Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Email marketing - sending my first newsletter to myself

My trial of email marketing from Constant Contact continues after a short delay. Last step was to chat to an email marketing consultant, who provided me with a lot of information to get me started. The next step was to try and put together my first email, and send it to the enormous mailing list of one person, me! I did start to read some of additional resources that I was sent as well, but frankly I'm more in a "get on and do it" mood, so I'll be making a lot of mistakes along the way. 

To get started you have to pick a template for your email from all the categories presented. It feels like hundreds, so you'd think there would be one that jumped out at me. But this turned out harder than I expected. In the end I rejected the typical "business people around a PC" styles, opting for something more bright and friendly. Hey, I don't have to get it right first time, and hopefully nobody is judging Consected services on my aesthetic tastes. Just as long as the template is not clearly obnoxious or pink and flowery I think I'm okay.

So, a green template picked, now its time to start editing. For users of the Google Chrome browser, you'll get a warning that the editor is a Beta version currently. Which means presumably that the engineers haven't really had a chance to validate that everything works correctly, although for me it seemed to work alright (better than the editor I'm using to write this blog to be honest). 

To make it obvious that it is a newsletter you are writing, the editor is split into the major blocks of the page:

  • Title
  • Table of contents
  • Greetings
  • Articles
  • etc, etc...
You get to edit each block independently of the others, which prevents you from completely screwing up the layout of the email if you delete something incorrectly. It also really helps to guide your thought processes, rather than starting from a blank page. 

One gripe is around the simple image upload facility, which worked fine generally. Although I'll say that is seems kinda backwards to have to resize your images where you upload them into the library, rather than where they appear in the text. Maybe I'm missing something, but even this Google Blogger editor manages to be a little more intuitive in that regard.

Now, the big challenge. Something that no service can help you with really. What on earth do I write about? So my current areas of interest are barcodes for information management and marketing, and travel expenses. Woohoo! This is going to be exciting fodder. So let's get creative.

So I start writing, and find that the conveniently small article blocks that you start with really help you keep your thoughts concise and to the point. I want to capture people's interest in the email, not write War and Peace. So that part of it is easier than I expected. But I want each teaser article to lead to more useful information, on my blog or website. But I don't want this to just look like an obnoxious ploy to get people to my website to sell them something. This is about engagement, after all. So the hard part I realized is having some content already published somewhere that I can point reader of my newsletter to. The really valuable stuff that the newsletter teaser leads to.

Well, that's where I've got myself stuck. So I sent the test email anyway, just for the hell of it. And it looked pretty good, I must say! But I now need to put some thought behind what is going behind the scenes. Writing good content, that I really want to publish on my website takes a little time. This blog, well you can already see that this is a different story. But it would be nice for people to get something useful from the website. So it seems I have another item for the to-do list. Which gives me a perfect opportunity to sign off until the next installment of my email marketing story.

A post from the Improving It blog
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