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Photo courtesy of Mike Baird (2010)

A client has been thinking of introducing an e-newsletter, and no wonder. Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen calls email newsletters “the Internet’s best tool for supplementing a website.”

Few promotional efforts can claim the degree of “customer buy-in” enjoyed by newsletters, Nielsen says, noting that 69 per cent of users “look forward to receiving at least one newsletter.” He encourages looking at newsletters as a long-term investment because “they work their magic over time.”

I love newsletters, both print and electronic. The best ones are warm and friendly, and contain interesting and/or useful information. They arrive often enough to be familiar and welcome, but not so often that they seem TOO frequent, which is one of the most common complaints Nielsen hears.

Here are some other points to ponder if you’re thinking about a newsletter, either print or electronic:

Purpose: What do you want the newsletter to achieve? How will you know it’s effective? Is there any behaviour you want to change or encourage? Why a newsletter over other forms of communication?

Content: What will make your publication useful to your readers? What will make them look forward to it, open it, read it? What unique perspective or information can you provide that readers can’t get elsewhere? What are you the expert in, or what makes you different? Are there frequently asked questions you can answer, case studies you can share, survey results, conference recaps and so on? Be sure what you publish has value to grow your reputation and maintain a relationship. Answer the reader’s unspoken question, “What’s in it for me?”

Timing: Is there a particular day/week/month you want to be sure to issue your newsletter? This will help you decide when to launch, and help you set up a schedule to make sure you meet your deadline, whether it’s quarterly (the minimum time recommended), monthly, weekly or even daily. Work backward from your desired publishing date to figure out when you need to start and finish each issue.

What other suggestions would you share with someone thinking about introducing a newsletter?