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One of the first things on my to-do list when I went full-time self-employed about eight years ago was to launch an e-newsletter. I’d spent my career writing newsletters, both print and electronic, so I knew first-hand how effective they were as a marketing tool.

Since I launched my e-newsletter The Writer’s Block in 2011, it has become my best lead generation tool. I also really enjoy taking a break once a month from writing for my clients to write something for myself and my readers.

A Bedrock Marketing Tool

I’m not going to bore you with data and statistics about what a great marketing tool e-newsletters are. Instead, I thought I’d talk about some of the things you can do to make your e-newsletters more successful.

I recently came across this article and info-graphic that details a number of different keys to e-newsletter success. It points out that even with the rising popularity of social media as a marketing channel, e-newsletters remain a bedrock marketing tool for most companies.

Here are 5 e-newsletter success tips from the article that I thought were the best:

1. Set goals for your e-newsletter. “Everybody else is doing an e-newsletter” isn’t a good reason to publish one. Neither is: “I read such-and-such article telling me we need to do an e-newsletter,” the article you’re reading now notwithstanding.

The most common e-newsletter goals for most companies are generating qualified leads, boosting awareness and building brand recognition. Note that I’m talking about e-newsletters, not e-blasts with more hard-sell offers that are designed to generate sales directly.

The best way to generate leads and build awareness and brand recognition with an e-newsletter is to publish quality, value-added and non-sales content on a consistent basis. This content should position you and/or your firm as knowledgeable experts in your industry. Then when recipients need whatever it is you sell, they’ll think of you first.

2. Build a solid e-mail distribution list. There are no easy shortcuts to building your e-newsletter list. The best lists are built one quality recipient at a time. Stay away from bulk email distribution lists offered for sale — they usually aren’t worth the money.

One good way to gather names and email addresses for your list is to offer additional value-added content to website visitors, like whitepapers and e-books, in exchange for their name and email address. In fact, using an e-newsletter, whitepapers and/or e-books in this way is a common content marketing strategy.

3. Craft your content carefully. There’s both an art and a science to writing effective e-newsletters. The most important thing to remember is that the main goal of your e-newsletter content is to educate and inform, not sell.

If you come from a sales background, this might sound counter-intuitive. After all, why wouldn’t you want to try to sell products and services with your e-newsletter? Isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Of course, making sales is the end goal of any marketing strategy. But an e-newsletter is best used to build relationships with recipients over time by sharing your knowledge as a subject matter expert with them.

This is sometimes referred to as “drip” marketing. Like dripping water on a stone, over time your e-newsletter will yield results in the form of qualified leads and higher business and brand awareness if you consistently deliver information that’s of value to your readers and don’t try too hard to sell to them.

4. Decide on the right frequency. This will vary considerably depending on your goals and your industry. In some industries, weekly or even more frequent e-newsletter publishing is appropriate, while in others, monthly publishing is fine.

In my experience, I’ve found that a publishing frequency of once or twice a month is usually ideal in the business-to-business realm. In certain business-to-consumer industries, more frequent publishing can be effective. The most important thing is to decide on a publishing frequency and then stick to it.

5. Analyze e-newsletter reports and data. All e-newsletter publishing platforms offer a plethora of reports about your e-newsletter on everything from open and click-through rates to bounces and opt-outs. These reports are a goldmine of data that, if thoroughly analyzed and properly utilized, can help you tweak and improve future issues of your newsletter.

The open rate is probably the most important metric to gauge and track over time. Is it trending up, down or staying about the same? If it’s dropping or stagnant, try changing things up a little to see if you can get it moving in the right direction. That’s one of the great things about e-newsletters: You can always experiment and try new things to improve the results you’re getting.

No-brainers? Hardly

Some of these tips might seem like no-brainers, especially if you’re a marketing veteran. That’s kind of what I thought as I was writing them. But then I remembered all the e-newsletters I’ve seen that don’t do these things — including newsletters from big-name, Fortune 500 companies with e-marketing budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So print out these five tips and keep them somewhere handy. There’s a reason why they’re no-brainers: They work.