Marketers know the value of publishing a newsletter to reach prospects and customers. But there's a lot of prep work involved in any publishing venture, no matter how humble or ambitious.

From content preparation to coding to delivery, a lot goes on behind the scenes in newsletter publishing. A newsletter's design code, in particular, can greatly affect how the newsletter appears and where it gets sent (to spam neverland or to the intended inbox). This code can greatly influence the effectiveness of a newsletter.

Many businesses use Web development tools and online Web applications that spit out code. Few do it from scratch, writing HTML by hand. What approaches or steps do newsletter publishers need to follow to ensure the newsletter makes it all the way to recipients' inboxes?

What questions do you have to guarantee 2005 is a success for your business? We hope your problems are small, like accidentally writing 2004 on your checks. But if they're bigger than that, 200,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers can provide ideas you may not consider when working on your issue. Present your marketing challenge and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Week's Dilemma

Creating effective newsletters, code and all

We create our HTML-based emails in-house using Macromedia's Dreamweaver. Then we take the code from Dreamweaver and send it to third-party channels to distribute to their opt-in lists that are specifically interested in our product. We watch the words we use that tend to send emails to the junk folders. Dreamweaver is one of the better programs in creating clean code. However, in terms of newsletters, I am not sure that using Dreamweaver is the most effective in avoiding the junk folders. What is the best approach to ensure newsletter code is effective in reaching recipients' inboxes?

—Alia, Marketing Campaign Manager

Previous Dilemma

Marketing wonderland during the holiday season

The end of the year is a popular time for shopping. However, we're not a retailer, nor do we have a bricks-and-mortar store. We're a business that provides services and sells a Web-based application. How can a business like mine cash in on this time of the year, when shopping is big and businesses make last-minute tax-deductible purchases?

—Brooklyn, Director of Marketing

Summary of Advice Received

The holiday season is over, but the advice we have received from readers is applicable throughout the year, especially for other holidays. The following ideas are ways to cash in on holidays and special events:

  1. Tie promotions in with the holiday season.
  2. Use the Web as a distribution channel.
  3. Conduct a pilot project.

1. Tie promotions in with the holiday season

Brooklyn, you're right that this time of the year is a great opportunity to reflect on the year and look ahead. Ernest Nicastro, principal of Positive Response, says this is the time when reviews take place and companies formulate plans for the New Year, a great time to actively market your company and its products and services:

Many of your competitors will hold off initiating new marketing efforts during the holiday season, so you'll have less competition. Plus, people have the holiday spirit and are more likely to talk with a sales rep following up on your lead-generation efforts.

On the tactical side, here are a few ideas that would enable you to cash in on the holiday season and have some fun with your marketing efforts, as well as show your customers and prospects a fun side to your corporate personality:

  1. If your cost structure allows and it's right with your brand, offer the marketplace a holiday special. Explain that it's been a great year for your company and in the spirit of the season you'd like to share some of your bounteous blessings with new customers. So, from now till the end of the year, every new customer will get x percent off of your normal pricing plan. Or, if you don't want to discount, make the same offer except offer an x-percent bonus for taking action by the end of the year.

  2. Send out a direct mail that ties in with the holiday season. For example, I recently sent out letters using a holiday stocking as an envelope. Think that won't get attention when it lands in the office? If your product or service has anything to do with ROI, your messaging might be something along the lines o, "For [name] that will help put a 'big something extra' in your Christmas stocking next year…"

  3. Another twist on the above that I've also done is to send out direct mail in a holiday-themed bag. You can get them made out of the same type of paper as wrapping paper. Again, when they land on the prospect's desk, they WILL get his or her attention. And these days, getting attention is half the battle.

  4. If your budget allows, create a warm-weather, fun-in-the-sun getaway giveaway part of your offer. An example is "meet with us or schedule a tele-meeting with us and we'll enter your name into our Fabulous February in Bermuda vacation giveaway."

2. Use the Web as a distribution channel

Preeti Sehrawat, assistant manager of corporate communication with Unitech Limited, says the end of the year is a popular time for shopping and companies will want to make the most of this time:

For getting the best results, they need the best infrastructure and channels possible so their products and message reach the maximum of prospective clients on time and through every possible way. Web-based applications help businesses fully communicate their message—many customers can see the products online and make purchases online with more innovative technologies. Businesses can also organize faster delivery schedules after collaborating between vendors, financers and courier companies, and can offer JV options.

By doing so, they can maximize opportunities for their clients who can be these businesses, financers, courier companies and many more; and in turn, they'll get more business and clients for the future. Web-based applications provide the efficiency that is required during the holiday season when everyone is busy. To reap the benefits of this season, one should not skip a single available option, and the Web is an important distribution channel these days. Web-based applications not only help with communication and developing a proper distribution channel, but they also create a sound logistic system; these things need be conveyed to the businesses.

3. Conduct a pilot project

Holiday time is an opportunity to push prospects further into the pipeline. Mike Rowland, president of Impact Interactions, suggests doing this through pilot programs or projects:

In our experience, the end of the year has always been an excellent time for us to push established prospects a bit further in the pipeline by offering smaller pilot sales projects that utilize this year's budget dollars while gaining results that make the decision-maker look good next year.

Here is one way to do it: We look at our pipeline for prospects in need of large services/projects sales to determine if we can carve off a small area to run a pilot project, for somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of the cost of a full engagement. We call the prospects and ask if they would be interested in a small pilot project that will help them meet their goals for the following year. In many, but not all cases, we are invited to visit and discuss this idea further. We are very clear with the prospect that we are offering a quick, test drive of our services on a smaller scale to meet a defined objective discussed during a previous meeting. We let the prospect know they are not getting the full project discounted, but rather a quick hit where we will make them look good. We focus on ego here, "If we agree to make you successful with this problem right out of the gate in the next year, we then expect that you will engage us to tackle the larger issues."

Then we inquire about using up their remaining budget for this year to show the win. We do not take on large projects with this approach, just minor tweaks that we believe will give the prospect a minor win inside their organization for a minimal cost. Note that we don't go after this for new, ground zero prospects. We only use this on prospects who are qualified leads and have held at least one or two meetings with our firm. On several occasions, this resulted in additional work for our firm. Remember: there is no silver bullet that will get you these types of contracts. This is simply another trial, closing solution to move a prospect forward in the pipeline.

Though the "big" holiday season is past, you can do the following activities year-round: tie in promotions with upcoming holidays and special events; continue using the Web as a distribution channel; conduct pilots.

MarketingProfs readers are your behind-the-scenes team ready to tackle your challenge.

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