Communication and marketing via the web are quickly becoming one of the more powerful tools in business today. Because of its global reach, its efficiencies, and the ability to make it work for you while you sleep, the Internet is more effective than any of the traditional tools we’re accustomed to using.

Enter the enewsletter, or email marketing. According to The State of Retailing Online 2009: Marketing report, 89 percent of retailers cited email as the most successful marketing tactic overall. The benefits of email are just as great for B2B businesses. According to, email marketing delivers sales at an average cost per order of less than $7, as compared to $71.89 for banner ads, $26.75 for paid search, and $17.47 for affiliate programs.

A friend of mine, Jon Buscall, who is a PR pro in Sweden, recently wrote about things to consider when using email marketing in your business. Before beginning an email campaign, he suggests creating goals to measure the following:

* Conversion rate
* Open rate
* Traffic
* Click-throughs
* Increased sales

All of these can be measured through Constant Contact (or your newsletter vendor of choice) and Google Analytics.

If you’re just beginning a new email campaign and don’t have a benchmark, then your goals should be a percentage of the industry standard to get you started. Google “your industry + newsletter open rate standards” and you’ll find articles that give you standards for your industry.

Now you’re ready to create content for your email newsletter. One thing to keep in mind: The content must be valuable to the recipient, or you’ll miss your conversion and open rate goals. This is not about you. This is about the value, credibility, and thought leadership you bring to the people in your database.

Your content should do the following, according to a survey completed by MarketingSherpa:

* Provide links to relevant content;
* Provide the ability to navigate from within the email to more detailed content;
* Highlight key words and points; and
* Provide well thought-out and organized thinking.

Let’s explore what each of these means.

1. Provide links to relevant content. I’m a big believer in karma and that, if you scratch others’ backs, they’ll do the same for you. Just like I’ve done in this article, find content that supports your thinking and link to it so your readers have additional content to read, listen to, or view. Not only will it make you visible to those you hope to influence, it will add credibility to your own thinking and will enhance your search engine optimization.

2. Provide the ability to navigate from within the email to more detailed content. This is where I recommend you use your website and/or blog. If you have a blog, use one of the newsletter widgets to pull in your most popular posts for the past month. This automatically teases with a few sentences and provides a link directly back to your blog. If you don’t have a blog, send people to your home page by creating links that direct to it.

3. Highlight key words and points. It doesn’t matter how educated your audience is, people spend an average of 96 seconds scanning something – whether it’s emails, blogs, newsletters, or articles—to decide if they want to invest more time reading. Grab them by drawing the eye to important words and phrases to intrigue them just enough to want to read more.

4. Provide well thought-out and organized thinking. All of your content should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It should have clearly delineated sections with headlines and, in some cases, subheads. And it should be cleanly formatted so it’s easy to read quickly.

No matter how educated your audience is, you should always write at an eighth-grade level. Not because your audience reads or thinks at that level, but because people are consuming a lot of media and they don’t have time to dig through your heady topics or 15-syllable words. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS!).

The same MarketingSherpa survey shows that people don’t care about:

* Interactivity;
* Graphics;
* Advanced customization;
* Less content;
* Advanced delivery timing; and
* Social networking links.

Focus on the basics, get them right, exceed your goals, and then add bells and whistles.

What else would you add?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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