliverable
addresses. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the E-mail
Marketing/Newsletter Strategies conference in San Francisco, which was
very interesting, and I learned that most lists - even B2B lists - lose
about 30 percent of their addresses in a year. Cleaning up after
undeliverable mail won't just be a problem the first time you send -
although it will probably be more of a problem with the first mailing
than with subsequent mailings - it will be something you have to deal
with every time.
Many Flavors of Bounced Messages
When you send your newsletter, using software like those packages I
reviewed in Part 5 of this series
_910791,00.html), or using an ASP such as one of those I mentioned in
_915201,00.html) or one of the others such as VerticalResponse
(http://www.verticalresponse.com/) or YesMail (http://www.yesmail.com/),
or even using a full-service provider such as Responsys
(http://www.responsys.com/) or BigfootInteractive
(http://www.bigfootinteractive.com/), you'll supply both a FROM address
and a REPLY-TO address for your messages. All automated replies will be
sent to the FROM address. These will include all of the following types
of automated responses:
1) Undeliverable mail - recipient is not in the address book
2) Undeliverable mail - the domain does not exist
3) Undeliverable mail - mailbox is full
4) Out of office or vacation replies
5) "John has left the company, please contact Jane for matters related
6) "John has left the company, you can reach him at ..."
7) "We have not been able to deliver this message for 24 hours. We will
try for three days. You don't need to take any action at this point."
When I first started getting these bounced messages when sending out my
own newsletter, the E-Business Thought Leader, the programmer in me
assumed there must be some way to automate the filtering. I wanted to be
able to unsubscribe those who no longer existed, but who left no
forwarding information, types 1 and 2 above, to ignore types 3, 6, and
7, to automatically change the address for type 5, and to send an
invitation to opt in to type 4. In theory this could be done, if I had
some guarantee that all type 1 and 2 messages, for example, shared a
common subject line or a common format. In fact, as Rich Clayton, vice
president of Responsys observed at the conference, "This is a black
Unique Format for Each ISP
Every ISP generates slightly different subject lines and slightly
different formats for their message. Worse yet, I might blindly delete
messages that I thought were undeliverable, but that actually had
forwarding information. To complicate matters even more, even though I
provided a REPLY-TO address for people who wanted to respond to my
newsletter, not all e-mail clients actually pick up the REPLY -TO
address. Some people who had something to say to me might get their
messages and addresses deleted, or might get filtered into the wrong
box. I learned first-hand the danger of putting off processing the FROM
mailbox when I missed a reminder e-mail message from a radio host on
whose program I was to appear - oops.
Even finding the e-mail addresses of those whose messages were
completely undeliverable is difficult to do in an automated way because
many ISPs return the original message as an attachment, and don't even
include the undeliverable address in the message they automatically send
you. This means you or your software has to open attachments to see whom
to unsubscribe. This rapidly becomes a big, ugly job.
Save Time, Keep Your List Clean
It is definitely to your advantage to keep your list clean. If you're
sending on your own behalf, using your own software, and you're not
paying by the message, then you are still wasting time sending messages
and cleaning out your FROM box. If you're sending from an ASP or
full-service provider who charges by the message, then you're paying for
messages that are being returned to you. If you're monitoring open
rates, click-through rates, or conversion rates, then your denominator
is going to be unnecessarily large, making your rate unnecessarily
small. There are, after all, two ways to increase a fraction: increase
the numerator or decrease the denominator.
Who is reading your newsletter? Don't expect that just because you have a
certain number of e-mail addresses that don't bounce, that your message
is actually reaching the people to whom you're sending it. If your
unsubscribe process is onerous ("click here to change your subscription
profile, then three pages later we'll let you go free") or if your
subscription process appears insincere ("reply to this message with the
word "subscribe" in the subject line") then they may have simply added
you to their blocked senders lists, rather than bothering to unsubscribe
at all. It doesn't do you any good to be sending mail if the mail is
It is relatively easy to tell how many people have opened your newsletter.
With a little bit of server-side programming, you can even tell exactly
who opened your newsletter -- but only if the recipients are receiving
the rich-text version. If you're sending a plain-text version, then it
is impossible to know whether any are opened, unless you can coax the
readers into clicking on a link.
If you are planning to sell sponsorships down the road, you are going to
have to report an open rate, unless your newsletter is entirely in plain text.
What to Track
There are three different things you can track with respect to opens.
In order from easiest to most difficult they are:
--How many unique recipients opened the original newsletter
--How many times the newsletter was opened either by the original
recipient or as a result of forwarding
--Who is opening your newsletter
Tracking the first two are easiest. I would suggest you track them both
so you have some idea of what the potential for pass-along is.
The difference between the first and the second measurement is not
necessarily the number of times the message was forwarded, as some people
will see the message, then open again later when they have time to read it.
However, it will at least give you some idea of how many times the
newsletter is opened. Tracking who is opening your newsletter requires
some basic server-side programming.
How to Track
You can only track messages that are received as rich text. The easiest
way to track is simply to set your Web log-analysis software (WebTrends,
for example, or whatever solution you use) to count the number of times
an image that is unique to that newsletter is requested. I suggest you
create a one-by-one pixel gif with a name like "track-20011221.gif" to
include in your newsletter near the top. The mail client of the recipient
will load it automatically, and you can watch your Web log-analysis
software to see how many times it is requested. This will tell you how
many times the original message is opened by the intended recipient.
If you want to know how many times the newsletter is opened period,
either by the original recipient or as a forwarded message, then use
a tag like the following to request an image that isn't there:
<IMG src="http://www.alexisgutzman.com/images/notthere.gif" height=0 width=0>
Make sure the image notthere.gif is not on the server. By putting a
link to a non-existent image, the mail client will request the image
every time the recipient opens the message, and every time the person
receiving the forwarded message opens it. Put this link near the bottom
of your newsletter. In a mail client that uses Internet Explorer, the
image won't appear because you've set the height and width to zero, but
in any mail software set to use Netscape to render rich text, the
recipient will probably get a small broken image symbol. Netscape apparently
ignores the height and width parameters.
Tracking by Recipient
Finally, if you would like to track who opened your newsletter, then
you need to add some server-side scripting. This is often referred to
derisively as a Web bug.
In order to track opens by recipient, you need three things:
--The ability to do server side processing. I use ColdFusion. You could
just as easily use perl, php, or ASP. As long as you can write data to
a file or a database, then you can do this.
--The file or database to which you're going to write the data. I use SQL
Server, but you can use a simple flat text file, if you want.
--A way to include the e-mail address or the ID number of the recipient
in the link to the image.
Here is an example of a link that will let you capture open information
internet.com&issue=20012021" width=0 height=0 border=0>
Notice that the value of the src parameter is not an image, as you would
expect it to be. Instead, you can call a script with an image tag.
The browser expects you to return an image, but if you don't, then the
next time the newsletter is opened, it will call the script again.
Notice that I'm passing two parameters to the script: the e-mail address
of the recipient, and the date of the newsletter.
Server-Side Processing with ColdFusion
On the server, my ColdFusion script, trackopen.cfm, is adding an entry
to the database for this recipient with a time stamp. I can then go back
and see who opened my newsletter, how many times, and when. In one case,
I noticed that one recipient was in my database 18 times for the same
issue. Clearly, he had forwarded it to others.
This is the ColdFusion for the insertion:
<CFQUERY name="opens" datasource="mydata" dbtype="odbc"> Insert Into
ReaderData (email, issue, UA, click_date, click_time) Values ('#email#',
'#issue#', '#cgi.http_user_agent#', #CreateODBCDate(Now())#,
You might notice that I also collect the user agent of the recipient.
I could also collect the IP address of each recipient. These two fields
would give me additional evidence that the newsletter was forwarded.
Personalization has suffered from the same hype curve that afflicted
mobile commerce. In short, expectations for personalization were so high
that few implementations could measure up. Today, the term
personalization rings warning bells with privacy advocates.
Personalization? How? And where will you get my preferences?
Personalization means everything from the not-very-personal, "Hello,
Alexis. Welcome back," to highlighting an item as this week's special
right on the home page, which I coincidentally left in my shopping cart
the last time I was at that site. Personalization can also include
targeted offers based on the fact that a merchant knows I always shop in
the electronics section of the store. In short, personalization is a
computer-based way to simulate the "Hi, Alexis. Can I get you your
usual?" experience of the visiting the restaurant you frequent.
First Know Something, Then Personalize
Of course, in order to offer customers or subscribers something
familiar, you must first be familiar with them. Frankly, not everyone
wants to or even can do this. If you are selling something in the
newsletter, then it makes sense to try to personalize the offers the
subscribers receive. For example, if you sell sporting goods, you
probably want the team-logo gear you display to be for the local sports
team, rather than for the archrivals of the subscriber's favorite team.
If you are a retailer or a publisher with many categories of products or
news, then you probably want to send subscribers the offers or stories
that will be of most interest to them. The alternative may be that they
unsubscribe because finding the things in which they are interested is
simply too much work.
If you sell ad space in your newsletter, then you should be able to
charge more for highly targeted traffic. Of course, you can only know
how targeted your audience is if you know something about them. For
example, if you publish a health information newsletter, then you can
both serve your readers better and charge your sponsors more if you know
which readers subscribe for information about diabetes, which for
information about cancer, and which for information about nutrition.
What if you publish a newsletter for a floral business? I'm sure there
are vendors who will tell you how important personalization is, but I
wouldn't make that argument. There are simply some types of
communication where personalization will never pay for itself. You'll be
more likely to antagonize possible subscribers by asking them for
personal information when are thinking of subscribing.
When to Collect Information
If you're starting from scratch with a list, then it might make sense to
ask for the bare essentials of personal information you need to
personalize - name, zip code, sex, possibly interests - which will
depend on what kinds of personalization you plan to provide.
If you've already got a list, but you don't have personal information,
then you need to think about what you can offer subscribers in exchange
for the personal information you want to collect. The easiest things to
deliver for consumers is digital content, such as a screen saver that
you've had created for the occasion. For business customers, consider
offering a white paper you've written, a research report you've licensed
for this purpose from a reputable research firm, or a subscription to a
premium service, even if only on a trial basis.
How Much to Collect?
If you think that personalizing will help, then you have to decide
exactly how you're going to do it: overtly (using the recipient's name
or other information he has provided to dictate content); by association
(the recipient has behaved a certain way in the past, so we'll aggregate
him with others who have behaved the same way and send them all the same
version); or truly personalized to show a unique version of the
newsletter based on what we know about him and his previous purchases,
behavior, and interests.
Whichever route you decide to take, be sure not to collect any
information you don't need right away. Readers will leave the
subscription process, or decide against the premium, if you ask for too
much. Also, don't collect any information you're not planning to begin
to use this month. Information changes. Old information can be as bad as
Next week, I'll take you through a comprehensive test plan for your
newsletter. You definitely want to avoid mailing without testing,
because you'll probably have to send out a corrected version. In the
final part of this series, I'll cover lining up sponsors for your
newsletter and valuable resources for newsletter publishers.
Test or Fail
Every newsletter you send is a test of your professionalism, and a
reflection on the competence of you organization. Just like this column.
The fact that the first 249 columns I wrote had no grammatical errors
(actually, readers tell me there was one) doesn't make it okay for this
column to have an error. First-time readers don't care about my track
record (or that of my editors). They would read this, think I'm
careless, and click away.
The same goes for your newsletter.
When it comes to testing your newsletter, think of every single issue as
a pass/fail exam. If you value your readers' time, then don't waste it
by sending out any of the following:
-- Unedited copy. Spell check is a good start, but not enough. Read it
out loud to make sure it sounds good, then go back and check your
homonyms again (you're vs. your, its vs. it's, etc). This is no time to
-- Pointless copy. You'd think that by the time you're testing, you'd
know that the copy had a point to it, but it just isn't so. I can't
think of anyone whose "random musings" are worth my time. How about
yours? Your excitement about sending a newsletter is not of interest to
them. Make it interesting and tell them something of value.
-- Broken links. Try to keep your links short so they don't wrap -
because wrapping will break most links in plain-text e-mail. Test, test,
test. From both inside your firewall and outside.
-- Bad formatting. Be sure to test formatting for both the plain-text
version and the rich-text version. Test on Outlook Express, in Netscape,
in AOL, and in a Web-based e-mail system, such as Hotmail.
-- Rich-text to AOL addresses. Regardless of what subscribers requested,
send AOL addresses plain-text e-mail. Yes, I know about AOL 6 and 7, but
what percentage of AOL users are using them, and what percentage of AOL
users know what "rich-text" means? Look at An AOL Postmaster Guide for
Internet Users (http://postmaster.info.aol.com/) for detailed
information on how to send something other than plain text to AOL
clients, but note that even the MIME header has to be different (see
_901371,00.html) of this series for more on MIME headers).
-- Printing problems. The first few issues of my newsletter went out
without my having tested printing. It turned out that my phone number
(for consulting services) was only half displayed on the printed
version. What a mistake! Make sure the newsletter isn't too wide for a
single sheet of paper with one-inch margins.
-- Broken images. If you're inside a firewall, you might find images
loading without a problem because you're from the same domain. Test from
a dial-up connection.
My favorite newsletter about newsletters is Janet Roberts'
List-Universe.com (http://list-universe.com/). It's daily, and a great
example of what a newsletter should be: a spoonful of relevant
information about a narrow topic. ClickZ (http://www.clickz.com/) also
has many useful columns on newsletter publishing. It's definitely worth
subscribing, if you haven't already.
Now that you've got a newsletter with a few hundred (thousand?)
subscribers, how do you turn that into an attractive marketing
opportunity for sponsors to reach your readers?
Lining up sponsors isn't just about putting ads in your newsletter, it's
about cultivating an entirely new set of customers: sponsors.
Sponsors Are Your New Customers
The first 11 parts of this series have been about making your newsletter
attractive to readers and informative and profitable for you. Sponsors
have entirely different demands from your customers. On the practical
side, sponsors will expect your newsletters to go out when you promise
Sponsors will typically pay more for double opt-in subscribers than for
single opt-in subscribers. Double opt-in is what Internet.com uses -
after providing an e-mail address on the Web site, subscribers have to
reply to an e-mail message in order to be subscribed. This way no one
can inflate the list by subscribing friends. Single opt-in simply
requires subscribers to leave an e-mail address on a Web site, or send a
subscribe message to the administrator.
Subscribers will want to know who your audience is. To some degree, this
will be obvious from the content of the newsletter. A newsletter about
having a healthy pregnancy is probably going out to health-conscious
pregnant (or trying-to-get-pregnant) women. On the other hand, an
e-business newsletter might be going to senior executives with Fortune
1000 companies, or middle managers, or even students in business school
who want to learn more.
In order for you to tell sponsors who subscribes, you have to ask
readers. There are several ways to go about collecting this information.
You can require subscribers to give you some personal information when
they subscribe - perhaps company name, industry, and size, and their own
title and department. However, this might keep some people from
subscribing in the first place. You can also run promotions and
sweepstakes in exchange for extensive personal information. For example,
offer an eBook chapter on a book that's relevant to the newsletter or a
chance to win a PDA in exchange for full contact information.
What Do Sponsors Want?
Sponsors want to reach an interested audience in their target market.
There are many ways to keep an audience engaged. The best way is to
offer high quality writing on topics that are relevant to the
readership, with specific, actionable advice in every issue. Another
trick (notice that this is Part 12 of this series) is to publish
multi-part series so that readers will anticipate the next issue, save
them all for later reference, and anyone who comes across one part will
naturally go looking for the rest of the series.
An engaged reader will open the newsletter, trust the writer, and be
likely to take the advice of the writer. Any ad that appears in this
context is going to have more credibility than an ad that appears on a
page with an article that's unattributed. Readers assume that the
publisher they trust wouldn't run ads for lousy products or services.
How to Deliver Maximum Value to Sponsors?
Are you going to promote the sponsors' products? What would that do to
your credibility? Would it really make a difference to the sponsor?
Chances are they don't expect you to plug their solutions. On the other
hand, if you have the opportunity to set up a free trial account with
them (or they send you a sample of their product) and you like it, you
can certainly mention it (occasionally) in context, without risking your
The value you provide your sponsors will be getting their message in
front of a qualified audience in a credible format. Your sponsor will
want to see open rates and click-through rates for their ads, but the
success of the ad can't be based on a single click-through number. I
heard from Brett Hurt, Chairman of Coremetrics, after a prospective
client told him he had heard about his solution from my book The
E-Commerce Arsenal. Would that be the publishing equivalent of a
click-through? How many companies' purchase decisions has the book
influenced? It would be impossible to count, since in many organizations
the decision maker wouldn't even know how his staff came up with a short
list of vendors.
For larger solutions and most B2B applications click-through rates
aren't the goal. Most large B2B sales require either on-site visits or
at least conversations between multiple parties in both organizations.
If you're selling digital music, count click-throughs. If you're selling
enterprise solutions, the math is more complex than that. Sponsors
should know that.
Where to Find Sponsors?
You should have three criteria in mind when you line up sponsors:
1) Their target audience overlaps with your subscribers.
2) They have a product or service to sell.
3) They have a marketing budget.
The first two are easy to discern. The third is much trickier. Even if
they don't have an online marketing budget, you can get them to move
money between media, but if there's no money for marketing, then you
can't get a slice of it.
Think of the kinds of problems your readers need to solve in conjunction
with the problems your newsletter helps them solve. If you write about
CRM, approach CRM vendors. If you write about gardening, approach
The Media Kit
The standard format for selling your sponsors on your newsletter is a
media kit. Check out the ones available from other publications in your
industry. A typical media kit will show statistics about the readership,
provide the number of subscribers, the specs for submitting an ad (text
or graphics), the deadlines, and the cost. Expect to negotiate on cost.
Most media kits list wildly inflated prices for running ads, and then
are willing to negotiate (buy two, get two free or buy a subscription,
get banner ads included, etc.) in order to avoid having an issue run
without any ads at all.
Don't be afraid to give some ad space away to convince potential
sponsors of the value of the space. Make sure, however, that the space
you give away is going to someone with a marketing budget. Otherwise,
you're just giving the space away.
In September of last year I thought I would write a three-part series on
publishing a newsletter, capitalizing my own experience launching a
newsletter over last summer. Three parts quickly grew into twelve parts.
I know that many of you have used this information because of all the
quality newsletters that have started appearing in my inbox.
This series could easily have been 24 parts, but I wanted to move onto
all the other interesting topics I usually cover - alternative payments,
business intelligence software, CRM, marketing technology,
content-management tools, and viral marketing.
About the Author:
Alexis D. Gutzman is an author, speaker, and consultant on e-business
and e-commerce topics. She's the producer of The Online Marketing Report
(http://www.alexisgutzman.com/research/index.cfm). Her most recent book,
The E-commerce Arsenal: 12 Technologies You Need to Prevail in the
1-3/103-0154579-5164653), was named one of the 30 best business books of
this year. For up-to-date information about her research and speaking
engagements, visit The Alexis Gutzman Group's Web site