“The top reason customers quit doing business with a company is their belief that the company is indifferent to them,” says TeleDirect International, a call center specialist.

Not only can an e-newsletter demonstrate value to your customers, but also it can change your customers' perception of your business. By including timely articles solving current business problems, you show your customers that you understand them. This repeatedly reinforces their importance to you. While attracting new prospects and sustaining their interest over time, you're building their trust in your company.

Step two in this seven-part series, How e-Newsletters Find, Acquire, and Retain Customers for You, is Building Trust. In this article, we'll show you how to become your customers' trusted information source for the daily business problems they face. This trust will keep your existing customers comfortable doing business with you and encourage business from prospects.

Know Your Customers

Before marketing through an e-newsletter, take steps to know your customers, prospects, and their industry.

How is the industry doing? What are its biggest challenges? What issues do they face on a daily basis?

First, rely on what you've learned over the years. You may already share the same kind of pain as your customers or, at least, know what they are facing. If you don't know your customers, get to know them. Become a better listener. Talk with trade associations and sales people. Proactively seek customers, find ways to be more accessible to them, and listen to their dilemmas.

For potential customers, there are many ways to better understand them. See what the competition is doing and what type of customers they have. Use the Internet as a resource for finding information on competitors, potential customers, and experts in your field. Learn from these experts by reading their columns, e-mailing them and asking about a solution to a problem customers face, or calling and interviewing them about industry trends and challenges.

Once you better understand your customers and clients remember that you share few interests. Don't try to offer them the world. Define the topics in your e-newsletter that are relevant today and focus on the problems and challenges facing the industry.

Be a Credible Source

One effective method of being a credible source speaks back to David Ogilvy's advice in our previous article, on how editorial copy is better read than advertising. Establish your e-newsletter editor as a thought leader through a monthly column of salient industry topics. Submit articles from the editor to other sites, so her knowledge appears in a variety of places beyond your e-newsletter.

Another way to build credibility is to team with other experts who have an existing level of trust with your customers and prospects.

In an e-newsletter targeted to the computer hardware industry, for instance, Hewlett-Packard or another leader's logo placed in the e-newsletter gives a strong message of high quality. Consider collaboration between your thought leader editor and another expert in the field for an article. In this new way of marketing, the old adage becomes: the more you surround yourself with trusted experts, the more you become one.

Speak from Integrity

The unfortunate result of ever-increasing amount of e-mail spam is that people are more trigger-happy with the delete button than before. To prevent their conditioned “delete” reaction, start with creating an email list of people with whom you have connection, either personally, or through others.

It may be intuitive, but many companies purchasing lists are given access to other un-targeted lists or rely on outdated lists from their predecessors. This is a “no-no” in effective e-newsletter marketing. If someone at your company can't go through your list, name by name, and determine how your organization is connected to that person, remove that person from your list.

This may seem like a ridiculous challenge in terms of growing your mailing list. But don't fret. Here are ten easy ways to grow a mailing list and incorporate individuals connected to your company with integrity:

1) e-Mail address books. Have everyone at your company comb through written or electronic address books and gather the information; this collection of emails will form the initial core of your newsletter subscription.

2) Information requests. Every person who has written the company asking for more information should be automatically added to the e-newsletter mailing list.

3) Accounting department. The accounting department handles billing, so they know who all your current and former clients are; add these people to the e-newsletter list.

4) Employees. By adding your employees to your e-newsletter list, you can be sure they will spread the word to friends and acquaintances; they will also stay more aligned with the marketing messages you present to your customers.

5) Web site subscriptions. Placing an e-newsletter subscription box on your Web site enables all visitors to sign up for the e-newsletter.

6) Signature files. Be sure to include information about your e-newsletter along with your regular signature file identification such as e-mail address, phone number and Web site that goes out on the bottom of all e-mail messages. Remember: keep the signature short and sweet.

7) Sales department prospects. Set up a process so the sales team can provide contact information for new prospects; the e-newsletter will also build each sales person's credibility when she knows which articles are interesting to prospects.

8) Partners and associations. Partners may send your e-newsletter to their e-mail list in exchange for a logo or link listing; associations may give you access to their large, highly-targeting mailing lists in exchange for incorporating their messages into your e-newsletter.

9) Sponsorships. Bartering a sponsorship from other companies whose clients would be interested in your products, services, or e-newsletter is very effective in building a mailing list; they may give you access to their lists in exchange for a logo or link listing.

10) Tradeshow attendees. Add the names of people collected at trade shows to your e-mail list; these people may be interested in your company, even if salespeople don't find value in calling them. In addition, e-newsletter statistics tell you when a reader becomes a qualified lead.

Creating a mailing list based on people connected to your company also respects the boundaries of your customers and prospects. Don't incorporate other mailing lists into your own without permission. If someone wants to be removed, do so immediately.

Another way to speak from integrity in your e-newsletter is by being honest and providing relevant information that isn't offensive. Don't assume what your readers need without supporting evidence or without doing research (i.e. don't tell them they need a widget when you haven't found any evidence they are requesting one). Refrain from making statements that won't come true (like most of the other marketing ruses in their mailboxes).

Build a Community

Aside from knowing your readers, being a credible source, and speaking from integrity; the most important part of building trust is building a community. Once you develop an e-newsletter based on your readers' interests and concerns, you are developing a support network for your readers, a virtual community.

This type of relationship sets you apart from other types of advertising missives, say, product catalogs, brochures, or e-mail spam. You are solving their problems instead of pitching your services or solutions. This intelligent e-newsletter marketing, versus invasive techniques, becomes a new cornerstone of the industry's community.

The key to fostering this community and, in turn, building your customers and prospects' trust is continuing to position yourself as an industry resource focused on the reader, rather than the product or services you sell.

A 2002 marketing survey by Patrick Marketing Group2 states, “Another key change that appears to be finally taking root is the importance of the customer in defining the marketing process and message. Although this may seem an obvious, long-term trend in the marketing world, many appear to have finally gathered the necessary support to ‘reinvent' their companies around their customers' true lifestyles.”

An e-newsletter is one way to reinvent your company's message and meet the needs of your customers. In being a consistently knowledgeable solution provider, you will build the trust of your customers and prospects.

Next week: Showing Stability Through e-Newsletters

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Tamara is a writer at InternetVIZ and is available for freelance work.