Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Corporate e-Newsletter Initiative – How to go about it?

If you are thinking of starting up a e-newsletter activity at corporate level then below are few tips that might help you in the course. I have divided a newsletter activity in three phases viz. planning, construction and distribution.

Planning phase

1. Attention grabbing name

The name of the newsletter should grab attention of the audience. If your brand is highly recognizable in your business community then only use that name. If that is not the case then use any other name that will represent the aim of your newsletter. For example, if you are starting a newsletter for cloud services then have the name something as ‘Envisioning the Cloud’.

2. Decide your target audience

It is not always possible to have different newsletters for different segments of your market due to budget and resource constraints. In that case you will have to choose your first market segment that you will serve as a pilot campaign. Based on its success you can go on adding segments in current newsletter or starting different newsletters for each category.

3. Subscribers database

To be able to send newsletter to your target audience you should have their contact details available in the form of database. The required details are name and email whereas designation, company name, industry, city, phone etc. are good to have information about your suspects and prospects.

It is advisable to have the list that is organically built from scratch on your own. The rented lists may violate SPAM ACT and your company may face legal issues.

4. Decide medium for e-newsletter

You can have either of web, email or PDF format for your corporate e-newsletter activity.
In web newsletter your content pages (HTML files) are published over internet so that those can be accessed by billions of potential people around the globe.

In email newsletter your HTML page is emailed to your prospects. If you have many article pages in that release of newsletter then you write a summary about each article and provide a URL for detailed article on your website in your email.

Note: In case of email newsletter it is very important to check the template for accuracy on all email platforms such as Outlook, Thunderbird, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, Gmail etc. You can find free and quality email newsletter templates at http://www.campaignmonitor.com/templates/ and http://freemailtemplates.com. Select and download the best suited template for your company and change logo, name and other things.

In PDF newsletter format you have to email a PDF file through email or provide a link in your email for the file through which your subscribers can download it.

5. Decide subscription and unsubscribe management method

If you are using third party services such as www.mailchimp.com, www.constantcontact.com and www.verticalresponse.com then you don’t have to worry as these services has builtin feature that takes care of this. But if you are using any desktop software or managing your subscription list in MS Office Excel (however, this is not advisable) then you have to be very particular about managing the subscription and unsubscribed users list. As a part of your process you may want to check the unsubscribe request before every newsletter release and avoid sending your corporate newsletter to those individuals. Remember, sending unsolicited mails and newsletter is illegal.

Construction phase

1. Topics for you to cover in your newsletter.

There is no hard and fast rule about what you should cover in your newsletter. After all it your newsletter hence you are free to write anything you want. Just remember one thing that your prospects and customers are going to read it. So if you write things that don’t interest them then they will simply stop reading your newsletters shunting the objective of starting this complete initiative of having a dialogue. If you want to have a clue kindly refer my earlier post at http://www.mandarthosar.com/2011/04/corporate-e-newsletter-topic-guide.html.

2. Write your newsletter content objectively

There is no doubt that newsletter activity is about promoting your company’s product and services but it should not look like a sales brochure. It should promote your products and services subtly without losing objectivity of the article in corporate newsletter. So you can have an article on ‘Best practices for developing softwares’ and within that talk about how you follow industry best standards without yelling how good you do it.

3. Try to express, not impress

The purpose of a corporate newsletter is to connect with your prospects and customers. Connection can happen only through expressing your company philosophy, attitude, work style, methodology and culture. You should sound casual yet respectful and conversational. Don’t use too much of jargons when simple words will express the same meaning.

4. Front page to draw in readers

The front page of your corporate newsletter i.e. your HTML email that lands in inbox of your prospects and suspects should contain interesting and useful articles. Many will decide whether to read it or put it in trash based on what they read and absorb in first 5-10 seconds. Also remember that articles and news that are important to you might not be important to your subscribers. So think from their perspective.

5. Proof read, proof read

When you write and write-off several times you unknowingly sow grammatical errors and sometimes typos. Sending a newsletter without proof reading it would be looked upon as unprofessional. And with your newsletter you are representing your company. So proof read yourself, get it proof read through somebody else and precautionary proof read third time from somebody outside your organization (may be your friend). Ask them if they understood the meaning and message properly through what you have written. After every change repeat the process.

6. Catchy subject line

Every newsletter release is like a new soccer or cricket match in a knockout tournament. If you want to win then you have to win every game. You will be successful only if your subscribers open your newsletter and read the content. That will only happen when you have creative headline for your corporate newsletter that will entice your audience to take out time to click and read in their favorite email client.

Below are the few DON’Ts for your subject line
  • Don’t use more than 50 characters in subject line
  • Don’t use words (such as free, discount and great etc.) that might just trigger spam filters of your readers email client.
  • Don’t use all caps for your subject line

Distribution phase

1. Whether do it yourself or outsource

If you are comfortable with handling every operational issue with respect to distribution then I will recommend that you should do it yourself. But if you are not confident then you can simply outsource it. There are many good service providers available in the market.

Your decision of doing it yourself or outsource can be based on following points.
  • Subscription management (opt-in and double opt-in)
  • Spam score check
  • Rendering issue with different email clients
  • Un-subscription management
  • Tracking (open and click-through rate reports)

2. Frequency of release

Many feels that a newsletter should be released at fixed interval such as monthly, quarterly etc. But I think you should have newsletter when you have news that is worth reading for your prospects, customers and stakeholders. Having a monthly newsletter with uninteresting stuff will your audience off which you don’t want to happen for sure.

3. Don’t leave it in between

Last suggestion – be consistent with your corporate newsletter initiative. Any initiative takes time to mature so don’t get impatient and don’t demand results too early.

With all my inputs I wish all the very best for your corporate newsletter activity.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Corporate E-Newsletter Topic Guide

7 out of 10 marketing people wish to have their own corporate e-newsletter. They have management will, internal staff support and database of suspects, prospects, customers and other stake holders with them. What they don’t have is the technical knowledge of electronic distribution (which is very easy to acquire) and content idea.

In this post I will talk about content of the newsletter.

Corporate newsletter is a medium through which you want to spread awareness about what’s happening within your company. Since you want to let the world know about your company let’s have a dedicated section for each major functions within your company. In every release you can have one article per section and the most interesting article can be promoted as featured article for that issue.

You can create sections as per your wish. Let’s say we have created four sections for a corporate newsletter campaign – (a) marketing, (b) delivery and operations, (c) human resource and (d) management team. Now, decide subjects that can go under each section. This will give you a topic list for your newsletter. Now before every release you have to check which subject can be part of your corporate newsletter for that particular issue.

Below is one sample e-newsletter topic list.
  • Marketing function
    • Industry trends
    • Key events within your industry
    • Your participation at event, conference and seminars
    • Organizational views about economic, environment, social, technical and political events happening outside
    • Product reviews
    • Events hosted for external parties by your company
    • Client testimonials and stories
    • New client acquisition or new project news
    • Case studies or whitepapers release
  • Delivery or Operations function
    • Technology how-to articles
    • Impact of new developments and latest within your industry
    • Whitepaper on technology
    • Your project management approach
    • Research work or status update
    • Proof of Concepts (POCs) that you have developed and not covered in NDAs
    • Presentations/talks at conference and seminar
    • Community of practices (COP) updates
  • HR function
    • Special events at your company
    • Internal activities and initiatives
    • Training plans and updates
  • Management team
    • Organizational message
    • Visit or business tour information/schedule
    • Invitations to events
    • Business progress reports (quarterly and annual)
    • Survey report or feedback summary relevant to subscribers
This is just a sample list. You can create your own list based on your industry and topic of interest to your target audience.