The key is to make sure your e-newsletter resides on a microsite. This homepage should include a table of contents and synopses of all the different articles in a given issue, and each full article should occupy a separate HTML page. This means your e-newsletter isn’t simply a static message sitting in a subscriber’s inbox; instead, as readers are clicking around your e-newsletter and reading the articles, they actually are navigating through a microsite.
Why is microsite architecture important? The answer is tracking. With a microsite, you get more than open rate tracking; you can track each individual subscriber’s behavior as he or she digests your e-newsletter. Did the subscriber open your e-newsletter? What articles did he or she read, and how often? Did he click any external links that took him to your corporate Web site? Did he forward an article to a friend? This information—and more—is trackable, if your e-newsletter service supports a microsite architecture with robust reporting capabilities.
This knowledge can be very powerful. For example, I recently spoke with the marketing manager of a company that provides antivirus and intrusion prevention software solutions. She developed an e-newsletter to build credibility with her sales leads—busy IT managers who have little time or patience for marketing spin, and who want to be sure they’re dealing with a company that has vision and expertise. As the marketing manager reviewed reports on subscriber behavior, she realized those active readers were pretty good sales leads; by reading and re-reading articles about her products, they were exhibiting behavior that indicated they might be ready to buy. Now, each time she sends out her e-newsletter to her more than 30,000 subscribers, she can pass along 200 to 400 solid leads to her sales people for appropriate follow-up.
This is known in e-newsletter parlance as “informative marketing.” Find out what your subscribers are most interested in, and react accordingly—e.g., write more articles on the most popular subject matter, plan marketing campaigns based on offers that generate the most reader interest, or follow up with contextually relevant sales activities.