Email newsletters excel at gaining repeat and new business at a lower cost than other forms of marketing and advertising. So how does a company use its e-newsletter to increase quality leads for sales teams and give a boost to viral, word of mouth, and referral marketing programs? Here are five simple steps for creating an e-zine that your sales team will love.

#1 Keep it helpful

It’s often repeated and often forgotten. But it’s the kind of truism that’s, well, true. If they don’t read the newsletter, forget about capturing them as customers. Keep it short, informative, and helpful. Unless your contact list consists solely of employees’ mothers, subscribers don’t want to read company press releases, long sales copy, or big clumps of text announcing your good fortune. What they want are quick tips that will increase their bottom line or at least make life easier.

#2 Make it interactive

Readers love to share their opinions. Give them an opportunity. At its best, a newsletter begins an ongoing dialogue between you and your customers and potential customers. Ask them to submit stories. Get them to take part in a survey. Make it about something that will help them in their business and then share the results. Soon, you’ll see a community forming with your business at the center.

#3 Advertise your business

While the stories in your newsletter should help your readers, fill other areas with advertisements about your services. Use creative links and copy to drive traffic to your site and to forms where you collect contact information. Between meatier stories try a short two- or three-line ad that will get people to explore your services further. Advertise white papers, live demos, webinars, and free consultations — anything that will put them in contact with sales.

#4 Offer incentives

If you want people to forward your newsletter to colleagues or give referrals, offer something in return. Prepare a number of different white papers and offer them at different points in the subscription cycle. When someone subscribes to the newsletter, give them a white paper. If they forward the newsletter, offer another. If that forward results in a subscriber, send a thank-you note and, if possible, something of value–be creative. And make sure the newsletter promotes your off-line referral programs.

#5 Measure results

Don’t forget the importance of tracking the results of your e-newsletters. You have to know who’s opening it and who’s not, as well as what they’re clicking on. If your readers are a good representation of your customer pool, you’ll know what your customers care about–and what holds no interest. Share results with the sales team and base subsequent sales initiatives and customer contacts on the results.

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