An E-Newsletter Can Enhance Your Agencys Marketing Efforts

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One of the best new technologies to come out of the Internet revolution has been e-mail, and one of the best ways you can use e-mail to enhance your marketing plan is to distribute a regular e-newsletter.

While it is common for financial professionals to send out a regular newsletter, few have embraced the concept of an e-newsletter, despite the fact that it can be considerably less expensive to produce and distribute.

An e-newsletter can give instant credibility to a new agent. Not every prospect becomes an immediate client, and the continuous sending of a newsletter establishes the agent as an authority who has several ideas to present each month. If youre an established agent who has a book of prospects to convert to clients, the newsletter will remind the prospect of your existence and that you have plenty of great ideas.

Just as with any direct mailing you use for your marketing plan, you need to create an e-newsletter that will be viewed by its readers as valuable and not as junk mail. Your e-newsletter must be interesting and its message compelling. When it comes to the content, here are some tips:

Pick a single, target market. Dont try to appeal to all audiences. Seniors will have different interests than someone 20 or 30 years younger. Target your message.

The title of your newsletter should identify the market. This should also appear in the subject bar on the e-mail.

Headlines need to grab the readers attention. Keep them short and catchy. For example, “401(k) Rollovers” isnt as compelling as “10 Reasons to Rollover Your Retirement Plan.”

Keep articles short. 300-400 words works best. You can add links “for more information on this topic” that take the reader directly to your Web site.

End each article with an offer for a specific solution, or other encouragement to take immediate action. For example, offer them a free booklet on the subject or a free quote, etc.

When it comes to the actual content of your newsletter, you have a number of choices. You can write your own content or pay a writer for original articles. Your wholesalers may have articles that you can redistribute.

You may also be able to reuse the content you license for your standard, hard copy newsletter. Regardless of where you get the content, you will get the best responses from articles that create an emotional reaction in the reader and encourage them to take immediate action.

Once you have addressed your content needs, you need to address the technical issues of distributing your e-newsletter. The right software will meet these needs, but before you can select the software, you need to answer a few questions.

One of the first questions you must consider is whether to distribute in HTML or text-only. HTML allows you to create an aesthetically attractive product. Text-only is just that. With text-only, formatting is limited and graphics arent possible. One reason to offer a text-only product is because its universally accepted.

Fortunately, most peoples computers can read an HTML e-mail document, but its best to offer both. Its more work to produce two versions, but it eliminates the problem of reaching those clients who cant or wont accept HTML e-mail.

If you wish to produce an HTML newsletter, you will also need an HTML editor and a Web site where you can store the image files that you include. The images arent stored with the e-mail, rather their location is stored, and a reference code will locate and then display the image.

The cost of a software program to distribute your e-mail newsletter can vary from $40 to several hundred dollars. Knowing what features you want will help you select the right product. If you plan to produce a simple text-only newsletter, most common contact management software has that capability. A few may offer add-on programs to manage HTML.

A stand-alone product will have features specifically designed for e-mail. The better e-mail distribution programs will offer you the ability to produce both an HTML and a text version simultaneously, and will auto-detect which format to deliver to each client. You should be able to import your distribution list from your existing contact manager. If you want your e-newsletter to be personalized, then you also want the program you choose to offer an e-mail merge.

Be sure your e-newsletter only reaches those who want it. You should include a link to “unsubscribe” at the bottom, and your software ideally should automatically delete the subscriptions of those who make that request.

One caveat: Be sure that any reply e-mail boxes do not have an auto-responder or you will have e-mails repeatedly bouncing back.

If you like the idea of an e-newsletter, but either dont have the time or interest in pulling it together yourself, you still can use this powerful marketing tool. You can contract out the work to writers and programmers, or you can purchase one of the stock e-newsletters that are available for you to license. A purchased e-newsletter can offer an additional advantage; most have already been reviewed and approved by the NASD.

In any case, whether you do it yourself or buy one, distributing an e-newsletter should prove to be a valuable addition to your marketing plan and will help bring your practice into the 21st century.

is the president and founder of NF Communications in Walnut

Creek, Calif.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 25, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.