Communication is concerned with identifying the appropriate mediums to use to effectively stay-in-touch with your audience. As we’ve discussed, you have several options to choose from when planning your e-Strategy.
Web site and eZine -- Your Greatest Assets
Your web site is your greatest asset online and should act as a repository for all of your information. Your objective here will be to attract visitors and “keep them coming back” for more of the excellent content that you are making available.
Your newsletter or ezine is also key to this part of your strategy. Your ezine is a direct link, your lifeline so to speak, to your prospects and customers. The more valuable the information you can push at them through this medium, the better!
There are two desired outcomes of this part of your communications strategy. First, you want your information to be so valuable to your readers that they come to expect its regular and frequent delivery.
Having said that, be sure that you deliver your ezine according to the schedule that you set. This may seem trivial, however, when your customers and prospects look forward to receiving your communication, and you don’t deliver because you’re just too busy… you have just disappointed them and missed their expectation. Do this often enough, and you will see that you can loose customers quicker than you can find them.
The second desired outcome of your communications strategy is that your customers and prospects are so delighted with the excellent content you are providing to them, and the regular and frequent delivery of your ezine, that they refer it to a friend. This is what is commonly referred to online as “viral marketing.” Spreading from one person to the next, like a virus--though it’s not the most pleasant of analogies, it does get the point across.
There are a couple words of caution that I need to mention here. First, know when enough is enough! At some point the recipients of your information are going to reach the saturation point. Figure out, ahead of time, when this is. If you question the value of the information that you are sending to your customers and prospects, then so will they. Don’t just send “stuff.” Make sure it’s worthwhile.
For a small business, I don’t recommend an ezine distribution of more than once per month. Less frequently than this (quarterly for example) is too little and you risk losing your audience’s mind share. More frequently than this and you run the risk of becoming a nuisance. This is commonly referred to as eMail fatigue.
The only way that an ezine distribution of biweekly or weekly is advisable for a small business is if the content being distributed is truly excellent (as I’ve defined it earlier), and you have the discipline to keep it up. Generating good original content, or finding it online, can be very time consuming. Take it from someone who knows, editing and publishing an online newsletter takes a lot of hard work. Increasing the number of issues per year increases the amount of work needed to produce it by that number!
As I indicated earlier, ezines are a booming industry on the Internet. There are many e-publishing companies whose singular focus is the development and distribution of an ezine to a particular market segment of audience. Generally these companies manage more that one ezine within various vertical markets. Some of these ezines have distribution lists into the hundreds of thousands. In many of these cases, they are distributed on a daily basis. This type of distribution requires a specific publishing infrastructure and is not something that a small business should consider in starting their newsletter.
Another form of online communication is what is commonly referred to as eMail Marketing. These email messages are generally sales or direct marketing oriented communications that go out to your distribution list with an offer or special promotion that you make to your customers and prospects. A large emarketing firm, Doubleclick, recently (Oct 2002) released information showing that Internet users prefer email marketing to snail mail marketing 75% to 25%. In addition, 69% of the Internet users who opted in to receive an email marketing message, bought something online.
EMail Marketing is one of the ways that small businesses can take advantage of the Internet by reaping the benefits of the significantly lower costs of conducting a direct mail campaign online versus traditional snail mail. In addition, eMail marketing campaigns have a much higher acceptance rate than traditional approaches, if targeted and written correctly.