Do you have a system to collect prospect information and a method of communicating with these potential customers? If not, then you need one. If you do, how effective is your system in turning your prospects into customers?
Having an email newsletter is a very effective method of collecting information from your prospects. If you do not have an email newsletter then you are missing out on a very effective medium for turning your prospects into customers and your customers into lifetime prospects. No matter whether you sell a product, a service, or earn revenue through advertising, and no matter what topic your web site is on, you can benefit by having a newsletter.
So how do you create a newsletter? First, we will talk about how to set up a newsletter for a small list. Skip below to "Automating your subscribe and unsubscribe requests" if you have a list with more than one hundred subscribers or you would like to use features such as automatic subscriber management, multiple lists, mail merge personalization, bounceback handling, or HTML email.
Creating a small email newsletter for free
If you have a very small list (less than 100 subscribers) you can set things up without paying a dime. Here's what you'll need:
A form on your website to collect the prospects' names and email addresses.
The FormMail.cgi script in your cgi-bin to covert the submitted information into a readable format.
An email program such as Eudora or Outlook that allows you to create a mailing list or send blind carbon copy (BCC) emails. If you have a computer running Windows, you will most likely have a copy of the email client Outlook Express already on your computer. You can download a free copy of Eudora from http://www.eudora.com.
First, check to make sure your hosting company has provided you with FormMail.cgi. Almost all do. Use a program such as WS_FTP or Cute FTP to log in to your domain via file transfer protocol (FTP) and open up the folder called cgi-bin. Inside should be FormMail.cgi. If you cannot find the file, email your host to inquire or search for a copy online.
If it is there, then you can proceed to adding the form to your website that will collect the name and email address of each prospect. Open up your web page editor (such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage) and add the following HTML code in the location you want the form to be.
Now, save the page and upload it to your server via your FTP program.
Whenever someone visits your page and puts in their name and email and hits submit an email will be sent to you (or whatever address you put for the recipient value) with their details.
When you receive these emails, simply add this person to your list. You can keep your list using the mailing list feature of Outlook or Eudora email clients.
To send out your newsletter simply write it in your email client and select your list as the recipient. The exact method will vary slightly depending on which email program you are using. If you run into any problems check the help file.
In each email you send be sure to have a way for recipients to unsubscribe. You can simply put in the following text:
"To unsubscribe send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "Remove" in the subject."
You could also send subscribers to an unsubscribe form on your website if you wished. Do remember, however, you will have to manage all your unsubscribe requests by hand.
Automating your subscribe and unsubscribe requests
Soon, however, managing your subscribe and unsubscribe requests by hand will start to take quite a bit of your time. Your time is much better spent growing your newsletter and marketing your business than manually adding and subtracting emails from your list. Once your list grows to be bigger than about one hundred subscribers, having an automatic system in place is a necessity.
So how can you set things up so everything is handled automatically? Well, you need to use email list management software.
Email list management software is able to handle subscribe and unsubscribe requests automatically and send out your emails to your each of your subscribers at the touch of one button. This will save you many hours of your time.
Choosing an Email list management Program
Besides handling subscribe/unsubscribe requests and sending out emails, what other features should you look for in email list management software?
Web based versus PC Based
Some email list management programs are PC based, meaning they are programs that you must download and install on your computer, and some are web based. Web based software enables you to access your lists and send out newsletters from any computer and runs right through your Internet browser.
If you ever travel or want to be able to access your lists from more than one computer, say, at home and at the office, then be sure to select software that is web based.
Personalization of Emails
Another powerful feature of many email list management programs is the ability to use mail merge capabilities to personalize each email that you send. In other words, you could put the following in the subject line:
[fname], Your June Garden Tips Newsletter
and if your subscriber's first name was Betty she would see in her inbox: Betty, Your June Garden Tips Newsletter
Betty, Your June Garden Tips Newsletter
This personalization of your emails will increase readership and enable you to develop a one-on-one relationship with each subscriber, begin to earn their trust, and build rapport. This will be an essential part of turning your prospects into customers and your customers into lifetime evangelizers who will tell all their friends about your wonderful product or service.
You may also want to mail merge additional fields into your messages besides first name and last name. In selecting your software, be sure to look for the ability to have a number of custom mail merge fields. This can be very powerful. With this capability you could send an email such as:
I wanted to personally thank you for your purchase of [product] on [date]. How are you doing with [product]? Do let me know if I can answer any questions.
Bill Jennison, President
Garden Feeds, Inc.
The mail merge feature would insert the proper entry in each field straight from your database and send all your emails out in a matter of seconds.
Bounceback email handling
Bouncebacks are emails that are sent to email accounts that no longer exist or are full. Essentially, the mail server that handles the delivery of the email will send you a response stating that your message did not make it. All email list management software programs are able to manage subscribe and unsubscribe requests and send out messages, however many of these are unable to effectively manage bouncebacks.
Without integrated bounceback email handling all the non-deliverable emails will be sent back to you. Once you start to develop a larger list it can be rather bothersome to receive a few hundred emails each time you send out a mailing.
Ideally, the email software you use will be able to manage your bouncebacks for you. Whenever a bounceback is received, the software makes a note of the address and if another bounceback is received the email address will be sent to a list of dead addresses. This remove capability is very important since if you continuously send out emails with many bouncebacks you may be blacklisted by some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a spammer. This is surely something you want to avoid.
The ability to send out HTML emails has been around for quite some time. Most good email list management programs support the ability to send out messages that include graphics and formatted text. This is surely something you'll want to look for.
However, not all of your users have the ability to view email messages in HTML format. This percentage is usually between 10-20%. Instead of seeing your aesthetically pleasing email they might see a string of meaningless code. Using most email list management programs, these 10-20% of users will open up emails from you and be very inclined to unsubscribe or confuse your mail as spam.
To avoid this, look for programs that use multi-part MIME to send out messages. When you send an HTML email in multi-part MIME, users who do not have the ability to view HTML messages will receive the email in the usual text format.
What I Use
To manage my lists and send out my email I personally use a program called IntelliContact Pro. IntelliContact Pro has all of the above features and even quite a few more that really make things very simple. The website for IntelliContact Pro is http://www.icontact.com. I'd highly recommend this software.
Here's a quick review of what we've learned.
Email newsletters are a very effective way of turning prospects into customers and customers into lifetime clients.
If you have a small list you can create an email newsletter for free by placing a form on your website, using FormMail.cgi to manage subscribe requests, and using the mailing list feature or BCC field in email clients such as Outlook or Eudora.
With larger lists managing subscribe and unsubscribe requests can take quite a bit of time. To manage these requests automatically you can use email list management software.
When selecting software to manage your list, look for programs that are web based, give you the ability to send personalized emails, handle your bouncebacks, and enable you to send HTML email.
A good email list management program that has all of the above features is IntelliContact Pro (http://www.icontact.com).