Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

7 Steps to Regular, Dread-free Newsletters March 24, 2011

Nearly a year ago I started sending out SocialPie’s weekly newsletter. When I started planning it, my friend Russ said, “Weekly? That’s a big commitment.” It made me step back, rethink and plunge forward anyway. Weekly, smeekly. I could handle it.

Fast forward, rubber hits the road. Weekly was a big commitment. Were there week’s I wished I’d bitten off something smaller? Yes. Have I missed a week? No (knock wood.)

At first the weekly churn from idea to article was a drag, it took so much time. Coming up with a topic, finding the resources, getting it down on the screen, editing. It all seemed to drag out and I found myself dreading it. Some week’s I was up until midnight finishing for a 5:00 AM post time. There was even one Friday morning I sprang out of bed realizing I hadn’t finished. It was discouraging.

Fast forward some more, now I have it down to a science, and that’s what I want to share with you, the process that’s evolved. With process and practice I’ve increased the speed it gets done, and that has been encouraging.

Here’s my 7 steps to regular newslettering:

  1. Bookmark an interesting article or comment.
  2. Capture random thoughts on the topic right in Emma (my newsletter platform), save the draft.
  3. Turn those thought fragments into sentences and edit.
  4. Walk away.
  5. Spell check and edit again
  6. Read aloud, edit again.
  7. Final formatting and scheduling.

This process came together over time. I can’t emphasis enough that weekly deadline I gave myself helped me hone a process. Now I turn out newsletters in 3-4 sittings, totally about 90 minutes of my time. Are they perfect, gosh no. But they ship.

Another thing that’s really helped is an editorial calendar. Within my calendar I created another “Newsletter Topics” calendar. That’s where ideas get dumped. Some week’s I get 3 ideas, but I only use 1 topic per newsletter. With the calendar I can dump the extra ideas and links to what triggered them in a convenient place. When I’m ready to write I go to the calendar to grab the ideas. It has made things much easier.

Have you struggled with the same thing? How have you handled it?

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Email is Ugly April 9, 2010

Filed under: Ideas,Resources — Carla Bobka @ 10:54 am
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Daily Worth's email come through Constant Contact.

Competition is everywhere, including your customer’s Inbox. For your company email to be read you have to stand out. Do you?

The good news is there email enhancement tools available to make you shine. Sounds like a face-lift, doesn’t it? It pretty much is.

This email makes me hungry. Firebirds uses Fishbowl.

Sending customers email piggy backs onto your existing marketing and any social Facebook or Tweeting you’re doing. Email is a place the majority of your customers spend time. You want to show up where they have their attention, and so many people spend time in email.

Email marketing tool platforms help you make the most of that attention. They are a category that is a bridge between traditional marketing formats and social formats. I think of them as pretty email makers. They give you design tools beyond bold, italic and font style. You can insert and position elements other than text: images, video links, links to your blog, website or Facebook and plenty of color, anywhere you want. AND they are simple to use. Templates are part of the programs, you can customize them to match your existing website or retail color scheme. It’s a little like using Lego blocks except you can also change colors, make noise and escape through a rabbit hole.

The result of the design components is visual texture. Regular emails don’t have that, they are flat and dull. With design elements your message becomes more interesting to look at, easier to absorb because it is visually organized, that makes it nicer to spend time with and more stimulating than plain black letters on a white screen.

Some of the brands in this space are:

They are all available for download. Over the next month I’ll do a post on each one to give you a sense of which ones you want investigate.

Anthropologie uses Cheetahmail for a artsy look.

Each brand’s version is different and yet accomplishes the same thing. Each has its own strength and personality; each has a weakness. Explore and play around – most give you a free trial. Or give me a buzz and I’ll point you in the right direction based on your business.

So making attractive email helps you win the battle of share of mind. The beauty of using one of these tools is you can tell if your email gets the readers attention AND how they interact with it. The reporting capabilities of each platform let you see how many of the emails you sent were opened and which links got clicked on most. How does that help you? It tells you more about what your customer likes. Every time you send an email you learn more about what makes your customer tick, and you can tailor your next email accordingly.

So no more ugly emails! Make them count.

 

Facebook Gets Sexy March 18, 2010

Filed under: Learnings,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 12:22 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Yesterday Facebook sent me a surprising email. It was a summary of all the Fan Pages I administer and 3 vital stats for each of them—all in 1 email. Pretty helpful. As a social media platform I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is a first for them. Congrats, it’s a hit, keep it coming.

Two things I like the most:

  1. Facebook brought information they had to me, in a place I already had my attention – my Inbox
  2. They kept it simple – 3 key stats and links to my pages to take action
  • Number of new fans
  • Amount of interaction
  • Amount of  views

The email itself was pretty simple, the stats were all from the Insights section of each page. Yes, I check those myself as part of the management of the page. The stats on the insights page are very helpful, although not always as clearly reflective of my page as they should be. (For instance, Fan count on Insights doesn’t match what shows on the page, you’d think that would be a no brainer) But the fact is for people who AREN’T visiting Insights on their own, the email may stimulate them to be more in touch with the data attached to what’s happening on their page. That’s good for Facebook’s longevity. They are giving users more information than they may be finding on their own.

Now, Facebook needs to do a bit of work on the email technique to really look  slick. A strategic partnership to integrate the data into great layout from Constant Contact or MailChimp to make it more visually dynamic. That would move it from sexy to Body by Victoria sexy.