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Our newsletter this month focuses on helpful tips to engage your readers, when to connect with them, and keeping your relationship clean with simple ethics reminders. We know that you will think about email marketing in a fresh way after reading this month’s tips and you may see your relationship with your readers in a whole new way. Also, check out our special offers this month at the bottom of this email!


In This Months Newsletter:

• How To Attract Readers With Your Email Newsletter
• Sending Emails: Is There A Best Time?
• A Simple But Effective Video On Ethics:


How To Attract Readers With Your Email Newsletter:

What do email marketing and romance have in common? Plenty, in our opinion. For one, reaching out to a customer or prospect online is a lot like being on a first date, where you're not sure if there will be a second. Except, if you're running an email campaign, you could possibly be on your last date every single time, because, let's be honest, it's not that hard to click on "unsubscribe."

So here's what we're suggesting today – take a few minutes to get out of your marketing mindset. Instead, imagine how you might engage someone on a date, and you might come away with some new insights on how to keep subscribers committed (i.e. subscribed) to your email newsletters.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Don't Hog The ConversationDon't Hog The Conversation:

Think of your newsletter as a conversation starter, where you introduce a topic and let readers jump in with their contributions wherever possible. Focus on drumming up interest, rather than comprehensive coverage. Here's why, say if you're running an advice or How-To column and attempting to cover all bases, readers may feel they have nothing left to add apart from "Great article!" or "Really helpful tips!", and you'll lose the opportunity to introduce interactivity to your content and gain new perspectives from your readers. A good way of making sure you're not saying too much is by setting a word count limit and sticking to it.

Feed That Ego:

You can't go wrong by making someone feel special, and there are many ways to do this. Take contests, for example. In a typical e-newsletter contest (or online contest, for that matter), readers are made to answer an idiot-proof question about a company's product or service, and winners are selected at random. Although a list of winners is usually published in the following issue, it's unlikely to generate much excitement (unless you're giving away a whopper of a prize) or give anyone a sense of achievement. Now, think about those contests that require readers to work a little, e.g. submit the best caption/story/picture to win! If you want to make a star out of your reader, this is the way to go – let your readers shine by showing off their wit, ingenuity and creativity, and they'll love you for it and keep coming back for more.

Say It With WordsGrow A Personality:

There are good newsletters and there are bad newsletters, but even worse than the bad newsletter is the newsletter that no-one remembers. And to be remembered, you need personality. There are two ways to decide on your newsletter's "personality". If you know your target audience well (and every marketer should), think of a few keywords that would describe their personality (e.g. "prim and proper" or "zany and fun-loving") and write and design your newsletters accordingly. The second way is to play up your strengths, i.e. if you're not bursting with wisecracks, don't try to turn your newsletter into a stand-up comedy routine. Instead, focus on what you're great at, whether it's your experience and industry knowledge ("wise and authoritative") or your knack for breaking down tricky information and mind-boggling concepts into bite-size pieces ("clever and insightful").

Be Original:

Don't mail out a newsletter that looks just like the rest of the competition. At every step of the way – from deciding on a theme to planning articles and designing – ask yourself how you can do something in a way that is entirely yours. A good place to find inspiration is Marketing Sherpa's list of Email Marketing Award Winners. One of their '07 winners won hearts with their inventive feature headlines, such as "Does Your Web Site Taste Like Chicken?" Others offered designs that readers couldn't resist. And you're not limited to text and graphics – you can find creative ways to incorporate media (we've got a few video ideas right here).

Reach Out:

Companies don't reach out to people – people do. And blogs are a surprisingly effective way of revealing your company's human side. If you decide to run a blog, you can have it work hand-in-hand with your newsletter, by featuring extended versions of your newsletter articles that readers can leave comments on. Keep the tone casual and steer clear of the negative (e.g. customer horror stories), unless you're positive you can pull it off by, say, being terribly funny.

Say It With WordsHave Fun (Or At Least Try):

When was the last time you had fun with your newsletter? If you can't remember, it's likely your readers aren't having a ball of a time either. It's important to challenge yourself when you create a newsletter, so you don't run into a content dead end. If you look hard enough, you'll find there's always a way to do something differently. For example, if you feel certain articles in your newsletter archives were good but failed to generate reader interest or participation, you can think of how they might be repackaged for a fresh run. This can include changing the headline, summarizing and re-organizing the article, or simply applying a more eye-catching design or adding media.

And here's our final tip:

Put your readers first. Use our A/B split test function. Find out what subject lines turn them on and off, when they're more likely to open their mails, and more. If this doesn't win them over, we don't know what will.

Sending Emails: Is There A Best Time?

Video in Email Marketing

If you've been wondering when to send out your newsletter, you're not alone.

Back in '04, at least two prominent studies concluded that a Monday morning (6-10am) mail-out would get you the highest open rates, and apparently, if you couldn't make Monday, Tuesday wasn't half bad either.  The result? Email marketers fell over themselves and worked weekends to deliver a Monday morning newsflash, only to discover a year later that emails sent on Wednesdays through Fridays were enjoying the most clicks.

After that, it seemed no-one could agree.  Some argued that end-of-the-workweek or even weekend mailers were potentially more effective because of the lack of competing emails coupled with the relaxed mindset of readers, others claimed Tuesdays to Thursdays gave the best results, while the rest returned to their Monday delivery schedule.

As for time of sending, the assumption was that your email is likelier to get read at 9am, 12pm and 4pm, because those confined to work desks are either a) still settling in; b) getting ready for lunch; or c) winding down for the day. An electronics retailer tested these timings early this year and found 9am to be the clear winner.  The results were posted by MarketingSherpa, and it remains to be seen if this statistic will hold up after online marketers scurry to implement the 9am send.

Our advice?  Forget the research and conduct your own investigations.

Here's how:

#1 View your last five sent campaigns' open-and-click rates, and note the day and time these campaigns were sent.  Or find out what time your mail was read and the links clicked on, and whittle it down to the most popular timings, taking into account time zone differences.

#2 Carry out an A/B Split Test – set two different send schedules for your test group of readers (say Monday 9am for Group A, and Friday 4pm for Group B), and compare your campaign's open-and-click rates. (For best results, ensure that recipients in your test groups are in the same time zone or location.)

#3 Know your audience – use eConnect Email reporting functions to see a breakdown of your audience by location; find out about typical working hours and national holidays, and adjust your send dates and times accordingly.

Marketers have also suggested looking at each subscriber's sign-up or view-and-click time and customizing delivery times to match, although the strategy has been criticized as reading too much into a single random event.  To me, this is just plain ridiculous.

Once you've obtained your results, make a decision on your send times and stick with it until you feel compelled to conduct a round of tests again.  It's probably better to focus your energies on producing a newsletter that subscribers will want to read, not whether it lands in their mailboxes at midday or midnight.

A Simple But Effective Video On Ethics:

Cathie Dodd from Tears Of Joy video did this simple but effective video on list building ethics.

Video in Email Marketing

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