NEWSLETTER OR BLOG
- WHICH WORKS BETTER?
Internet Marketing is now the most effective way of growing sales. Potential customers search the Internet for possible suppliers. A selling-effective website is visible on their 'radar screens' and can encourage them to make contact with the company. Of course this does not usually occur with just one visit to the website. The selling cycle involves moving prospects through the AIDA path, that is
The prospect will probably need several inputs from the company in order to create movement towards Action. So what is the best way of communicating with the prospect from time to time? Many companies turn to a newsletter to promote that movement through the steps of AIDA. Registering for a company newsletter on the company website is usually an easily accepted action if the newsletter offers interesting content. Receiving the e-mail newsletter from time to time then helps to raise awareness and create interest by repetition.
This sounds like a reasonable way to go. However is a newsletter the most effective support to selling? Would other alternatives work better?
WHAT IS A BLOG?
Another term that is often mentioned is blogging. Blogging is the process of writing content in a blog. Blog is a shorthand for Web-log, or in other words a journal beamed out on the World Wide Web. A blog consists of a series of posts added to the blog from time to time.
At its simplest that is all it is. However it often is expanded to include comments that visitors may add and will often attract trackbacks. A trackback is a (hyper)link to the blog from some other website or blog.
Many companies are using blogs now to communicate with their customers and with prospects, either alone or alongside a newsletter. Which is better? How can you determine how effective either one may be. Let's compare the advantages and disadvantages of newsletters and of blogs.
A newsletter sent out by e-mail to those who request it can be a powerful way of creating a good impression. Even a text message that has important content will get attention. However now using HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language), an e-mail message can look just as impressive as a web page of the company website. Indeed without being aware of the move, a visitor can switch to the website by clicking on a link in the e-mail message.
So anyone who opens the e-mail message will get an impressive perception of what the company has to offer. The only obvious disadvantage for the recipient is that the e-mail message arrives when the sender sends it. It is intrusive. It comes at a time dictated by the sender rather than the time most convenient to the receiver. Even though requested, it may arrive with a large number of other important messages and get lost in the crowd.
There are two major disadvantages of e-mail newsletters. One is that recipients must provide their e-mail addresses. Some may be reluctant to do so fearing their e-mail address will be sold to others or concerned that they may receive hundreds of junk e-mails. So you'll be able to contact only a fraction of those you may wish to contact.
Another disadvantage is that many people now use spam filters, sometimes automatic ones provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or perhaps others they have installed themselves. So it may be that your e-mail newsletter does not get through to those who have subscribed but is rejected as spam.
Some spam filters may automatically block HTML e-mail messages so this is a reason for using text e-mail messages, even though they may have less visual impact. Care must be taken in constructing even text e-mail messages. Questionable words and excessive punctuation, particularly in the Subject of the message may cause an e-mail message to be diverted to the Junk pile.
Blog posts are in essence web pages, so the same considerations do not apply as for e-mail newsletters. Blogs fit entirely the principle of Permission Marketing. They are only seen when the web visitor chooses to visit them. There is now very user-friendly software available without cost to construct such blogs. For example the Google Blogger website provides all that is needed to create a blog.
The other great plus is that blogs often naturally create a great many links to and from other websites and blogs. Particularly for Google keyword searches, links are very important in boosting the importance of web pages that contain such key words. With a good link structure, a web page will appear very high in the search engine report pages (SERPs) for particular keywords. This means that the blog posts are thus more visible on the Internet and are more likely to be found by people searching for suppliers.
As far as the reader goes, there are absolutely no disadvantages of blogs, providing there is useful content in the blog posts. Some people instantly worry that the author of the blog must produce worthwhile content for the blog posts. However there is no law about how frequently blog posts must be added. There is exactly the same problem in developing the content of a newsletter as there is in developing a blog post.
BLOG OR WEBSITE
Technically a blog is a website. So why bother with a blog, why not stick to just a website? The answer is that the most successful websites probably are blogs or include a blog. The important attribute of a blog to its human visitors is that it shows news. Another important attribute is that by its linking structure the contents tend to be very visible in search engines. This is why a typical blog is so much more powerful than a typical website. It gives a reason for visitors to return and see what's new.
Indeed if you've just invented the best mousetrap in the world and want to market it on the Internet, I would encourage you to use a blog rather than a website as the best support for your efforts.
Coming back to our question of Newsletter or Blog, one critical factor here is the nature of your audience. What are they like and what is likely to be the best way of communicating with them. There are possibly three typical slices of most business audiences.
- Some like e-mail newsletters but have strong spam filters.
- Some like e-mail newsletters but have weak spam filters.
- Some have given up on e-mail newsletters and prefer newsfeeds.
You may understand the first two slices but were unaware of the third slice.
The next section will explain in detail what a newsfeed is. In short, it is a message beamed out to indicate that some new content has been added to some store of news information such as the BBC or the New York Times. Blogs too can send out newsfeeds. So that is why the third audience slice has been included. It may only be 10% of a typical audience currently but it is growing very strongly as more and more people try it. It probably includes that section of your target audience that is on the leading edge in finding and using innovation.
- For slice A above, you may find your newsletter never gets through the strong spam filters.
- For slice B above, your newsletter may get through but is probably in a flood of messages of questionable value, some of it spam.
- For slice C above, they see only the newsfeeds they have selected and spam cannot interfere.
Not surprisingly the use of newsfeeds is growing strongly.
Newsfeeds have been around for some time in what is called Newsfeed Syndication. This is a process where usually a short summary of some news item is made available to others for publication, provided the original source is correctly identified. Particular kinds of coded files are used in this syndication process. Typical names you may hear are RSS, XML, RDF or Atom.
It's an ideal basis for Permission Marketing. If the short snippet is something that might interest you, then you can go to read the original article. Most current browsers cannot display these newsfeed files in a user-friendly fashion but usually show you the actual code for the file. Perhaps as a sign of things to come the new Internet Explorer Version 7 which is now available in a Beta2 Preview version makes a big feature of its RSS Newsfeed support. It even makes a tiny audible swish noise when opening a web page that has an associated newsfeed. Once Version 7 is more widely used this small sound can be expected to make many more people aware of newsfeeds.
Internet Explorer v. 7 displays such RSS newsfeed files in a very readable and effective format. To an extent it is behaving like a Newsfeed Reader or Aggregator, which is a special purpose program designed to review newsfeeds. Most users of newsfeeds are using one of these and more details are given in the next section.
Newsfeeds are important for two reasons. Google now has a special Blog Search that rapidly finds changed newsfeeds so this gives an almost immediate alert on what may have changed in a news source.
The other newsfeed property also leads to faster Internet visibility. When a newsfeed has changed, it is possible to 'ping' the newsfeed aggregators to alert them to the change. In a single operation, a number of aggregators can be alerted by using a service such as Pingoat or Ping-o-matic. Whereas it may take months for new web pages to be spidered and included in the search engine databases, newsfeeds can almost instantly be indexed in the newsfeed databases.
Wikipedia provides a good explanation of what a newsfeed aggregator does. The following are some of the better known ones:
Bloglines, an Ask Jeeves subsidiary, is one of the most popular and user-friendly of these. The user decides on a group of newsfeeds to subscribe to. These might include favourite blogs, important news media, associations and so on. Bloglines software scans all the newsfeeds for all of its users on a regular basis, say usually once per hour, to spot any newsfeeds that have changed indicating new content. The user is then presented with a short list of only those subscriptions that have new content. Dependent on the short snippet, the user may then choose to go to review the original article or news item.
TURN YOUR NEWSLETTER INTO A BLOG
This Newsletter's title, "Newsletter Or Blog - Which Is Better?" may seem to imply there's a choice to be made. In fact that implied choice is a no-brainer for reasons we will explain. What you should do is turn your newsletter into the equivalent of a post on a blog.
The argument involves the following 6 steps.
- It is tough to get someone to read a newsletter.
- When you have their attention, use your time well. This means the newsletter content should be memorable and persuasive. It should be the gateway to your website and to your company.
- Such a newsletter may well rank well with search engines for appropriate keywords.
- So have a section on your website that archives all newsletters. This archive may become a long-term gateway into your website.
- Create an RSS newsfeed for the newsletters.
- When a new newsletter is sent out, update the newsfeed and ping relevant newsfeed aggregators.
Your archive of newsletters is now behaving exactly like a blog.
The SMM Newsletters are an example of this approach. Newsletters appear roughly once per month. The first were written in 2000. A RSS newsfeed was started for the newsletters in 2002. Each time a new newsletter is created the above 6 steps are followed. The SMM Newsletters thus have all the characteristics and the Internet visibility of a blog.
If you try to communicate with potential customers and do happen to make contact, make sure that you don't waste this golden opportunity. Make your communication count in terms of moving them along the AIDA path. The first prerequisite is the ability to write the content in a persuasive manner.
Packaging your newsletters as a blog will generate maximum Internet visibility for each newsletter. More visibility means more prospects reading something about your company. If the copy is carefully written to be persuasive, then there should be a good chance that the prospect will take the next step and contact your company.
If you require help in this, then SMM will be happy to help you figure out your best approach. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience and creativity can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation or chat online if he is available.
Series Author: Barry Welford
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Added to site 10 February 2006
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