By Jennifer James

In an interactive Internet world filled with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, why are e-newsletters still an important and valuable part of a marketer’s tool kit? According to Michael Katz, author of a popular e-newsletter about e-newsletters, it’s because they’re an “electronic desktop alternative to lunch with a lot of people.”

The e-newsletter is an opportunity to establish yourself (or company) as a leader in your industry and, according to Katz, by providing useful and engaging content, you will rise to the top of the pile in the minds of potential customers. Oh, and an e-newsletter is cheap to produce and send out, with hosted services like MailChimp starting at $10 a month.

Establish yourself or company as an industry leader. Check. Keeps you in contact with potential customers. Check. Inexpensive. Check. So why is it sometimes hard to sell people on the idea of an e-newsletter (and stick with it)?

Likening writing an e-newsletter to going to the gym, Katz notes that once “initial euphoria wears off, it’s hard to get out of bed and go running in the middle of winter, especially when the benefits of regular exercise are yet to kick in.” He adds, “Typically, the excitement wears off before the results show up.” The lesson: Give your e-newsletter time.

At market2world we launched the PR and Marketing Impact News e-newsletter in the summer of 2008. Now in month five, we’re starting to see impressive statistics (and kicking the butt of industry averages!). While the average PR and marketing e-newsletter enjoys an 18.40% open rate (number of people who open the email), we had a whopping 24.6% with our December 2008 e-newsletter! Also, a super-duper 8.8% of readers clicked on links within the e-newsletter, compared to the industry average of 3.10%.

After five e-newsletters are we running dry on content? Nope. We have plenty more ideas in the pipe. Katz notes, “If you know enough about a topic to run a business in it, you'll never run out of content. I've never heard of anybody saying they no longer have networking lunches because they've run out of things to talk about."

We attribute our growing success to what we include in the e-newsletter. All content is produced with one thing in mind: provide relevant and actionable information to CEOs and senior marketers, not pure promotion. Katz agrees with this approach too: “There's so much noise that if you become known as someone who gives away no-strings-attached useful information, then you just break through the clutter." Eureka!

Your first crack at an e-newsletter may not turn back 25% open rates, but stick with it. As Katz says, an e-newsletter is “relationship building … it’s farming, not hunting.”

Need help sowing the seeds of your company’s e-newsletter? Let us help!

Sign up for our e-newsletter here.

(Jennifer James is a Communications Strategist with market2world communications inc., Ottawa, Canada's tech PR and product marketing agency.)