Ezines in 10 Minutes a Day- Part 1 – The Purpose

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 03, 2010 in: Business Marketing, Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

First, let me say this for those of you who don’t know: The words “Ezine”, “Newsletter”, and “Autoresponder” are frequently interchangeable and are used to sometimes mean the same thing. They do, however, have some differences:

  • An Ezine is a periodic publication that is distributed electronically via email.
  • A Newsletter is periodic (but not necessarily as frequently scheduled as an Ezine) and it is a more informal mode of communication; it’s also distributed electronically via email.
  • An autoresponder is sometimes a newsletter or sometimes an email or sometimes an ezine that is automatic in nature. But rather than being sent in a “broadcast” it is pre-scheduled.

For example, Tips in 10 is an Autoresponder Ezine. It is a publication — titled Tips in 10 — it is distributed weekly and I have it delivered through an autoresponder system. (More on autoresponder systems in the next issue). The main difference between an autoresponder and standard newsletter or ezine is that an autoresponder typically starts everyone off on the same first newsletter/ezine and they proceed through a series, whereas a newsletter/ezine that isn’t an auto responder would receive only future communication (communication created after sign up).

Let me illustrate: If you subscribed to an autoresponder ezine today, you’d get volume 1 this week, volume 2 next week, and volume 3 the week after. If your friend subscribes the following week, you’d received volume 4 but they’d receive volume 1. Then when you received volume 5 they’d receive volume 2. With an autoresponder everyone starts at the beginning.

If you subscribed to an ezine that wasn’t an autoresponder, you’d start off receiving whatever volume everyone else was receiving. So if you signed up and got volume 318 and next week you got volume 319 and your friend signed up, they would also get volume 319.

Now that I got that out of the way, I want to talk about the purpose behind these “ezines”. (For clarity, I will refer to all of the above interchangeable words as “ezines”.)

Many of my clients say, “What’s the point of having an ezine?”. I will be the first to tell you: I said the same thing five years ago. As a matter of fact, I still have some ezines that need revamping. They are outdated and not useful and I am embarrassed by them (but I spend a lot of my time on Tips in 10 so I am letting myself slide on the other ones… for now!). Truth be told, there is no single point in favor of an ezine; it depends on the purpose of your ezine. In theory, I guess all purposes could be defined as “driving in more business”, but each ezine has their own characteristics and purpose. This is one of those few times when it is best to just give examples to show you.

1. Tips in 10: I don’t sell you anything in my ezine. On a very rare occasion I may provide you with a link to a product that I have for sale but I never blatantly write an ezine saying “buy this”. Every ezine in Tips in 10 is meant to help the reader with productivity, business, or entrepreneurial efforts in 10 minutes or less. So, you might ask: “Why spend hours writing these newsletters if you make nothing off of them?” The answer is: To strut my stuff :). Plain and simple, I am sharing my knowledge with you (the reader) and showing you that I know what I am talking about and that I can help contribute to your efficiency or productivity… with the end goal being that you, or someone that you know, may have a project management, implementation, or other issue or project in the near future and when you are seeking help on it you remember my ezines and how helpful I was.

2. Client D (preserving names here): Client D has several ezines, many of which are autoresponders and many of which are non-autoresponder. Basically, when you “subscribe” on his site you get subscribed to 3 actual lists. Each of his lists do different things. One (autoresponder) list sends out a case study weekly of someone who has used his product and then a link at the bottom for you to purchase. This is the most direct form of email marketing. This is good and bad. You are obviously pitching your goods and blatantly advertising to your opt-in lists. However, if  people get no real value out of your ezines, except to be pitched on a weekly basis, there is a higher chance that they will unsubscribe. On one (autoresponder) list he takes a question that was asked on his blog or forum and answers it, and in the answer he finds a way to plug one of his products for you to purchase. A little more subtle than the last ezine because he is actually answering a question or giving specific advice and leading you to a possible product that will help you even more. This is a more efficient way to directly market. Then list 3 is a non-auto responder where he broadcasts his specials, promotions and events to. All of this client’s ezines are designed to sell his products. No services, just products.

3. Client R: Has one ezine (and I would be hesitant to really call this an ezine). When you purchase one of his products he puts you on his mailing list and then about twice a month he sends you an email with some information. It may not even be relevant to his products or services; it could be just news. His main and only goal is to “stay in your mind”. He has a nicely designed ezine, with a photo of him in the header and links to his website, blog and Twitter. So, he is not selling a product or service but he is attempting to sell himself by keeping in touch.

4. Client N: She has a weekly ezine that she sends out recapping the activity on her site for the week. That’s right, her primary goal is just to drive you back to her site. She recaps each post or entry on her site in a paragraph with a <read more> link that takes you to her site. This is a creative form of marketing because she sells nothing in her newsletter but she does on her site (and she also has advertisers that pay for space, so the more visits she gets the more her “real estate value” increases).

5. Colleague A: She has a bi-weekly ezine she sends out talking about a specific topic that her subscribers have subscribed to. Much like tips in 10, it is about a specific niche and she does nothing but provide you with valuable information. Only her reason for doing so is a bit different from mine. See, on the right-hand-side of her newsletter she has ads. That’s right, she has 5 people that sponsor her ezine so they are paying her to send out that ezine. Her income comes from the advertisers whose ads decorate your helpful newsletter. They, of course, do that in hopes that you will purchase from them.

That being said – you need to pick your purpose.

1. Are you branding yourself or marketing yourself as an expert for word of mouth and possible future leads?

2. Are you attempting to directly sell your products? If so, will it be a blatant sale or a creative value-giving ezine with a product plug?

3. Are you just attempting to stay in touch with website visitors or previous customers so that you can stay on their minds?

4. Do you want to drive traffic back to your site and have visitors re-visit?

5. Or do you want to monetize your ezine through ads?

I am sure there are many other reasons to have an ezine; I am just speaking of ones I have firsthand knowledge about. If you have another great example, as always, hit reply and let me know about it.

Before proceeding on to the next in this series of emails, spend some time thinking this week about what you want the purpose of your ezine to be and how often you want to send it (or at what frequency) and whether you want it to be an autoresponder (where you can add 20 in 1 week and forget about it for 20 weeks) or a “broadcast” distributed by you at a specific interval.

Once you know those answers, pick a creative name and be ready for part 2: Ezines in 10 minutes a day – picking your software.

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