Think of things that just naturally go together and what comes to mind? Peanut butter and jelly for one, ham and cheese for another. How about a hammer and nails or a table and chairs? In terms of online marketing, two strategies go together equally as well: email and blogs.
Email is the tried-and-true, while blogs, though unproven, are gaining wide acceptance as an adjunct channel for marketing communications. In this article, I will discuss some methods to use the two in a complimentary fashion, and introduce a third application known as “Really Simple Syndication,” or RSS.
There was a time when I predicted email would go the way of the albatross in terms of its usefulness as a marketing tool. After all, with the increasing prevalence of spam and spam filters (that often catch valid emails), I wondered how email could continue to be effective as a marketing tool.
I’ve since moderated my stance. Despite its troubles, email marketing still tends to be a proven performer that no small business should be without. Email is not going anywhere. It is too engrained in the psyche of the Internet.
Enter blogs and RSS
RSS is a new way to syndicate content across the Internet that avoids problems associated with email. These two newcomers promised to knock email off its perennial marketing throne. Have they? Not yet. I contend rather than blogs and RSS being at odds with email, the protocols can work together in a very complimentary fashion. Each has its own unique attributes, after all.
Email has always trumped on the personalization card. RSS lacks that feature at present, but bypasses the spam problem altogether. Blogs sit squarely between the two as an information source.
For the savvy online marketer, using all three together is highly attractive. Here are some thoughts on how you can use them in a coordinated way:
Use blog posts as “seedbed” content for a more formal email newsletter
I like the notion of quickly posting an idea to my blog as it crosses my mind. Because blogs are so easy to use and provide a good venue for archiving content, they facilitate that quite well. The blog provides a place where that idea can roost until I’m ready to engage it more fully. That might mean writing another, more in-depth blog post. Or, it might mean taking that seed of an idea and developing it into my next email newsletter. In fact, it is conceivable that I can create my newsletter completely from content archived on the blog.
Cross-promote your blog and newsletter
Put a sign-up form for your email newsletter on the blog. Conversely, link to and promote your blog in the newsletter. Why not maximize the synergy that exists between the two to foster the prospect of gaining even more attention from the user that you could through one channel alone?
Blogs fill the gap between publication cycles
You send out an email newsletter monthly? Weekly? If you’ve adhered to best practices and allowed for confirmed opt-in, you can be assured your readers anticipate your communiqués. But what about the times between publishing cycles. How do you communicate with customers and prospects then? A blog can be your answer. By posting frequently your blog will enable you to stay top-of-mind with consumers.
The best thing is that they don’t even have to visit your blog to receive updates. That’s where this third application, RSS, comes into play.
Use RSS liberally
While still in its infancy so far as mainstream use is concerned, RSS is a highly useful technology. It is a format for sharing content among different web sites. Blogs make extensive use of RSS and most blog platforms include at least one RSS “feed” as it’s called, if not more. One tool I use to set up a variety of feeds is Feedburner. Readers of your blog can use an application called an RSS reader or aggregator to download feeds. There are many such readers available, most at no cost. Some are desktop versions that require a download, while others are available online. My favorite is an online version called Bloglines.
RSS readers work very much like an email software, such as Microsoft Outlook. In fact, one RSS reader, NewsGator even integrates with Outlook so that it becomes a “one stop shop” for both email and RSS feeds.
Using this application, almost as soon as a blogger posts a new entry, you receive a notification and can access your reader to review the newly updated content.
To explain the difference between RSS and email further, think of “push” and “pull.” Email is a push technology. You have to wait until the email is sent before receiving it. On the other hand, RSS is pull technology. The RSS reader constantly scans each of the feeds to which you have subscribed looking for new information. Once found, the reader notifies you and captures that information for viewing inside the application.
Use FeedBlitz for those who prefer receiving notices via email
Some people prefer cream in their coffee, while others like it black. The point is everyone has preferences, and the same is true about how consumers like to receive information. The more technically astute seem to prefer RSS. Don’t even talk to them about email. It’s old hat. Other blog readers prefer the option of getting notices about updates via email. FeedBlitz is a tool which facilitates that wonderfully. When you post a new entry, the application sends an email to the subscriber letting them know.
With blogs, RSS, and email it need not be either/or, but rather both/and. Using every technological means possible to reach consumers, especially if you can do it in a coordinated fashion, will help ensure you stay topof- mind with them and increase the likelihood they will do business with you rather than your competitor.