How Do You Like Your Email Marketing?

October 28, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

I used to subscribe to a lot of email newsletters. I’m forever curious and I like being informed. Problem is I never actually read most of them. They didn’t do anything for me. They’re weren’t useful, they didn’t engage me, they didn’t offer any great value, and, frankly, the content wasn’t that impressive. Don’t send me a giant image about your 20 percent off sale or lump 50 movie times together. THAT’S NOT SEXY!

Of course, I never unsubscribed from any of these newsletters. That takes effort and would be rude. Instead, I’d just delete them as they rolled into my inbox and silently take note of how annoying the company was. Yes, Big Brand, I kept seeing your name appear in my email and I ignored you. And sometimes, I even resented you. Just a bit, though. Then I changed jobs and work emails. Muahaha!

It’s really sad to see people abuse email newsletters or just get purely lazy with them. Because email marketing is still really powerful and a great customer retention tool.

Email newsletters:

  • Promote top of mind and brand recognition
  • Give you a more personal forum than RSS because email is more personal
  • Can take people “behind the scenes” for whatever you’re doing
  • Encourage people to click back to your site
  • Often convert better than RSS

But they only do that if people are opening them and interacting with your content.

I’m in a bit of a sharing mood today, so I don’t really want to spew out all the things that are wrong with most email newsletters or shout out a list of 10 things to include. Instead, I thought I’d focus on two email newsletters that I think get it “right” by providing strong benefits and being smart enough to know what their customers want. It’s possible one is a bit biased, but I’ll let you decide.

I know, I know, you’re tired of hearing about how “right” Chris Brogan is doing things. I get it. But have you read his newsletter? The first time I received Chris’ newsletter it was right after we had met at Affiliate Summit East and it took me two paragraphs to realize it WAS a newsletter and he didn’t just write me a long note. Because that’s how it reads – like a handwritten letter to an old friend. It’s warm and it’s engaging, there’s lots of “our” usage and it makes you feel like he’s having this chat with you over hot chocolate and a warm cookie. And roll your eyes at that all you want, IT WORKS.

I will open Chris’ newsletter the moment it hits my mailbox, because it’s not “marketing” it’s a letter from a friend and a brand that I have a relationship with. And that’s the whole damn point of email marketing – to build a bridge with people. People buy from people they know and these newsletters make you feel like you know Chris, but even more, that he knows you. Trust Agents? Yep, I bought it.

Bruce Clay, Inc’s SEO Newsletter

[Full disclosure: I worked for Bruce Clay for almost three years and wrote the newsletter during a chunk of that time. That said, I haven’t worked there in over a year, I didn’t come up with the tone/format and if I hated the newsletter (or the company), frankly, I’d tell you. I’m a crappy liar.

The Bruce Clay, Inc. newsletter is not warm and fuzzy. You won’t feel any more personally connected to the company no matter how long you’re subscribed. You don’t get any bits of the author.

However, what the newsletter does is associate Bruce Clay, Inc. as a company that knows their stuff, that is good at providing information, and that is helpful without being in your face. And if you’re a service provider with a strong brand behind you, sometimes that’s all you’re trying to do – remind people of your authority. I like the Bruce Clay, Inc. newsletter for very different reasons than Chris Brogan’s newsletter. I don’t want a personal relationship with Bruce Clay, Inc. (um, no offense guys. BFFs for life, really.), I just want the information and they probably recognize that that’s how most of their readers feel. They don’t want to go out to dinner with you. They just want to eat. Their newsletter is about keeping top of mind and building on their expertness. And I think it does a really good job of that.

Yes, both newsletters make it easy to subscribe, unsubscribe and to share, all the tenants of good email marketing, but they also share content in a way that makes you want to read it. Your newsletter should offer a benefit to your readers, the way that they want to receive it. Chris’s audience expects that hand-holdy feeling from him. That’s why they interact with him. People engaging with the Bruce Clay, Inc. brand are probably more after the hard information, because that’s what their about.

Okay, now I have a favor to ask.  Ready?

I want to hear about the email newsletters you like and why you like them, if you’re willing to share. It’s possible I’m trying to get ideas for future Outspoken Hoot and Holler email. That’s like a newsletter, but with more street cred.  Oh, and if you are interested in a What To Do/Not Do post on email marketing, check out an old SEOmoz post from Rebecca.


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