Managing your e-Newsletter

Managing Your Ezine
There are a variety of different formats that email programs will allow these days, but for the most part people use three main formats for ezines. Most ezines are available as HTML, however there are still some that only allow text messages to go through. The good news is that these are few and far between these days.

An ezine that is HTML should be compatible and they are much more professional looking. They do not have any special formatting requirements and your newsletter will be displayed similar to that of a website in your subscriber’s email program. It is a good idea to have the newsletter in both HTML and text in case there are subscribers who are unable to open HTML or may have problems with it.

The great thing about HTML is that you can use color and graphics with easy. However, it is a good idea to ensure that graphics are condensed well and there are not too many. Some email programs restrict the downloading of images because they can harbor viruses. Also, too many graphics make it difficult and timely to download. Prior to sending your newsletter, it’s a good idea to test it out and ensure compatibility.

You also have the option of using text email messages that offer a link to a PDF version of your newsletter. This format is rarely used because it is an extra step to click on and download the PDF and many people do not have the time, nor are they willing, to take that extra step.

When testing your emails, it’s a good idea to test for compatibility in the following email programs:
• Outlook Express
• Microsoft Outlook (Especially 2007, as it does not always allow graphics to be downloaded without permission from the email owner)
• Eudora
• Yahoo
• Hotmail
• Gmail

Developing Your Lists
Building your customer base is the first thing you need to focus on because you need somebody to send your newsletters to! There are several places where you can begin advertising your website to get people to go there and sign up for your ezine.

Forums, Discussion Boards, and Social Networking Sites
There are tons of directories, forums, etc. that will allow you to advertise your ezine by creating a listing through them. You need to provide a short description along with your ezine. This is the most important part of listing your ezine, because you need to be descriptive in what your subscription offers. You need to have at least three to four different descriptions that you use that will cater to different audiences. You also want an eye catching heading.

At the same time, you need to write in such a manner that addresses the reader. You do not want to simply describe your ezine or business, but you want to explain how you are helpful. You must address the needs of your potential customers.

Once you have your descriptions ready to go, you will want to begin listing your ezine everywhere that you can. You will want to list it on forums, discussion boards, websites and other social sites. You also want to list it in areas that will attract your target audience, so be choosy about where you list to ensure you get the best subscribers you can get.

You also want to aim your ezine listings in places where your competitor lists. You will want you subscription offer to be more attractive to theirs. Do some research to find your competition and then counteract whatever they do. You may even want to begin receiving their newsletter so that you can use it against them. Be sure to list your ezine everywhere that your competitor is listed.

This is a very effective way to begin building your subscription base. You will want to form alliances with your competitors and ensure that you both benefit. You can cross-market in many ways including:

• Endorsements
• Exchanging content
• Exchanging advertisements
• Exchanging products

One way to form an alliance is to endorse your competitor if they will endorse you as well. However, it is important that you endorse a good ezine that is worth it. Don’t just do this to build a relationship, but ensure that it will be profitable in the long run.

You can also swap advertising space. Publish your competitor’s ad if they are willing to publish yours. This should be done free of charge for each other.

Swapping content is good as well. Offer to publish one of their articles if they will publish one of yours. These types of exchanges can be very useful and you are able to provide unique content to your readers that they might have not seen otherwise. You can also use this content to help build your credibility. Make sure that you include a signature or resource box at the end of the article.

Word of Mouth Advertising
It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, word of mouth advertising is great and effective. The best part of it is that it’s free. Word of mouth advertising is able to create a marketing buzz like no other. This is especially true on the Internet because people are able to send things to each other with a couple clicks of the mouse. They can forward your ezine to friends and family and before you know it, a whole family may be subscribing to your ezine, along with all of their friends!

Tell-A-Friend promotions are great and you can also use Tell-A-Friend scripts on your website that will encourage people to send the site to their friends and family. On your Thank You Pages, it’s always a good idea to include a Tell-A-Friend script.

Managing Your Lists
Building your list is going to require some effort on your part. You have to ensure that the process of adding new subscribers is easy and efficient. You also need to be able to administer your list easily. It is highly recommended that you use software for this and automate the process as much as possible. There are several steps you can take to keep your subscribers happy as well including:

• Acknowledge all requests that are sent by subscribers. Even if they want off of your list.
• Greet your new subscribers with a Thank You message. This helps to build confidence and trust.
• Offer various options to sign up. They should be able to sign up on your website or through email.
• Update your lists as often as possible. Try to keep bad addresses to a minimum.
• Provide excellent customer service and always be polite.
• Automate as many processes as possible.

List Servers
It won’t take long to build a list, but once it is over 50 people there is no way that you can handle that kind of mass mailing with your own email account. This means that you will need to invest in a service to do this for you. The first place to start is with your hosting company. Many hosting companies offer some sort of list server and mail server that will allow you to easily send out your newsletters to your subscribers. This may be an additional fee that you pay with your hosting. The next place to start is with a paid list server.

Here are a few to check into:
• Listbox: Offers a variety of packages depending on the number of subscribers you have.
• SparkList: Set-up fee of $25 for a list less than 2,000. Minimum monthly fee of $50. $1 per 1,000 names.
• BigList: Set-up fee of $50. Monthly rates starting at $40 for less than 500 subscribers. $120 for a list between 5,000 and 10,000.

What About the Unsubscribers?
All newsletters will have to deal with these at one point or another. It is extremely important that you handle unsubscribe requests quickly. You must honor the request of a person to no longer be on your list; in fact it’s the law.

It’s also a part of the time consuming aspect of being an ezine publisher. You should have several options available for those who want to unsubscribe.

• Website Option:
Visitors go to your website and click on a link that says “Unsubscribe from our newsletter.” Then you need to provide a box where they enter their email address or send you an email. It is a good idea to send an email confirming that they want to unsubscribe.

• Provide a Link in Your Footer:
This is one of the most common ways to allow people to unsubscribe because they can do it from their email box.

• Email:
You can also provide an email address where the subscriber sends their unsubscribe request directly. It is suggested you have them type “unsubscribe” in the subject line so that is will go to the appropriate folder and it can be processed.

Bounced Emails
Bounced emails are those that cannot be delivered. They are one of the main concerns for an ezine publisher, but it’s a fact of life that someone is bound to put in the wrong email address. Sometimes an email will bounce simply because it is temporarily unavailable as well. These emails can be placed in one of two categories. There are soft bounce and hard bounce emails.

• Soft Bounce: This is when the email is not working temporarily. This can be due to a variety of reasons.
• Hard Bounce: This is when the email is wrong, inactive or closed.

The problem is that it is almost impossible to know which type of bounce you are receiving. The solution lies in using an automated software program that will automatically delete the hard bounce email addresses from your list. It is very hard to manually handle these emails and it would be impossible for you to determine the difference on every one of them.

Double Opt In
Ezines are an excellent way to build a customer base if you are also trying to sell products. The purpose of your ezine is to increase customers, so you want to be sure that you are very diligent in the design and administration of your ezines. You do not want people to unsubscribe because you are constantly changing things or trying to sell to them too hard.

Customers tend to be very unforgiving when it comes to poor design and administration. The subscription process is very crucial and you want to ensure that you have a safe service and one that is credible. You don’t want to make people angry because they accidentally signed up for your newsletter when they didn’t intend to. Because of this, you will want to go with the Double Opt-In subscription method. The Double Opt-In is a much more credible way for you to gain subscriptions. This may mean that they sign up with a click of a button, but then they have to go through a confirmation email or message. This ensures that only genuine subscribers are receiving your ezine.

There are a few critics on this, as some readers may not go through the confirmation email process. This means that you may end up losing prospective customers. However, you are better safe than sorry and should always use a double opt-in to ensure that you are not going to be accused of spam later down the road.

The main advantage of the double opt-in is that you have a better chance of targeting readers that are really interested in what you have to offer. This method can increase your profits because you have people on your list who are interested in your niche and they’re interested in buying products in your niche. Here are a few more reasons why you should use a double opt-in process:
• Increases the prospect of targeting receptive readers and customers.
• Increases your credibility and trustworthiness
• Portrays professionalism
• Ensures long term relationships
• Provides documented proof of subscriptions
• Eliminates false claims by readers.
• Saves yourself time and money handling complaints and legal claims

Ezine ISSNs
An ezine ISSN is similar to that of a book’s ISBN number. This stands for International Standard Serial Number and is an 8 digit unique number that is given to ezines. This number is very useful if you want to submit your ezine to libraries.

The ISSN allows you to identify your ezine uniquely. There are, however, certain guidelines that a publisher must follow in order to apply and receive an ISSN for their ezine. The first is that you have to show an intention of continuing your ezine for an extended period of time. You may not receive an ISSN if your ezine is only going to be published for a short period of time.

An ezine must also be uniquely identified by a number in addition to the ISSN number. This number should be something like the month and the year. For example, if you published your issue in June of 2007, you would use 062007 to designate the issue for that month. Each ezine issue needs a unique designation.

There are several advantages of having an ISSN as well. The main advantage is that it makes you look very professional and credible. Also, because you only get an ISSN for a long term published ezine, you have time as a credibility factor as well. Another advantage is that you have more leverage in a copyright suit if you need to address copyright infringement on your ezine’s content and you can only do this if you have an ISSN.
An ISSN can be obtained for free by using the following websites:

• The US Library of Congress (For USA)
• The ISSN Organization (For countries outside of the USA)

Your Ezine’s Website
Most ezines are created with the intention of marketing some type of product. Because of this, you need to have a user friendly website to showcase your products on. Your website must also take a unique approach to show off and market your products. The site itself doesn’t have to be elaborate by design, but it should be designed for a successful sale. First and foremost, it’s important that your site functions properly. It should also have a separate page that houses all of your ezines along with their benefits and why someone should sign up to receive them.

Remember, every time your site works properly, your credibility rises. When your website doesn’t work properly, you lose credibility. Also, stay away from websites that are loaded with Flash and large graphics. These take too long to download and you can’t assume that everybody has high-speed Internet. Yes, there are people who are still on dial-up. I know your cringing and having flashbacks of long download times, but that’s reality.

On your website, you need to be sure that you know who your target market is and that your website is catering to their needs. You want the site to reflect the values of your customers. You also want to have a separate page for each ezine if you have more than one. Your site should be designed to the preferences of the people you will be marketing to.

A website also needs good content. This is the mark of a good product as well. If your copy conveys the message you want to get across then you will do very well. Relevant content is crucial for your website, especially because you want to show people that you have some expertise in an area. You also need to double-check your spelling and grammar on your website and all ezines that are sent out.

Your website should be optimized for the search engines as well. You will want to use keywords throughout your website that are associated with your content so that the search engines will pick up your site and index it. You can determine your keywords for free by signing up on a Google AdWords account. You don’t have to sign up a campaign or anything, but you can use their keyword tool. It’s very helpful in showing you which keywords are of a high demand and competitive.

Automating Your Ezine
Ezines are much easier to create and distribute if you can setup as much automation as possible. This is especially true for those who are smaller companies and individuals who are doing the whole process themselves. However, if you are extremely busy, you may find that third party Ezine software vendors would be useful to you as well.
These vendors take care of your distribution. They are able to save you a lot of time and money, but you do have to pay rates based on your ezine’s subscriber list. If you don’t want to go this route, you do have the option of handling all of the functions on your own. The main advantage of going with a vendor is that they are able to handle your formatting, managing, administering and tracking are also automated by them.

Acquiring Useful Information on Your Subscribers
As an ezine publisher you want to provide information to your subscribers that is useful and meets their needs, after all that is one of the main reasons that people use the Internet. It is important to not only track your ezine’s campaign, but to gather information about your subscribers as well. This information can help you improve the content of your ezine as well as the popularity of it.

Demographic data can be very useful and you can use it to tailor your ezine to your target audience. This can help you improve your content as well and the most popular way to gather this information is to use a feedback form or survey. You may post these forms through your emails that go to your current subscribers.

Most subscribers may not be willing to provide you with this information, but others will not mind. Either way, you should be careful when you are requesting this type of information so that you do not lose the trust of your subscribers.

There are several guidelines that may help you when gathering this information:
• Clearly mention why you are requesting this information.
• Have a strict privacy policy that is viewable by your customers.
• Do not collect any information that is not necessary.
• Do not provide lengthy surveys. Most people will not complete them, so keep them as short as possible.
• Provide a guarantee that the information is safe and confidential.
• Do not force anyone to fill out the survey.
• Automate this process as well.

Testimonials are a great way of improving the credibility of your ezines. However, be aware that there are several sales letters and ezines on the web, even websites that have false testimonials. The only people who know that these are untrue and fake are the site owner and the writer who wrote them. This means that there are many unsuspecting customers out there being swayed by false advertising. It is always best if you can provide testimonials that are true. People trust other people, so it is a great idea to solicit testimonials directly from your subscribers. You can even use photos of them if they are willing. These make your testimonials and your ezine very personable and people like that. Testimonials have been known to increase the number of subscribers greatly!

Write a personalized email to every existing subscriber and request a review and testimonial of your ezine. Ask them what they like best about receiving your ezine and you will find that many people are very happy to assist you. Here are a few tips on how to gather testimonials:

• Give a sample issue of an ezine to a group of users. Then ask them if they found it useful and what can be improved.
• Give a sample issue to someone who is considered to be an industry expert.
• Get permission to use the testimonial and then have them sign a release that grants their permission to publish their testimonial both on your website and in your ezine.
• Fully identify the person when quoting the testimonial. This should include name, occupation and company name if applicable and it is good to include their city and age with permission.
• Use them everywhere from your website to your autoresponders to your brochures.