The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Creative Tips For Email Newsletter

Creativity and innovation can make or break your e-publication.  With an online platform, you must write copy and include dynamic content that will stimulate the reader’s attention and, ideally, convince them to forward the message to colleagues and friends widening your readership.  

Below are tips to remind you to cover the basics and explore the publication’s creative side.   

  • Use an HTML template and a text version to ensure your reader’s receive the message. 

  • Implement a double-opt in policy for all subscribers—it’s just good practice.

  • Don’t include long articles, multi-column layouts, unrelated links or gratuitous images.  Keep writing simple and to the point. 

  • Don’t overuse links.  Keep them relevant and make sure they work.

  • Use bulleted lists to break up text and summarize main points for the reader. 

  • Include only two - three subjects per newsletter. More than a few articles will test your audience’s attention span. 

  • Use Variable Data Printing (VDP) to personalize the message (i.e. using your data points to address the message as “Dear Mike” instead of “Dear Sir”).  A small gesture that can lead to higher response rates. 

  • Dynamic content leads to dynamic messages.  Customize the message by region, reader preferences, age or other demographics.  You collected the data for a reason, now use it.

  • Send a welcome message to new subscribers. Give them a reason to praise your customer service and attention to detail. 

  • Include a survey or poll into the message. It is a quick tool to gather general data and include your reader in the message. 

  • Use the expertise available to you.  Brainstorm with staff members who have interaction with your readers and may understand their needs, use the knowledge of your marketing team and call on your email service provider for advice and guidance. 

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Building Lists Organically

Part one in a three-part series

The majority of email marketers are missing a significant source for quality leads in the form of co-registration. It is a cost-effective, efficient way to encourage readers to opt-in to a variety of lists while still giving them the opportunity to personalize their selections—a major demand among readers.

Co-registration is when the recipient can subscribe to multiple lists at one time. Typically, marketers brand a “thank-you” page with check boxes of other electronic publications that the reader may opt to join before a recipient completes the subscription process.  The seemingly simple process has many advantages.  

  • It can increase the number of subscribers.
  • It promotes your lists to readers outside of your typical sphere of influence. 
  • It is inexpensive (although we recommend researching services and costs from different providers).

Co-registration can also open the door to other industries and potential partners.  For example, you may be able to work with an established publisher to add your e-zine to their co-registration list and radically increase your subscribers.  There are a few warnings about setting up a co-registration process.  First, is to make sure you have room in your budget for it. It will not make a big dent, but you should understand the costs before venturing into the process.  Also, be sure that the auto-responder feature of your e-zine will accept new subscribers via this method.   

Stay tuned for information on other methods to build your list organically in the next issue of E-ssentials. 

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Outlook 2007 Posing Old Challenges for Email Marketers

As technology and software advances, it is supposed to make our lives easier, right? In most cases, yes, but the latest version of Microsoft Outlook is an exception.  It could cause problems for email marketers unaware of the differences between the 2006 and 2007 editions.

The reasons behind the step backwards are not 100 percent clear, but it seems the problem resides in the lackluster rendering ability that will alter the way messages appear in recipients’ inboxes.

The 2007 version doesn’t support new design elements marketers have worked hard to incorporate into their messages including background images, forms, flash or other plugins or animated GIFs.  The consensus among experts is that Outlook will strip out images and restrict animation or “motion.”

The bottom line is not to panic and to start developing a plan now to deal with the change and potential problems. Many companies have not made the switch to Microsoft 2003 from 2000, so don’t expect an overwhelming migration to the 2007 version.  Instead, use the following recommendations to prepare:

  • Simplify the structure and composition of messages.  You can’t go wrong with a simple, elegant design.

  • Update your template.  If you haven’t updated your HTML template in the last 18 – 24 months, review it, identify and resolve potential problems.

  • Encourage in-house HTML and graphic designers to get the details of these changes and suggestions from Microsoft by clicking here.

  • Test your messages with multiple accounts including the top consumer email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail). 

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2007 - The Year of the Mailman In Email Marketing

Recently Gold Lasso has been receiving a large influx of sales leads from the not so usual suspects in email marketing.  The diversity of leads range from the local flower shop to an oil and gas driller.  One major thing these atypical email marketers share is that they are completely clueless about where to begin.  They are baffled by the efforts involved with list building and maintenance, legal compliance and content development.  Many of them just want to cut corners and "blast" their way to success.  It's the old mentality that most experienced email marketers went through in the late 90's.   There is one very interesting trend that can be decifered from the surge of newbies entering the industry.  Commercial email has become so mainstream that consumers are starting to expect it from businesses they interact with on an daily basis.

What scares me is that legitimate commercial email has become so commonplace, the value is driven down by shear clutter.  Just as you know it's time to sell your stocks when your mailman told you he bought into the market, is it time to shift away from email?  Nah!  It's too addicting.

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Your Whitelist Action Plan

Plans dominate the association business these days. Without clearly defined goals and well-developed tactics to achieve them, associations waste valuable funds and staff resources. In no other area is this truer than in marketing.   How do you develop targeted messages while staying within a pre-determined budget? The answer is not always clear, but the widespread use of email marketing has helped associations expand their reach, personalize messages and lower costs.  If email is not a major component of your marketing plan it should be.

The path to successful email marketing should include the steps that constitute the “Whitelist Action Plan.” The action plan is designed to focus on a major hurdle all marketers face—deliverability.   Understanding your audience, branding the components of your message, getting on white lists, avoiding blacklists and creating trustworthy content are all ways to increase your delivery rates.

Back to Basics
Email is a major force in the marketing industry and the number of email users continues to rise at impressive rates.  According to e-marketer, approximately 147 million people in the United States alone use email almost every day. Of those, 88 percent have personal email accounts and 46 percent have email access at work. It is hard to dispute the numbers—email is here to stay.

The result of a fast growing industry and the marketers that abused it was Federal regulation and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. The main point was to reduce misleading messages, scams and unethical marketing practices.  “CAN-SPAM is a complex law that requires marketers to re-evaluate their email programs,” said Cynthia Allen, a marketing consultant for the Competency & Credentialing Institute. “Associations now have to ensure their IP addresses are not blocked because they are flagged as a spammer.”

“White” and “black” lists have emerged as a way for email providers to help customers control SPAM. A whitelist is “is a list of contacts that the user deems are acceptable to receive email from and should not be sent to the trash folder.”   Too many SPAM complaints earn you a spot on a blacklist. “There are simple ways to make sure that you don’t get blacklisted,” Allen said. “The best thing to do, though, is to check some of the more common sites or work with your email service provider to periodically monitor your IP status. It just makes sense.”

Details Dominate the Action Plan The devil is in the details with email marketing. To increase deliverability and avoid blacklists marketers need to focus on four main steps.

Know your Audience
It might be the most important mantra of the marketing industry, know your audience, and it is no different for email-based campaigns. “One of the first things CCI did was to look at who the audience was and how they respond to email,” Allen said. “Our main audience is certified nurses that are tech savvy, but are usually not sitting in front of a computer all day. That was important to know before we launched into an email marketing effort.”  Many associations conduct member surveys that link questions to general marketing analysis—How do you prefer to receive information from ABC association? What content is most valuable to you as a member?  “We implemented a quarterly survey of new certificants and found that many had not even received our monthly e-update or didn’t know CCI even had one,” Allen said. “We immediately did an audit of the program to see where the problem was and fixed it.”  Another important step is to educate recipients on how to approve a sender for delivery. Not everyone is confident in their ability to manage their email inboxes. A simple message explaining how to approve the association as a sender goes a long way.

Brand your Message
Keeping all email messages consistent with the association’s brand identity will increase delivery.  Alison Chandler, marketing associate for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), said her organization benefited from keeping the “from” field and email address consistent with their overall brand.  “I think it is important for the association to keep their email address and ‘from’ name consistent to make sure that members will recognize who the message is coming from,” Chandler said. “All our messages come from ‘AAAS Member Services’ and the email address is always 'announcements at members-aaas dot org.'In some cases, AAAS will send a message from the Chief Executive Officer or other staff member, but it is always matches the AAAS brand.

Take Advantage of Technology
Initially, you should select an email service provider (ESP) that can at a minimum help you track and monitor your campaigns, manage your lists and bounces, provide technological support and stay compliant with SPAM laws. Your ESP can also guide you through the maze of technology that can help you avoid blacklists and get through SPAM filters and into inboxes.  A few tips can help you maximize your email marketing efforts. First, run your message through a SPAM analysis tool to see if it breaks any SPAM rules. Second, test your message with different email addresses.

“Before I send out a message, I send it to three or four other accounts that have different SPAM filters,” Chandler said. “I send to my AAAS account, Yahoo! , Hotmail, Gmail, and sometimes one or two other accounts to make sure it gets through and to see how it looks in each email client.”  Finally, monitor your IP status frequently. Work with your ESP to keep your IP off blacklists. A simple Internet search results in sites that can check your IP status online. The best way to keep your IP in good standing is to have a different IP address from your ESP’s other clients. Too often, ESPs will lump clients onto one IP address so when one client is blacklisted, so are all the others.

Content is Key “It also helps to write good content. If you provide quality content, people are more likely to view your email as a valuable and trusted source,” Chandler said. It is the association’s sole responsibility to make sure the content going out to members is valuable. Building a reputation as a valuable source for information is essential to higher delivery rates.  “The information has to have some value to the reader,” Allen said. “It can be as simple as an important reminder, like a voting or registration deadline, or it can be more complex like an analysis of recent research. Either way, you can’t send fluff.”

Planning for the Future
Deliverability becomes even more important as technology advances and more people rely on email and the Internet for their main source of information from the association. Taking the time to delve into the details will ensure your messages are delivered and, ultimately, acted upon.


Top 10 tips to better delivery

Always send a MIME version of the message—a combo of HTML and text—unless the recipient specifies otherwise.

• Avoid using attachments and provide a link to an online file.

• Have your ESP or legal counsel review your practices to ensure you are compliant with regulation.

• Request subscribers add marketers to a “safe-list” or “add to the address book.”

• Use a concise subject line (no more than 40 – 60 characters).

• Don’t use sensationalized headlines or overuse capitalization or punctuation.

• Accurately portray your name/organization in the “from” field.

• Avoid over use of images.

• Check the content with a spam checker.

• Test the message with dummy accounts.

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The Email Monetization Playbook
Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!

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Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!