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By Becky Repka

E-newsletters are a great and inexpensive tool for communicating with many different audiences, which makes them popular for communicating with current and prospective customers. E-newsletters and promotional emails alone make up about 62 percent of all emails sent, and e-newsletters specifically are projected to grow another 58 percent by 2013.* Amidst growing e-newsletter competition, you want to make sure to create and maintain a solid newsletter strategy to achieve long-term results.

To create an effective and sustainable email newsletter, there are five primary areas to consider in the development or update of a successful strategy.

1. Clearly define the goals for your newsletter. Think about what it is you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach before you get started. Is it to acquire new customers? Increase customer satisfaction? Extend your brand or image? Is your audience comprised of current customers or prospects? Identifying and keeping focus on the primary goals and audience for your newsletters will help define the development of and ultimate success for your newsletters. Donít develop and send an e-newsletter just because you can. It can have unintended and adverse consequences if the newsletter is not valuable to recipients.

2. Find and communicate relevant and valuable content. Remember the goal and the audience you identified first and provide them the content they want and expect. This includes, in order of importance, identifying yourself clearly in the from address; crafting a concise and compelling subject line so recipients know what they are receiving and why they should open it; and then finally creating the content in the newsletter itself. The from address is the first chance you have to identify yourself to your recipients, so be clear. The subject line may be the most critical piece of the content you provide. The benefit of the information contained within should be conveyed in a concise and compelling manner. Subject lines should be on the short side, less than 50 characters (35 Ė 45 are ideal). However, in some cases, if truncating the subject line compromises the content significantly, it is okay to have it a little longer.

For the newsletter content, it should first pay off on the promise of the subject line. Provide content that matters to your readers. For instance, for business to business communications, help them stay informed and do their jobs better. For consumers, provide content they are interested in and canít do without. In constructing your content, use short paragraphs, sentences and words. Break content up with plenty of subheads that are easy to scan and digest. And remember you donít need to cram everything in.

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