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Time to Stop Sending Email Newsletters?

by Deidre Rienzo  ||   2 Comments

Email newsletters are like iPods. Everybody has one. But remember the old days? When you used to get real, paper newsletters in the mail? They’ve virtually disappeared, replaced by their e-counterparts. As it gets more difficult to stand out amidst email clutter, might it be possible to stand out by returning to an old favorite?

Brands are reverting back everywhere we look.

Mountain Dew has a “throwback” version with real sugar. The drink stands out because everybody is using high-fructose corn syrup. Maybe print newsletters are the old-school sugar? Let’s look at the benefits of sending a printed newsletter in today’s email culture:

  1. Distinctive from bills. The ability to stand out depends on what you’re trying to stand out from. It seems like all I get in the mail is bills. Rarely does the postman deliver anything with value. The occasional personal thank you note or card is special. Last week, I got a newsletter from the local health food store—and I read the whole thing while I drank my coffee.
  2. More than a subject line. For people to see your email newsletter, they have to click through a 35-character subject line. This means some audience members only see 35 characters. With print, they can’t help but see more. By mailing your newsletter with immediate visibility in mind, more headlines have a chance to stand out. So do vivid colors, images and compelling design.
  3. Longer attention span. It takes a lot more time to open the mailbox, flip through incoming mail, and walk to the recycling bin than it does to hit “delete.” Real mail means more time, which means more opportunity to pique a reader’s interest.
  4. The surprise factor. Goodies in the mail are few and far between. I think most people still feel excited when retrieving the mail. Did I get something good today? When something new or unexpected does arrive, it’s received with more appreciation.
  5. Tangibility touches. Call me a throwback, but in our digital world, tactile has power. When your audience feels the paper, and holds your value-packed outreach in their hands, they are more likely to reward your effort with their attention.

Yes, print has its cons. Printed newsletters cost more, and they take more time to produce. Click-throughs aren’t possible, and instant coupons don’t work. But maybe the benefits are worth it? Does print have a place alongside email? A combination of wide-reach emails and value-rich tangibility might just hit the right note.

Maybe old-fashioned is the new way to show our customers we really care. What do you think?

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2 Responses

  1. Stephen May says:

    Great post!

    As an Internet marketer, nearly all of my clients use “traditional” e-newsletters as a foundation of their information broadcasts. Only recently has cross-posting information to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other rapidly evolving social media platforms become the expected norm.

    The reasons are obvious – search engine optimization (SEO) benefit, the ability to rapidly build a subscriber list and the prospect of engaging your audience immediately in dialog via social media are just a few. As a result, interest in formal e-newsletter broadcast are waning in favor of less formal and rapidly deployable social media posts.

    Imagine my surprise when I received a PRINTED newsletter from a client that had abandoned the practice of snail mail newsletters nearly 6 years ago. The feel of heavy quality stock in hand, brilliant images and several pages of interesting information – it was all so… retro and it simply stood out.

    Why? Because, no one does it anymore.

    The e-newsletter is still a common Internet marketing tool, although there’s no question that they’re on the decline. Perhaps one day after an extended period of being passé, it’ll be retro-cool to dust one off, try it on and stand out from the crowd?

    If only this were the case with my old plaid suits…

  2. Thanks for the great insights, Steve. I’ve always been a huge fan of print newsletters – when done the right way. But we’ve all seen those clunky or cheesy newsletters that sport either dense blocks of text or so many fonts and clip art images that your eyes cross.

    Perhaps we’ll see a new golden age for print newsletters as more people resort to old-school marketing. (But you should still lose those plaid suits.)

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