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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Spring clean your marketing strategy

Image courtesy of Linda Wright – Photographer
Well it looks like spring is finally here and that the temperatures are on the increase, Hopefully you have all had a good weekend and taken advantage of the lighter evenings? I know I have – I filled my weekend with outdoor stuff like cycling along the Thames and walking around Hampton Court Palace gardens (which look stunning at the moment with all the daffs in full bloom). I may be saddle sore, but I am much happier for being outdoors.

I have builders at home, creating a mess generally, but doing a fabulous job, and so to have some good weather is fabulous as it enables me to get away from the dust and mayhem!

Anyway, as a proper spring clean is on the horizon for many (especially me, on the home front!) I was thinking about marketing campaigns and how a spring clean of out of date communications might be beneficial. I am a creature of habit in many ways, but sometimes you need to stop doing something just because 'it's always been done that way' and start thinking 'is it working?'
HTML emails or email newsletters have been around for a long time and are increasingly used as an alternative to physical newsletters for businesses, why? Well here are some benefits to consider:

• In an increasingly environmentally aware world, email newsletters have the least impact.
• Email newsletters are much more cost effective as paper and print prices continue to increase.
• The reduced costs of email newsletters mean that you can communicate more frequently with your target audience.
• Without the need for print, email newsletters can be produced quickly and be more relevant.
• Modern audiences are more receptive to email communications.
• Email newsletters can easily target specific clients/audiences without the logistical nightmare involved in direct mail shots.
• Posted emails can often get discarded along with junk mail, although this depends on the distribution techniques used.
• Detailed statistics are easily available to test the effectiveness of your email newsletters.

However, there are a range of things to consider before you employ an email newsletter for your business. For instance, some people prefer to receive a printed newsletter, especially if the content is relevant to them and a good quality printed newsletter can make the recipient feel valued. Here are just some of the things you should take into account:

• What age is your target audience, are they likely to use email on a regular basis?
• Do you regularly produce a printed catalogue or brochure, are your clients used to recieving printed materials from you?
• Would your clients/target audience prefer to have something more tangible land on their doormat.
• If your communications are detailed and or infrequent, a mailed out version may be more applicable to your audience. Larger documents are often browsed repeatedly by clients over a longer period of time.

There is no hard and fast rule for communicating with your audience, but if you do produce printed newsletters, it is worth looking at what you spend on design, print and distribution and making sure that the process you employ is working for you.

As far as costs go, the general rule of thumb is to employ a template format for your newsletters, this means that you will not necessarily have to pay for a redesign each time you send a newsletter out. The only costs involved will be updating your newsletter with new text and images as required.

If you do decide to use email newsletters my advice, for what it is worth, is speak to your designer/agency and find out if how much it will cost to set up a simple version, perhaps as a test and once you have the statistics from the test you can make an informed decision.

I have to say that I despise junk mail, and I seem to get so much of it, but then again, if it is addressed specifically to me and it looks (and feels) good then I do appreciate newsletters that are of interest to me. I tend to read them much as I would a magazine, at my leisure. But when I am short of time, something that is on the increase, I like the ease of a nicely designed email newsletter that gives me a good, bite size, overview of content and allows me to click through to articles of interest quickly. A good newsletter can stay in my in box for months, and I refer to it as and when I have the time.

I would also point out that you need to be a little discerning when choosing an email newsletter device. Ask your self honestly, does it look professional enough? Remember that this is not just an internal communication, your clients will see it, and if it doesn't represent you or you brand well, then it may do more damage than good. Be prepared to invest in getting it right before you send it as first impressions can be very difficult to change later.

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