Part 1: Encourage Repeat Sales & Customer Loyalty

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There are a few good ways to get repeat sales and increase customer loyalty. The one strategy that I want to focus on this week is starting your own opt-in newsletter. Now don’t cringe or click the delete key. Having your own opt-in newsletter is critical to your online success. That’s one of the reasons why so many of the larger dot-com companies are failing. They simply fail to keep in contact with previous customers. A website’s long term success largely depends on its ability to regenerate sales from previous customers.

Unlike bulk, unsolicited e-mail (spam), people choose or opt-in to receive your newsletter. You don’t have to worry about the chances of losing your ISP or web host, nor will you have to worry about people cussing you out, and the like. Having your own newsletter will enable you to show your subscribers that you are an “expert” at what you do. This will build trust, loyalty and credibility between you and your subscribers. This tactic is not aimed at generating first time visitors, but rather setting up the stages to encourage your past site visitors and customers to visit your site repeatedly.

Today let’s focus on how to start your very own newsletter (also called an e-zine). Before you can jump into starting your own opt-in newsletter it’s important to map out your strategy. Here are some things you must consider beforehand:

a) Frequency – How often do you wish to e-mail your newsletter out to subscribers?

Depending on how much or little time you have to devote to your own newsletter will ultimately determine how frequently you will distribute it. Daily? Weekly? Bi-Weekly? Monthly? Unless your whole business is just about writing your newsletter then daily is out of the question. It just requires too much time and really isn’t a good idea, as many subscribers won’t read your everyday mailings. Many will get annoyed by this. Monthly may work in some cases, but usually that’s not enough contact with customers. I would suggest either weekly or bi-weekly as this seems just perfect. Once you’ve decided on a schedule, stick to it. Not keeping on schedule will have a negative effect and show your subscribers you don’t have time for them. This is not the message you want to present.

b) Newsletter Title – Simply, what you are going to call your newsletter?

This will require some thought, and you may want to ask for a few suggestions from your employees or friends. Come up with something easy to remember and focused toward your business. It’s also a good idea to come up with a short slogan or descriptive sentence that quickly describes what your newsletter is all about and place it under your title, just like a sub-heading. Refer to the top of this newsletter for an example.

c) Content – What are you going to write about?

Don’t just send a weekly newsletter with advertisements in it. You’ll quickly lose subscribers if you do that. You must make your newsletter informative because here is where you want to express your expertise. Write articles that help people in some way. Keep your articles targeted to topics that compliment your business. If you’re a gardening site, write articles that involve gardening, lawns, etc.

You don’t have to be a professional writer to write articles. You just need to know what you’re talking about. Nor do you have to write 1,000+ word articles. Keeping within 400 to 500 words is sufficient. Remember, quality is much more important than quantity. If article writing just isn’t for you, hire out for someone to write for you. Really though, it’s not difficult and should be something you can have fun with rather than dread. Writing a good informative article will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. If you have to research your topic more (and chances are you will) then it may take a little longer. I usually find myself spending around 4 to 6 hours per week on each issue of MerchantNewz, but this includes my research time,and most of my articles are over 1,000+ words. Don’t forget to have someone proofread your articles before sending them out with your newsletter. Trust me, you don’t want to be embarrassed by receiving e-mails from people pointing out spelling and grammar mistakes.

Also, don’t use reprinted articles that have been around the Internet a number of times. Write your own content, be unique. People don’t want to read the same articles they’ve already seen a hundred times in other newsletters. Provide valuable content people will want to read. Get excited about your topic. When you do this your readers will get excited too.

d) Distribution – What method are you going to use to send out your newsletter?

Choosing the right distribution method is crucial to getting your newsletter out on time to your subscribers. There are a few e-mail merge programs available that you can use to distribute your newsletter.

Or, if your budget won’t allow for a software purchase, you can send your newsletters with a standard e-mail program (Eudora and Outlook are good ones). Perhaps you may even want to look into using a service like Topica (http://www.topica.com) to distribute your newsletter to subscribers. There are other similar services out there, but Topica seems to be the best, from what I hear. While this will work fine for the short term, as your subscriber numbers grow it’ll be in your best interest to use one of the e-mail merge programs listed above or…

Outsource your newsletter distribution, subscriptions and unsubscriptions to a mailing list system. These are nice and allow for personalization (if you collect names with e-mail addresses) and automatic processing. Be prepared to pay a higher fee for these services, though. A good company to use for this would be Lyris (http://www.lyris.com). There are more out there so feel free to research what others have to offer also. Using services like these will save you a great deal of time, allowing you to focus on other important business related tasks.
It appears this article is going to turn out to be much longer than what I had first anticipated. I’ll stop here and let you absorb the information I’ve given you thus far. Next week we’ll focus on how to get subscribers, keep them, encourage subscribers to visit your site again and other opportunities that come along with having your very own opt-in newsletter. See you next week!

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Jim Conley II is the CEO/Founder of MerchantSeek. MerchantSeek allows merchants from around the world to search FREE for a Merchant Account Provider that best fits their businesses needs and budget. Visit us at http://www.merchantseek.com/

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