Picture this. On a Tuesday, instead of doing your usual consulting job, you wear the shoes of one of your target market prospects:

You wake up and turn on the TV. Five loud, annoying ads from various companies interrupt the news you try to catch before heading into the office. While getting in your car, your cell phone rings with a telemarketer asking for financial support, even though your phone is supposed to block those kinds of calls. Now in the office, you turn on your computer and find an e-mail box filled with 100 new messages; most of those messages are junk, despite your company's policy about Spam. In your current position, you have a tight budget and will only allocate funds to a sound solution that lets you cross off one of the problems on your list. So far today, none of this info competing for your attention has impressed you.

Now think about your marketing program. Does it stand out amidst this sea of potential attention-stealers?

The key to cutting through this day-to-day chaos is changing your marketing “preach”—how your products or services are better; how your products or services are cheaper; how your products or services reduce costs—to captivating solution speak from a knowledgeable source to make your prospects and customers' work-world more efficient.

Make a Positive Impression

One of the first ways is to help ensure this kind of impact is making a positive impression on your customers and prospects immediately, every time you market to them. This may seem like common sense, but it can be a major challenge when vying for their attention in this age of technology. The following tips will help further your company's image as a positive player in the industry and enable you to get and keep your readers' attention through e-newsletters. Use these methods to help your customers and prospects break through the clutter of their jam-packed e-mail boxes in a respectful and responsible way.

Be Compelling

The most obvious way to get your readers' attention is before they even begin to read your e-newsletter. When you hone your subject line writing skills enough to get past their “delete” instinct, you must also hold them with your e-newsletter's contents and style.

Tip 1: Send from a credible source—the "From" line. If your company has a wide presence and is well-respected in the industry, then your business name is perceived as a trusted source.

Unfortunately, many companies may not have a far reaching presence (even if rapidly growing) and may not think of sending their e-newsletters from a name other then their own. This technique can be very effective in improving your “open” rates. The other thing to keep in mind is that you can change your “From:” field to whatever you want even if the address you're sending from is set like, info@smithconsulting.com. For example in the ASP industry, why not use: [The ASP Gurus] info@smithconsulting.com?

Sending your e-newsletter from a respected or attention-getting source builds more credibility, especially when repeated over time.

Questionable sources: Specials@gadget.com; The Best Deals Center; ekndityelsid@eiohgesa.edu; jason3485@yahoo.com; sue_343@hotmail.com; 3457@excite.com.

Believable sources: Your company name, your full personal name, or the Newsletter name.

Tip 2: Create a compelling subject line. Instead of giving them a miracle cure or far out instant “fix” for business crises, develop subject lines that speak to the attached contents; do not assume a close relationship with your readers (i.e. using a personalized subject line), unless you have that kind of relationship; and let your audience know you understand them, but on their terms.

A solid subject line, with a hint of a credible solution, will get more potential customers to open and read your document. Anything that smacks of urgency is just annoying.

Annoying subject lines: Open this in three hours or void, Hassle-free services, Last minute real deals, Get a quote today, Customer appreciation sale, Anything with free, spam, offer, or !.

Creditable subject lines: Welcome to the Dial Tone (or other e-newsletter name after subscribing), Your "Dial Tone" Has Arrived (standard greeting), November's Issue of "Dial Tone" Has Arrived, Title of the lead story of the issue—i.e. “17 CEO's gave their sales pitch, but did anyone listen?” or “Six Steps to E-mail Marketing.”

Tip 3: Reflect this subject in your content. Make sure this subject line captures the essence of your e-mail and is not a hoax or some form of manipulation. All of us have received those lousy e-mails that say, “Claim your prize,” “Limited Time Offer, Act Now,” “Reserved in your name,” or “Cash when you need it.” Then when you open the message, it's for something completely different like a survey to fill out or a series of other hoops to jump through before you get help, or some product or service you don't want.

Without a moment's hesitation, you sigh heavily and delete the e-mail. By promising one thing and delivering something else, you lose your readers' respect and do not hold their attention long enough for them to read your message. Instead, be true to your subject line with your content and your e-newsletter articles will be a hit.

Tip 4: Visuals count! Don't forget them! The design, look and feel of your e-newsletter can make the difference between being noticed and being ignored. Most readers use the preview pane of their e-mail browser. They will see the top few inches of your e-newsletter and need to be impressed immediately. If they are inspired enough to read on, you can keep their attention with the following considerations.

• Make your masthead reflects the same expertise your company shares in colors that stand out for easy reading.

• Use active, attention-getting headlines to sell your stories. For example, "Ten Ways to Multiply Revenue," or "Push Services Before Products," are much more effective than "Selling Services in Today's Economy."

• Refrain from content excess; too many topics or too many articles and other offers can be overwhelming.

• Place content in consistent sections in every single e-newsletter.

• Make the “contact” section easy to see and use.

Be Perceived as Spontaneous Even When Well-Planned

Once your message stands out from a respected source with a compelling subject line, solid content and consistent look, your marketing program's magnetism can be increased even further by adding that extra zest that will keep you ahead of the pack. A bit of wit, coveted information and a touch of spontaneity, despite your e-newsletters' consistent format and distribution schedule, will keep your readers interested repeatedly.

Tip 5: Continue to pique their interest. When so much data overfills their business days, and even downtime, you can't afford to be lax in your efforts. Every missive you send must intrigue, inspire or arrest.

Do your research to find out unheard of industry predictions for the next five years or a new industry tool soon to become commonplace; address a boring subject with a fun slant; take the time to interview five experts in the field to discuss an industry technique which hasn't been presented before; think of clever ways to address old issues; if beneficial to your audience, use a worldview in your e-newsletter or be incredibly specific to their niche market. Above all, keep things fresh.

At the end of the workday, still in your prospect's shoes, take a moment to reflect on what captured your attention:

An e-newsletter resonating with pertinent solutions to your problems in a clear visual style, speaking to your heart and mind in just the manner necessary to engage you and reel you in.

Editor's Note: Watch for the next article in the series on finding, acquiring and retaining customers: Step Five: Capturing Prospects Through e-Newsletters.

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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.