Split Personality Newsletters

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“Ken”:http://www.onedegree.ca/contributors/ken_schafer recently “commented”:http://www.onedegree.ca/2005/03/30/webnamesca-newsletter-changes on the announcement of a new Webnames.ca newsletter, which has since launched, and he forwarded me the new and old newsletters to review. How does their new effort measure up? Let’s take a look, as Webnames.ca has provided some great new information to its customers, but like most second generation newsletter efforts may be trying to do too much.
The first edition of the newsletter was fairly straight forward, very clean, and a lot of content, including sales offers and Webnames news:
webnamesold.jpg
The revamped “From the Server Room” has a great new name (though it might not appeal to all their customers) and a clean and pleasing design, but as its welcome copy states, it may be trying to be all things to all people – and therefore missing the mark.
webnamesnew.jpg
You can “view the entire newsletter”:http://www.webnames.ca/content/newsletter/the_server_room/default.asp at their site.


What does a successful newsletter do? Depending on your objective it’s primarily to provide relevant information to its audience to build credibility, loyalty and interest in the company’s products and services. Which begs the question, are your customers similar enough that you can serve this objective with the same material?
In the case of Webnames.ca, their audience seems to be very split, between a) professional ISPs, developers, and webmasters serving multiple clients who are very focused on Webnames’ own industry, and b) individual business owners who really just want reliable service so they can focus on their own business.
How would you split these groups? Like all segmentation efforts, you can ask your customers to help by having them self-select which group they belong to in a registration form, or Webnames could make some assumptions from the volume of business or the business name itself to populate this information for previous customers. Then again, they could also send a quick email and ask, and ask a couple other questions, too, that might be useful for future newsletter topics, service improvements and marketing efforts. Customers always love to know you are listening! [Ironically, “yesterday’s ClickZ e-mail column”:http://www.clickz.com/experts/em_mkt/em_mkt/article.php/3496011 talks about this, too.]
It may be clear that industry news wouldn’t be relevant to the owner of a sporting goods store, for example, but why else might you want to segment your newsletter list? Because the customer management objectives of these two groups is dramatically different.
I imagine Webnames.ca would want to provide resellers of web services industry news to keep them apprised of regulatory changes or technical issues that will affect their service delivery to their customers. While they may want to provide direct customers information that is relevant to managing their business, such as increasing the efficiency of their website and online marketing efforts or reducing costs through online customer service.
Given all the work that Webnames.ca has gone to cull, edit and present so much information, they might find it easier to produce two smaller newsletters better focused to their customer segments, without inundating all their customers with the same information and making them work to find the nuggets that are relevant to them. As I stated above, it’s pretty easy to add an extra field on your web form or back-populate your subscription data based on a little inside knowledge. But it will make a huge difference to customer perception and success of your newsletter efforts.
Have you seen other newsletters with similar split-personalities?

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