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Email newsletters help build customer and partner relationships, contribute to branding efforts, increase awareness, improve customer service and add value to purchases and registrations.

And those are just the indirect benefits.

But in the rush to the virtual printing presses, marketers are making a lot of mistakes. Eliminate those mistakes and the true potential of newsletters unfolds. Here are six of the best.

1. Confusing newsletters with promotions

Many marketers don't make the distinction between an email newsletter and email promotions. The latter are action-oriented; designed to provoke some kind of (immediate) response through a click, a sign-up, a purchase, whatever. They're what most people think of under the term opt-in email marketing.

Email newsletters may contain action-related elements, but their real potential lies in building, over time, a lasting, long-term relationship with the reader. Which means they may not try and induce any kind of immediate action at all. Instead, they create a climate, an environment, a relationship which predisposes the reader to taking such an action at some other time.

You can think of promotions as transaction-oriented, and newsletters as relationship-oriented. An email promotion says, "Buy the new Brownlow Desk Chair 2002", the email newsletter carries an article about avoiding back strain in the office.

If you don't get the difference clear in your head, then you're likely to commit mistakes 2 and 3 as well.

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Mark Brownlow, Ph.D., is a writer, traveler, and footbal (soccer) fan (