The Future is in Your Newsletter AKA Ezine – I’ve Seen It

Over the last 5 years, there has been a significant focus on web sites and web design, and for good reason! Consider the explosive tech boom – all those companies that raced to get online to stake their claim in cyberspace. But for most companies, once they arrived, they found out (the hard way) that they had little or no reason to be there. As with most pioneers heading into uncharted territory, everyone got caught up in the frenzy and joined the chase without thinking – no one could predict what to expect until they got there. This blind rush idea lasted 6 months.

Since then, online business has evolved a great deal. Some things don’t change: Successful companies with a strong business plan and a good relationship with their customers are better today than ever. Leading tech companies simply raised the bar and thrived in the consolidation environment that inevitably emerged from the early rush. This added value became the elevated standard for anyone getting online today.

Four years ago, you could have gotten away without providing online support to your clients from your web site. Not so today. If you run online services, your customers expect (and deserve) accountability. They need a way to solve any issues that stem from your product or service. Gone are the days when you can create a successful (i.e. profitable) web business by relying on the help of the kid down the street who knows HTML. This paradigm no longer exists – not for the true breed of online business.

This environment has created tremendous opportunity for those willing to provide high levels of quality and customer services to online users. Those who choose to service the lucrative online market do so with no illusions regarding the demands of online consumers.

Given this shift towards more efficient ways to service and support your online customer, the first step is creating a presence – a way to create a relationship with your customers, vendors, and perhaps most important, your potential customers. A web site is essential, but not enough. You have to find a way to reach out and touch someone with it. This is the critical role your ezine will play.

Again, there is a simple starting point. Clearly identify in your own mind what information you will be sending out, who should read it, and why. Don’t make the mistake of confusing your ezine for some slapped together flyer! It must be set up such that it meets the needs of its readers and the objectives of your company’s marketing department. This fine balance does exist – and your success will depend on developing your strategy before deploying your own ezine.

People doomed to the same mistakes as early Internet pioneers might tell you to “just get out there”, get a hold of a ton of e-mail addresses and start bombarding them with TONS of e-mails on whatever you’re selling. ERASE THAT THOUGHT!!! This is another relic from the era five years ago, when you actually could do that and make very good money. This is not the case any more! You need to realize that online users are not stupid. They now know enough to weed out the ground, and focus where there is true value. If no value is provided and time is wasted or lost, it’s just a matter of time before someone builds a program to replace your service and make money from that. The Internet evolves constantly, and there will always be two camps – those looking to exploit it for monetary gain, disregarding any damage they do; and those searching for ways to increase the value proposition to the online user experience. The latter will always be the big winner. It’s true now. It will be true 5 years from now.

What’s the POINT of your web site? What VALUE does your service bring? What are you trying to do/sell/promote etc.? You need to know these answers and use them to create the strategy for your newsletter.

An ezine or newsletter is a way of capturing the e-mail address of anyone and everyone interested in using your product or service. You need to give them a REASON to give you their e-mail address to communicate with them via your ezine. Your goal should be to provide an ezine that gives visitors to your web site valued insight into your business, industry, profession, products, service, life, etc… This becomes your target market – the people to whom you send information.

Remember subscribers want value, which means good articles, with valuable information for them – not just a promo puff piece for YOU. Give them a chance to save time with links and resources you find and share with them. Online users can smell value and these are the types of web business that gain acceptance simply by word of mouth, person-to-person, all around the world.

Web sites will continue to evolve but now, more then ever before, that evolution is dictated by the needs and wants of the visitors/users. The profitable, successful online businesses constantly evolve their web presence to match the feedback and information received from their direct communications to their customers/visitors/potential customers. This is the next edge your company will need to be profitable online and to reach critical mass.

The time has come to design your ezine template to match (or continue) the branding efforts of your web site. Your ezine template will be in two formats, text and HTML, one being graphical, like a web page (HTML), and the other in plain text for non-HTML e-mail clients. Currently, 90{f6a2710aa095913ec9934fad59095fb27ca562565e2c0098b5ccc108ff0eb746} of web users are capable of receiving HTML e-mails but only 50{f6a2710aa095913ec9934fad59095fb27ca562565e2c0098b5ccc108ff0eb746} want HTML – 40{f6a2710aa095913ec9934fad59095fb27ca562565e2c0098b5ccc108ff0eb746} still prefer text. This means you need to provide BOTH options to your subscribers. The eventual shift will be to all HTML readers because of comparable quality to magazines and web sites.

Finally, you will need a publishing schedule for your ezine. Decide whether you can provide a high-quality publication weekly? Monthly? Every two months? When you decide, plan 6 to 12 months of ezine ideas – it’s easy if you’re producing 12 issues a year! Get topics for each issue, research and gather articles. Better yet, write them yourself! Get advertisers, get feedback (surveys), and swap with other ezine publishers with a similar target audience. This will make the publishing of your ezine simple and will let you start creating a relationship with your customers and web site visitors. Then ask them what they want – more of this, less of that? Make sure you respond to subscriber feedback just as any major company would. Use this feedback to make the right changes to your web site, which will lead to more profit for your company.

Your ezine is the umbilical cord between your web business and your customers. Make sure you talk to your customer at least monthly in order to ensure the success of your online business!