Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Thoughts On Newsletters

Think of the Customer
Appropriate Usage: Lapsed

Think of the Customer
It may be surprising, but as an email marketer I find newsletters to be inappropriate in roughly 80% of the cases. It comes up a lot- because I think we can all agree that historically, when people think email marketing- they usually think of newsletters. It is one of the early uses of the medium, to finally digitize the mimeographed neighborhood newsletters from the 70s. They have a lot of juicy content in them, they’re educational, so what’s not to like? Most of my criticisms can be wrapped up into: people sending newsletters are not thinking of the customer.

The goal to a happy converting, churning customer base is communicating with your customer with relevant information, maintaining the relationship, over time, to ensure loyalty. You have to be sensitive to who they are, how they transact with you, etc.

So an example is my local liquor store guy a few doors down from my apartment. I go in once in a while, get cookies, milk, we talk about the Giants, etc. He does not tell me everything that has happened to him in the last week. He remembers me, he may bring up something about our last visit or a conversation we had before. It’s relevant to our interactions. Sure it’s easier for him to list off the highlights to each customer and not change the speech, but I’d think he was kind of crazy. Interesting note regarding personalization- I don’t think he knows my name, but he knows my Dad (they also talk about the Giants and Iraq).*

So to draw the analogy- segmenting your newsletter into those that are interested in sports, don’t drink alcohol, and have a serious sweet tooth. By then, you might as well go the whole 9 yards and make it a semi-promotional, semi-educational automatic transactional campaign. Sneak an offer in there- free liquor store t-shirt. (For some reason this guy refuses to give me one- he gives everyone in the neighborhood one! That would really ensure my loyalty. In fact, I’d probably *pay* for a t-shirt now, just to be in the club!)

But the occasional news bomb– not very effective. It’s easier for him, and that’s why companies like newsletters. Funny thing is aggregating all that content is not easy. So you rarely find someone actually writing the newsletters that think it’s a good idea.

I’ve received about 10 consultant and small business newsletters that use Constant Contact and their templates. In each case it has been hard to figure out how/when/why I was on the distribution list. MailChimp has a great post about it today in ‘Don’t Assume We Know You.’

“We see this countless times at MailChimp. Companies are in a rush to “blast their customers” with some offer, or some exciting (to whom?) company news, and they don’t consider that the majority of their recipients will simply get the email and ask, “Who the @#$% Are You, And How’d You Get My Email?”"

Many of these newsletters would benefit from thinking of their customer- and of course reintroducing the interaction “You signed up in May 2002 for xyz” would be the basic information but you could wordsmith it better. I almost deleted a newsletter from a very good career coach, who could have easily made the connection with me- “You signed up at a WITI conference in 2005″ etc. I mean, she got the emails from somewhere, couldn’t she have kept track of it? When she uploaded the email list to Constant Contact, call it something like “WITI 2005″. Then, create a separate wireframed content bit that introduces each newsletter:
“Happy Spring! I haven’t seen you since the WITI Conference in 2005, but I wanted to let you know what has been going on with XYZ!”

Appropriate Usage: Lapsed
A colleague recently brought me round with a good example of using newsletters. It creates community- and works really well with very inactive, lapsed segments. Like the liquor store example- if I moved away, and visited the liquor store randomly one summer day, I’d love to hear what this guy had been up to. That is totally appropriate. And from a budget perspective, creating little emails to send to these inactives every two weeks doesn’t make a lot of sense.

* Great bit in Email Marketing by the Numbers- that first name personalization is so overused now that it’s generally ignored. Personalization by transactions are far more effective, and referrals and social networks, that this guy knows my Dad, furthers loyalty.

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Written on Wednesday, 23. May 2007 at 12:37 In the category Basics, campaigns. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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