Robert Tyson's Small Business Marketing Blog

Free marketing and sales ideas to grow your small business.

Six Great Ezine Content Ideas

Ezines are fantastic marketing tools but good content can be hard to come up with. Here are six great ideas for content you can use to get those creative juices flowing.

1. Solve typical (or topical) customer problems in an article.

Take a moment and think about the questions your clients are always asking you, or the problems they’re always complaining about.

Look through your own personal ‘sent items’ emails – what have you been saying to clients? Your audience is likely to share similar interests and concerns, so can you adapt, expand upon, or reproduce some of what you’ve already said or done?

As a rule of thumb, about 400 words is a suitable length; if you’ve written more, and the quality is consistently good, think about splitting it into parts you can run over two or more ezines.

2. Five to 10 tips on a particular topic, or area of your professional expertise.

A list of how-to tips is very reliable, and easy to produce content. ‘Top 10 customer service tips for small businesses’, ‘The 7 biggest management mistakes’, ‘5 ways to get better fuel efficiency out of your car’.

These don’t need to be long; 5-10 tips of 50-75 words each is perfectly adequate. Put your best tips first, and consider only giving a partial list in the ezine so you can drive traffic through to the full list on your website.

Later on, you can expand a single tip into a longer article to generate new content.

3. Interviews.

Just look at any bookstore, magazine rack or TV chat show to see the popularity of interviews and autobiographies of interesting people.

Whether you provide them as text, audio or video, and whether you conduct them over email, telephone, or in person, interviews with clients, celebrities or relative industry figures can be a very compelling type of content.

And, if you know you have an interview coming up, what about trailing that fact in your ezine and asking subscribers to submit potential questions for your interviewee?

4. Humour can make your ezine unique.

If you can do it in such a way that it doesn’t send out the wrong impression, is there a way you can incorporate humour in your ezine?

You can have great success by making a point of always including something humorous at the top of every ezine, or maybe better still at the bottom, so people have another incentive to read down.

Go online and find relevant or topical jokes, funny images or videos. Just be careful to get your tone right – remember that one person’s idea of a joke can be another’s idea of offensive, and whatever humour you use must be congruent with the image you’re trying to get across.

5. Teasers.

Adding a ‘teaser’ about forthcoming content in your next ezine can help build anticipation and improve open rates.

6. ‘Evergreen’ content.

Obviously you have your niche. But don’t forget that there are areas of interest common to nearly all business people or consumers.

Time management, saving money or avoiding tax are just three that spring to mind. These can be useful standbys, especially if you can put your own brand’s spin on them somehow.

Happy writing!


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How Often Should You Publish Your Ezine? Eight Considerations

Ezines can be a fantastic marketing tool for almost any type of business. But what’s the right frequency? Daily? Weekly? Fortnightly? Monthly? Quarterly?

Here are eight considerations to help you make this important decision.

1. Each ezine you produce requires the time it takes to provide quality, valuable content.

Recognise that you aren’t just competing with other ezines, you’re competing with EVERY OTHER ITEM IN YOUR RECIPIENT’S INBOX. To be successful over the long term, your ezine must provide value to your well-defined audience.

2. How much time can you afford to spend on your ezine?

Keep in mind that one article, produced from scratch, and put into your ezine template, will probably take you at least four or five hours to do.

3. What frequency do your business objectives suggest?

If you want your ezine to generate a steady stream of two new business appointments a week, it’s probably not much use sending it quarterly. You may need to adjust either your objectives or frequency in the cold light of day.

4. What frequency best suits your defined audience and their needs?

Your ezine will only succeed if it gives your audience what they want, in a timely fashion.

5. What do the length of ezine you plan, its format and content lend themselves best to?

Consider that the type of information you plan to offer is likely to influence your frequency. Compare stock market news with an ezine offering painting and decorating advice – the first is ultra-time critical with information changing every day, the second is likely to be time-sensitive only in the sense of slow-moving interior design trends, if at all.

6. My advice is that your ezines should be sent at a frequency of between weekly and monthly.

Most ezines are sent once or twice a week. I would suggest that you look to send an ezine at least monthly. Send quarterly, these days, and there is a good chance people will just forget who you are and may report your mail as spam.

7. Assuming quality is good, it’s better to be there more often than less.

It’s well known that most consumers require multiple exposures to a service or product before they have built up the familiarity and trust to purchase. It follows that more frequent contact cuts down the length of the sales cycle and therefore the time it takes for you to see the benefit of your ezine in your bank account.

With this in mind, many existing ezines would be better served by doubling their frequency, and halving their content. Could you put out one article once per week, instead of two articles once per fortnight?

8. That said, don’t be overambitious on frequency!

Don’t paint yourself into a corner unnecessarily – if you promised a weekly interview at signup, and run out of suitable people to interview 10 ezines in, you’ve got a problem!

Not sticking to your schedule gives very poor signals. Make sure, if you’re starting out, that you can sustain quality output, to a regular deadline, at the right frequency. If in doubt, be cautious on your frequency to start with – you can always increase it later!

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What Is An Ezine And Should YOUR Business Produce One?

What is an ezine?

I define an ezine (otherwise known as an ’email newsletter’, or ‘e-newsletter’) as any regular publication distributed via email for an audience who have signed up to receive it. I differentiate an ezine from a promotional email in that an ezine is made up primarily or largely of information content rather than being a pure sales message.

An ezine may be put together from scratch each time – say once a week – and/or run as a pre-prepared sequence of ‘autoresponders’.

Why produce an ezine?

The simple fact is that good ezines have been proven over many years to be hugely effective for almost any type of business, because they allow you to:

· Produce instant sales.
· Make qualified prospects come to you – at exactly the time they are ready to buy.
· Build relationships and stay and ‘top of mind’ with clients and prospects.
· Present your offerings repeatedly.
· Position yourself as an authority.
· Save time and money with an efficient and pro-active marketing tool.
· Generate instant web traffic.
· Build trust – crucial for all sales but especially high value, relationship/consultancy and online.
· Build your profile.
· Build your business’s profile.
· Ideal complement to your other marketing and sales activities, especially social media.

Despite the media’s current focus on social media, I don’t see those benefits changing any time soon – in fact, social media provides even more OPPORTUNITIES for the smart business owner to leverage their ezine.

Consider also that:

· Email is without doubt the digital medium of choice for business, all over the world.

· Email brings in over $43 for every $1 invested(source: DMA).

· 107 trillion email messages were sent in total in 2010. That works out to 294bn per day. There were nearly 2bn email users and 3bn email accounts, and the ranks of the emailing public grew by nearly 500 million. “In other words, email grew a Facebook last year!” (source: Royal Pingdom).

· Email remains one of the most popular activities on the web, reaching more than 70 per cent of the US online population each month (source: ComScore).

· The affluent older generation is increasing its email usage.In the 55-64 year old age group, the number of people accessing web-based email in the US increased 15 per cent in 2010, and the number of over 65s accessing web-based email increased too (source: ComScore).

· Email usage via mobile devices has experienced significant growth, driven largely by increased smartphone adoption. In November 2010, 70.1 million mobile users (30 per cent of all mobile subscribers) accessed email on their mobile, an increase of 36 per cent from the previous year (source: ComScore).

· Daily usage of email showed an even greater increase, growing 40 percent as 43.5 million users turned to their mobile devices on a nearly daily basis for their email communication needs (source: ComScore).

· Higher income households use email more.U.S. adults with household incomes of $75,000 or more are more likely to use email on any given day, at 78%, followed by those with household incomes of $50,000 to $74,999 at 67%; $30,000 to $49,999 at 59%; and less than $30,000 at 47%. (source: Pew internet Project).

Pretty compelling data, isn’t it?

Email as a medium is alive and well, and taking advantage of it with a regular ezine to customers and potential customers is, I believe, one of the smartest investments you can make.

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How To Analyse Your Competitors For Instant Business Advantage

Of all the millions of ideas, thousands of articles and hundreds of books I must have encountered on marketing and business in general, I’ve never, ever had more useful advice than to spend time analysing competitors seriously – and not only seriously, but in the kind of STRUCTURED way I’m about to share with you.

Trust me on this. There is no other activity you can engage in that will give you the depth of perspective, the gems of new ideas, or the raw materials for a ‘battle plan’ that a proper competitor analysis does.

I warn you now – this will take effort and thought! But it’s worth it. Here’s how you do it.

Identify your six closest competitors. For each one, compare and contrast all of the following categories and use a table format, preferably on a large sheet of paper, because having all the information close together allows you to see trends.

  • The products or services they provide and how they market them to customers.
  • The prices they charge.
  • What their customers see as this competitor’s strengths.
  • What their customers see as this competitor’s weaknesses.
  • Their customers – who are they?
  • To what extent are there loyal customers?
  • What if any devices they employ to enhance customer loyalty.
  • Whether they innovate – business methods as well as products.
  • Their brand and design values.
  • Who owns the business, their motivations and style.
  • Key people driving the business, their style and motivations.
  • What you do better than this competitor.
  • What you do the same as this competitor.
  • What you do worse than this competitor (be honest!).

By carrying out this kind of structured analysis, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of insight: new product and service ideas, ways you can improve and win, your competitors’ vulnerabilities, where and how you can up your game, industry trends and opportunities… the list really is endless.

No business operates in a vacuum, and the internet has widened choice immeasurably in most industries. If you haven’t looked in detail at your competitors, you’re missing a big trick – perhaps the biggest ‘trick’ of all.

As in the rest of life, you get back what you put in here. So to get the most out of this exercise, you must invest at least 4-8 hours in it.

But do it properly, and I promise you, you’ll be blown away!

In fact, I predict that you’ll find it so useful that you won’t have any hesitation following my final piece of advice – set a reminder to repeat the process every 3-6 months, to ensure you’re fully on top of your competitive landscape.

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