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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Using Newsletters for Marketing

Newsletters make excellent tools for communicating with customers. Many seem to fail in this simple task, or at least underperform. I offer some insights.

First, let me define a newsletter. I define a newsletter as a regularly delivered communication from a business to its customers. At the very least, a newsletter describes products and services. It should do so in a  way that interests if not entertains its intended audience. Though it serves to sell your product or service, it must offer more than a price list.

You should regard establishing a rapport with your clientele as the motive for your newsletter. That means that your newsletter should become something that your clientele looks forward to reading. To create that result demands a subtle marketing approach. Your newsletter should take a cue from the upsurge in social media marketing.

Here are some tips for creating a vital newsletter:

  • Avoid hyperbole. Present the merits of your product or service honestly.
  • Provide information. Give your clientele ideas of how to use your product, or different ways that your service can help them.
  • Offer insight. Explain intricacies of your industry.
  • Deliver interest. Entertain your clientele with relevant aspects regarding your product or service, the history, science, or romance
  • Show personality. Let the human side come through.

Do you see the common thread here? You want your clientele to engage with your newsletter, not throw it away or delete it. You must, therefore, treat your clientele with content that will intrigue them.

One last ingredient must be included: good writing. Understand good writing as a skill. Good writing results from training, practice, and a dedication to effective communication. Let me quickly break that down.

Training: Let us assume that you had some training writing proper English in school. Do not let that be the end of it. Pick up a grammar book once in a while, and refresh your knowledge. I find The Elements of Style  by Strunk and White refreshing to read periodically.

In concert with such refresher courses, develop the habit of reading critically. Do this with your work, do this with the writing of others.

Practice: Regard everything that you write—articles, letters, emails, everything—as an important communication that must be done right. No sloppiness allowed. Write as clearly and concisely as possible.

Dedication: Understand the value of good communication, and how good writing fits in with that.

Your newsletter should reflect your professionalism. It need not be slick nor stuffy but it should show the effort of a serious endeavor.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Does Going Viral ‘Work’?

I want to consider the term ‘going viral’ some more. Many people use the term. The idea of going viral  has become a goal for many marketers. What does going viral entail?

I define viral material as any that accrues great interest, receives linkage and commentary from many sources, and otherwise enjoys a buzz. The Internet, that vast communication network, lies central to the material’s viral reach. Internet = Land of Constant Buzz.

I further define ‘going viral’ as a natural process, though I guess I should add ‘sort of’. To my mind, going viral differs from marketing. The difference between the two terms brings up an essential point.

How marketing and going viral differ resembles how a canal and a river differ. Canals are human-directed waterways. Rivers proceed more naturally, according to gravity and landscape. Keep that difference in mind.

Marketing presses the product at consumers whereas ‘going viral’ is a fortuitous popularity. One can influence that popularity but in essence, you have allowed the interest to develop on its own. Efforts to enhance that interest enter the territory of hype.

Since my metaphors proceed so swimmingly, I will posit a further damp comparison. Imagine a river in steady transport as your marketing endeavor. Now imagine the abundance of spring snow melt and rain overwhelming the banks of the river. Picture that untrained expansion as a viral enthusiasm.

You need to communicate straightforwardly the advantages of your product or service. In that effort, you show your respect for your customers. Your marketing should center on bringing those advantages to the consumer in an intelligent, creative, and honest way. Do not pretend that your product is more or other than what it is. If your product lacks something vital, fix it rather than hype it.

Endeavoring towards viral interest is a commitment to the momentary. Interest will wane, the flood will recede. You cannot depend on the viral. You should think in longer terms.

Hype exaggerates. When marketers attempt to produce viral effects, they seek to produce an exaggerated version of your product. That version will always, always reach fail state. And the competition in Land of Constant Buzz is ferocious because attention there is slim.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Social Media as Buzz Word

The rise of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs as instruments of business connection has created what we term social media. Social media provides a tool to reach customers. That tool has been effective, but I think we need reminder of how the tool works.

Social media offers a channel for communication. That channel needs two-way communication. Two way communication sits at the heart of effective social media.

A problem develops when businesses try to steer the communication. Such steering results in the same sort of effect as someone hogging the conversation at a party. Listeners tune out.

One should remember that social media communication differs from the advertising of old. Old style advertising used television, radio, magazines, and other one way streets. The advertiser controlled the message. You the potential consumer heard only what advertisers wanted you to hear.

Social media works in the tubes and databanks of the Internet. The Internet is interactive. What you put on the Internet can be refuted, distorted, or sung to the high heavens. You simply cannot fully control the message.

From a business standpoint, this can dismay. The business message seems out of control. Power resides in that lack of control, however.

The thing is, your product or service has to be worth consumer interest. Things that work well interest consumers. Your marketing enthusiasm differs from a consumer’s enthusiasm for your product. If you use social media strictly to spout your marketing enthusiasm, you do not connect to whatever enthusiasm consumers have for your product or service. That is the opposite of going viral.

Be proud of what you offer, and show it in honest terms. You work in the land of trust, finally; you want to earn the trust of consumers. Give consumers valuable information and real insight. Avoid muddying the water with hype.