E-mail newsletters grow in popularity & help small businesses gain visibility

More and more small business owners are turning to the Internet for cost-effective ways to market to target audiences, using e-mail newsletters that allow them to connect with customers and potential customers.

"They're an effective, inexpensive, and relatively easy way for small companies to regularly stay in touch with customers and prospects," said Rhonda Abrams in a column for Gannett News Service. Abrams started her own monthly e-mail newsletter several years ago and now has about 20,000 regular readers.

Effective e-mail newsletters can help with everything from repeat or new business to donations and attendance at events, according to marketing consultant Susan Burnash. Brafton, a Boston-based news agency, said Burnash recommends that owners create an editorial calendar so they can pick themes ahead of time and prepare for those issues, gathering information, interviewing sources, and writing copy.

Many web-based companies offer e-mail newsletter services, making it easier and less expensive for people to take advantage of the technology. Abrams said she uses a service called myemma.com, one of many such newsletter service companies. She suggested checking the bottom of an e-mail newsletter you receive to see which service the business used. These Internet companies typically handle all the technical aspects as well as provide feedback on how many people are clicking through on the links you provide in the newsletter.

Burnash recommended using summaries of articles in your newsletter with links to the company's Web site to encourage "click-through success" and get people on your Web site.

The design, contents, and personality of a newsletter should reflect the brand of the company sending it. Newsletters should provide meaningful content, be relatively short, sent on a regular basis, and have effective subject line headings.

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