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Janet Roberts

Reviewing All of Your Customer Contacts
By Janet Roberts

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No matter why you publish a newsletter - to make money, stay in touch with customers, direct people to your Web site or share information with like-minded readers - you have customers. You might call them readers, but you need to treat them like customers in a store. You need to give them a reason to shop, to make it easy to transact business and to make them feel welcome and wanted.

In the real world, shop owners accomplish this by greeting new customers warmly, acknowledging return shoppers, presenting an inviting display of appropriate merchandise, thanking buyers and resolving problems quickly.

As a newsletter publisher, you can simulate this face-to-face contact with the messages you send to prospects, new customers (I mean, readers) and those who have unsubscribed.

How long has it been since you reviewed your subscription confirmation, welcome and good-bye messages? Even if you send out personal messages to new subscribers, it never hurts to take stock of your customer contacts.

I launched a newsletter just a couple of months ago, but I adjust the copy on my "about," "welcome" and "good-bye" documents in Lyris ListManager every few weeks.

One of the reasons I do that is because my newsletter audience and content keep evolving. I targeted it to a specific audience - food writers - but found most of my subscribers were people who just like to read news stories about food.

Informative messages are especially important if you handle all of your sign-ups, confirmations and unsubscribes through Web pages, with no email contact. You're wasting the opportunity to build or cement a reader relationship if you merely confirm the action the subscriber took.

These messages - whether emailed or posted at your Web site - are important marketing tools that can benefit all newsletters, not just commercial or marketing messages. If you publish as a hobby or for altruistic reason, a little marketing will help you grow and maintain your readership.

The "about" message: This is what readers either see in a list directory or click on, in some host programs, to see what your newsletter is all about. This is your first chance to explain your newsletter's vision and mission, delivery schedule, target audience and subscription details.

The "welcome" message: Do you welcome new subscribers or merely acknowledge that their subscriptions have been approved? A good welcome message confirms the subscription request and restates the newsletter's mission, content and delivery schedule.

The temptation with double-opt-in newsletters is to use the first message to tell subscribers they have to confirm in order to start getting the newsletter and to save the info stuff for the final confirmation message. I think that's too late, given the dismal confirmation rate some newsletters have. Let people know up front why they should click that button or reply to the message right now instead of later.

The "good-bye" message is another key point. If you had an unhappy customer or one who stops coming in, you'd want to know why, wouldn't you? Many unsubscribe confirmations tell me I'm off the list, but only a few want to know why. Readers depart for many reasons. You need to know if they're just changing addresses, going off in a huff or no longer interested in what you're talking about. Perhaps only one in 10 will take time to tell you what's up, but it's better than nothing.

If you publish other newsletters or moderate related discussion groups, mention those in your good-bye message. After all, if one venue doesn't work out, another one might. Provide a mailto: link to a feedback mailbox to make it easy for people to send in their comments.

Ezine-Tips for October 04, 2001

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