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Getting Subscribers

Part 5 of this series, "The Rules of Email Marketing," spoke of building, managing, and maintaining a database for email marketing. Building a database of subscribers for your organization's email newsletter is a little more involved—and here is where your IT department can help:

  • Promote your newsletter on your web site. Your design staff should provide a "Subscribe" box on your home page and a way to subscribe on every page of your site. It doesn't have to be in your main or secondary navigation. Your newsletter promotion can look like a small banner ad on each page, touting the value of your newsletter to anyone who reaches that page.

  • Include an opportunity to subscribe at the end of your checkout process. If you require free registration for visitors to personalize their visits to your site, include an opt-in for your newsletter, too.

Once your email newsletters are up and running and you've sent out a few, your design staff should create a separate section on your web site to archive past issues. These pages don't have to be included in your navigation or accessed by visitors. The main purpose of the archive is to help you generate traffic to your web site. Submit these archive pages to search engines—even if they're not part of the navigation on your site. In this way, you'll gain more links to search engines by archiving your content-rich newsletters on your site.

Next, let your subscribers spread the news. Ask subscribers to forward the newsletter to a friend by including a link in your newsletter that says, in effect, "Pass this on to my friend." When the link is clicked, send the user to a page linked in your newsletter where the user can enter the email addresses of friends, family, and colleagues who might also value your newsletter.

CAUTION

Of course, your IT staff must confirm the referred address via email, politely saying "so-and-so thought you would be interested in a subscription," and providing a chance for the addressee to opt out before you include him or her in your house list. The last thing you want is to be accused of spamming!

Another consideration of importance is the format of your organization's email newsletter. Should you send your newsletter as plain text or in HTML? Many of the popular email programs today can read HTML-formatted email—but others can't. The best thing to do is to give subscribers a choice when they sign up, and then send the newsletter in the format they requested. But be careful with the design of an HTML newsletter. Don't let your design team go too crazy with graphics. Have them understate the design. Too much text, too many images, or not enough white space can make an HTML newsletter difficult to read.

If you do use HTML for your newsletter, be sure to include a way to track whether the newsletter was opened. The nature of HTML allows you to track responses by seeing its use in your site traffic tracking program (see Part 2 of this series, "Monitoring, Analyzing, and Communicating to Meet Business Objectives").

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