Connect with Clients and Prospects with a Well-Designed Email Newsletter

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Category: Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 1 comment
colors Connect with Clients and Prospects with a Well Designed Email Newsletter

Image from sxc.hu user mmagallan

A 2011 MerchantCircle.com survey of over 8,000 US local business owners found email marketing cited by 35.8% as a “Top three most effective marketing or advertising method.” Likewise, the 9th Annual Merchant Survey (2010) conducted by The E-tailing Group asked merchants to list which initiatives they would be using to improve website performance. 79% chose “send more targeted email” as the top answer. No other marketing tool gives you direct interaction with clients in a platform that incorporates graphic design, valuable content, web links, and incentives like an email newsletter does.

Done right, email marketing can have a strong, positive impact on your business. Here are the strategies to ensure your email newsletter is as effective as possible.

Share great content. This is the bread and butter of effective email marketing because interesting, appealing, and humorous content compels your clients and prospects to read your e-newsletter and visit links. It takes time to produce good content, so don’t wait to pull it together at the last minute. Create a project folder for your newsletter so that you can add a new picture, feature story, or content idea whenever ideas come to you you.

Headlines and top stories don’t have to be related to your business. In fact, fun anecdotes, inspirational quotes, product reviews, pro-tips, and even editorial copy is more likely to engage your readers initially and keep them on the page. You can sell your product or service later, but try to make the first impression and subject line as intriguing as possible. Consider capitalizing key words, mentioning deals, or using friendly copy in the subject line to lure readers to open your email.

Many businesses will recycle content week after week for e-newsletters. Be wary of this, as sending emails too frequently with stale information or too many graphics will quickly lead to a rush of unsubscribes. If you must re-use content, take the time to paraphrase or rewrite your content so that it stays fresh.

Engage readers by asking for their help. This can be as simple as voting in an online poll, filling out a survey, or asking for product reviews or testimonials. You’ll e amazed how quickly your readers will offer up their time when prompted. Reader reviews and testimonials are invaluable for new businesses, and also make for great copy in subsequent newsletters. Getting readers to interact with your newsletter is the best way to make sure they open it every time.

Remember to provide links. One of the biggest assets of email marketing is the ability to dispatch web traffic. Offer links back to your website, specifically to new products or services, or to valuable areas of your site. This is your opportunity to directly stimulate web traffic. Include links to events, social media pages, and other sites if they will return the favor for you.

Sign up for other email newsletters. Any newsletter designer or graphic artist will tell you to always do your homework before designing. Sign up for competitors’ newsletters. Read them every week. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Check out graphic design styles, determine what you like, and then integrate that into your design. Pay attention to email marketing trends and consider how you can use them to your advantage.

Check your statistics from previous newsletters. Most email newsletter providers have reports and stats to allow you to see how many impressions and clicks your email received. This is important information. You can find out which headlines and links got more clicks, and apply that intelligence to upcoming emails. You may be surprised to see that a fun fact or product review got more attention than a coupon or featured deal.

Make sure you seek lots of feedback before pressing “send.” The preview button is there for a reason! Send a test email to associates, friends, and business partners to get their feedback on your design — then apply them. Your email is a reflection of your business, so make sure it’s just right. Avoid typos and grammatical errors costs and verify all data is correct to avoid ever sending a “corrections” blast.

AnitaBrady Connect with Clients and Prospects with a Well Designed Email NewsletterIf you take the time to create powerful and valuable newsletters, email marketing can be a winning tool for your business. When your clients and prospects look forward to your emails, your newsletter is a lot more likely to get the impressions you want, and stay out of the trash folder.

About the author: Industry veteran Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com, a provider of high quality customizable items like business cards, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.

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Chynna’s Top Ten Writing Tips

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 at 9:38 AM | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 4 comments

Welcome to meryl’s notes blog (this here place you’re lookin’ at) in Plano, Texas. We’re honored to be a stop in Chynna Laird’s WOW! Women On Writing Blog tour.

Chynna Laird Chynnas Top Ten Writing TipsAbout Chynna Laird: She’s a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their four children. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. Laird has authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a young adult novel (Blackbird Flies), an adult suspense (Out Of Sync), and a Young Adult Suspense/Mystery/Paranormal/Sweet Romance (Undertow, to be released 2012). She blogs at The Gift Blog and See the White Elephants.

Chynna’s Top Ten Writing Tips by Chynna Laird

I’ve been writing since I was in my single digits. I guess you could say that writing isn’t just a hobby for me or something I ‘just do’, it’s a huge part of who I am. I need that creative time that’s separate from the other roles I play during the day when I can lose myself in my characters and the places they take me. It’s a wonderful feeling having all of these stories inside of me bursting to get out that I can actually share with other people … and they read it! How cool is that?

I consider myself very blessed to be able to do what I do and I don’t take it for granted in the least. Writing is something we can always do as long as we have a story in our hearts and our wits about us. There’s no age, sex, race, religion, social status, or ability barriers when it comes to being a writer. If you have that creativity inside of you, if that passion is there, nurture it.

A still have a few years to go before I’m plopped in that ‘veteran writer’ category, and my goodness I still have so much to learn. But in the fairly short period of time that I’ve been out in the writing world, there are a few things I’ve learned. And, if you’ll allow me to, I’d love to share them with you.

1. Accept that you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you dabble in it or you work most of your day pounding on the keyboard. You could be a blogger, an article writer, a poet, a short story creator, or a diligent person who writes 200,000-word books. You. Are. A. Writer. You have that creative energy inside of you and you make the effort to channel it. So, even if you haven’t been published yet, just say what I used to before I got my first story published: “I’m a writer. The world just hasn’t found me yet.”

2. Find the time. If all you have time for is a paragraph or two or a single blog post, perfect. There will be days when you just don’t have time to write as much as you’d like to get some out. It keeps the creative juices bubbling. My personal goal is about 1,500 words a day. That could be an article, a blog post, or a section in one of my novels-in-progress. For me, writing gives me the same energy as my yoga or exercise time. I make the time.

3. Have your own space. I realize this isn’t always possible. My “work space” is smack-dab in the middle of my living room where all the action is (I know … my bad … ). But when I have something I really want to work on or an important deadline to meet, I take our tiny laptop or a notebook and a pen and I hide somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you set up a little space in the walk-in closet, put little desk up in the quietest place in your house or shut yourself in the bathroom for a bit, have a space where you can let the words flow.

4. Journal. I’ve been practicing journaling since I was very young. It has many benefits. Aside from being a place to jot down your personal thoughts, feelings, and dreams, it’s also where you can work on ideas, practice finding your writing voice as well as getting into the habit of writing. That’s how my dedication and discipline for ‘finding the time’ came from.

5. Read … a lot. Just like in any profession, in order to succeed it’s a good idea to learn from those who are rocking it out there. Read anything and everything from authors you aspire to be. Trust me, you can learn so much just from that alone.

6. Start in your “safe place” then branch out from there. When I first started, I had absolutely no idea where I fit into the writing world. There are so many genres and sub-genres, it’s hard to know at first where I “fit in.” All I knew was that I was told my style of writing was “emotionally charged.” So I started writing inspirational articles and personal essays. From there, I channeled my emotional energy into intense contemporary young adult shorts, then it blossomed from there. The point is by all means start where you feel safe. But don’t be afraid to venture out past the safe area because you never know what else you’re capable of.

7. Join a writing group. Every province or state has some sort of writing association. Get in touch with them and find a local writing group. If there isn’t one, why not put one together? Writing groups are great because they are often made up of a good mix of individuals in various stages of their writing careers. You can get critique of your work and network with writing peers, which is a major part of being a writer.

8. Find a writing mentor. I love my writing mentors. They inspire me, keep me focus and grounded and never let me give up. It’s very important to have someone who has “been there, done that” who can give you guidance, answer your questions and be that strong support when you need it. If you don’t know someone who can mentor you, check with your local university or college’s English department or the writing association nearest to you. Both often have mentoring programs you could sign up for.

9. Get out once in awhile. This is something I have to remind myself of once in awhile. If you’re a full-time writer, you’ll be spending a lot of time in front of your computer. Alone. (No, social media chats do not count as getting out or connecting with others!) I’m lucky because I have my four kids around me and have to get out there and be around others through their school, activities and my charity work.

10. Rejection is a part of writing. It sucks, but it’s true. If it makes you feel better, even though I’ve written countless articles, blog posts, and books, I still get rejections. It’s a part of the whole process. The only advice I can give you is to feel the sting, then move on. Consider it a learning curve. Analyze why you were rejected and work on it. There are other editors waiting to hear your pitch. Trust me, each time it happens your skin gets a little thicker until you can finally say, “Ah. Their loss. NEXT!”

The only other piece of advice I can give you is this: Do not give up. I consider everything I go through in life a lesson, good or bad. You just can’t think of it any other way or things will just get to you. If you truly believe in yourself and what you’re doing, others will too. Never give someone the power to squash your dreams. They are what inspire us, give us hope and keep us moving forward.

Happy writing!

What writing tips do you have?

White Elephants cover Chynnas Top Ten Writing TipsAbout White Elephants: Elephant in the middle of the living room — that is one way of explaining how a family walks around the invisible presence of huge problems. Hindsight is what brings the elephant into focus.

Somehow at the innocent age of five Tami began to see the bulky creature crowding her family and took on a sense of responsibility far beyond expectation for her age. Her mother was different than other mothers. Family life in their household was not pretty. No one noticed. No one did anything about it, and Tami wanted someone to do just that. As an adult Tami took on her first name, Chynna, and took up the challenge to find out what might have helped her mother fight her battle of self-destruction. She couldn’t help her mother, but she would consider it worth everything if her family’s story helped another.

This candid memoir is a story of one girl’s struggle to deal with her mother’s alcoholic/bipolar condition–the white elephant no one else would see. With a conversational tone, Laird shares her remarkable story of abuse, survival, and her triumphant recovery into becoming a healthy, well adjusted wife and mother. Tastefully written, this book will touch your heart. It offers hope that, no matter where you come from, life is what you make it.

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Research Redefined

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 2 comments

Encyclopedia Britannica 1913 300x177 Research RedefinedYou may have heard that Encyclopædia Britannica no longer sells a print edition. It now only offers a paid subscription to its online edition. Why pay a few bucks a month for information that’s available free? Ah, yes, Encyclopædia Britannica entices prospects by saying, “There’s no such thing as a bad question–but there are bad answers.”

Wikipedia vs. Encyclopædia Britannica

Resources like Wikipedia and infographics have been known to produce incorrect information. Besides, even if Wikipedia managed to produce perfect entries — it still has a human factor problem with volunteers writing and editing the entries.

I’ve seen an editor delete an entry due to bias rather than providing a solid reason that complies with Wikipedia guidelines. I’ve seen entries on controversial hijacked or rewritten with bias. And I’ve heard stories like David Henderson’s. He shares his thoughts and experience on Wikipedia.

I think we all agree Wikipedia has plenty of mistakes. But what about the stalwart Britannica? It’s not infallible according to a study.

Nature conducted a controversial study comparing the accuracy of the two sources. Using the average mistakes per article, the study found 2.92 mistakes for Encyclopædia Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia could make corrections instantly while a printed edition could not … that is, until now. I wonder how the two compare when using the online edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.

Nonetheless, we all need to know how to discern bad information from the good. That means learning how to find information, looking at the facts, and evaluating the source [pdf]. Many Wikipedia contributors include citations to support the facts presented. Using our experience and research skills, we can figure out whether those resources suffice.

Wikipedia doesn’t get much respect in academics. Some educators consider it invalid as a source. (Search for it and you’ll see.)

Trusted resources not always reliable

The Internet has changed how we obtain information. The information is out there, but we need to know how to dig through it to get what we need. Even reliable resources get it wrong.

For example, The University of Texas’ Energy Institute conducted a hydraulic fracturing study that included a look at the media and public perception of shale gas development. The study found that the tone of media coverage was “overwhelming negative.”

Here are the most interesting facts from the study:

  • “Less than 20% of newspaper articles on hydraulic fracturing mention scientific research related to the issue.
  • “25% of broadcast news stories examined made reference to scientific studies.
  • “33% of online news coverage mentioned scientific research on the issue.”

Newspaper articles. Broadcast news. Online news coverage. These are resources many people trust. Yet, these media outlets don’t often rely on scientific research when talking about shale development.

Side note. Here’s an infographic comparing the two. Accurate or not? I found the Nature study through Google, which happens to be one of the resources in the infographic. Do a search on the study and you’ll see plenty of results about its controversy.

What kind of impact does the Internet have on research? What if many researchers, journalists, and students rely on flawed data found on the Internet and reliable resources? How do we determine what’s reliable aside from talking to a primary source?

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