Friday, February 23, 2007

A newsletter is for life, not just for sales

Some years ago, one of my first email newsletter clients was
a mail order company selling clothing made from ethically
traded materials. I was delighted to have the chance to work
with these people as I admired their approach. There was a
genuine enthusiasm and sense of commitment about what they
were doing.

My mind was buzzing straight away about their email newsletter.
There was just so much material we could include: profiles
of the cotton farmers, features about fair trade, about the
production process, about fabric care, about the staff who
fulfilled the orders ... I knew we would never be short of
good content.

However, the business owner was only interested in one type
of content, which was basically 'buy our T-shirts:
long-sleeved £12, short-sleeved £8, new in this month:
sweats just £15...' For him, the object of the newsletter
was simply to deliver clickthroughs and thereby sales.

I felt that this was a mistake. Of course, the newsletter
should feature the products, and sales was the overall
objective. But a big part of the products' appeal was about
being made from fairly traded, natural fabrics and sold
by a small, actively involved company. An email newsletter
was the perfect vehicle to talk up those aspects of the
business, enthuse customers and encourage loyalty and advocacy.

The most successful email newsletters are the electronic
equivalent of the old days when people used to go into shops,
have a chat with the person behind the counter about their
kids, the weather, the price of fish, the new fridge he'd
had installed ... and then buy stuff. It's not just about
your products and services. It's about showcasing what's
different about your business, building a relationship,
establishing trust - altogether a solid base for sales and

After just one newsletter, the ethical clothing client and
I parted company, and I learned an important lesson about
managing client expectations. Undoubtedly, to reap the best
returns from an email newsletter you need to commit to a
long term plan - failure to see the big picture is a wasted

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