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Write, design and publish your own free e-zine

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in Business Management

My monthly e-zine, The Direct Response Letter (go to www.bly.com to subscribe or view back issues), is not the most successful or widely read e-zine on the planet. Far from it.

But marketing results and comments from subscribers tell me my simple formula for creating the e-zine — which, including copy and layout, takes me just an hour or two per issue to complete from start to finish — works.

In this article, I want to share the formula with you, so you can produce an effective e-zine of your own, sitting at your computer, without hiring a writer or designer, in just a single morning or afternoon.

If you want to market your product or service over the Internet, I strongly urge you to distribute your own e-zine free to your customers and prospects. There are several reasons for doing so.

First, the e-zine allows you to keep in touch with your best customers — indeed, with all your customers — at virtually no cost. Because it’s electronic, there’s no printing or postage expense.

Second, by offering potential customers a free subscription to your e-zine, you can capture their e-mail address and add them to your online database. You can then market to these prospects, also at no cost.

Whether you are generating leads or direct sales, there are two ways to sell your products and services to your e-zine subscribers. One is to place small online ads in the regular issues of your e-zine. These ads are usually a hundred words or so in length, and include a link to a page on your site where the subscriber can read about and order the product.

Or, you can send stand-alone e-mail messages to your subscribers, again promoting a specific product and with a link to your site.

When you are dealing with a free e-zine (as opposed to an online newsletter which the reader pays for), people spend just a little time reading it before they delete it with a click of the mouse.

I am convinced that most subscribers do not print out the e-zine, take it home, and curl up with it on the couch later to read. Therefore, I use a quick-reading format designed to allow the subscriber to read my e-zine online right when he opens it.

In this formula, my e-zine always has between 5 and 7 short articles. They are usually just a few paragraphs each.

Every article can be read in less than a minute, so it never takes more than 7 minutes to read the whole issue, though I doubt most people do. You can see the most recent issue at www.bly.com to get a feel for the length and content of these articles.

I advise against having just a headline and a one-line description of the article, with a link to the full text of the article. All this clicking forces your subscribers to do a lot of work to read your articles, and that’s not what they want.

I do not use HTML; my e-zine is text only. This way it is easy and inexpensive to produce.

I don’t “make a production” out of it; it’s just straight type. Many readers have told me they like it this way, and that they don’t like HTML e-zines, which look (a) more promotional and less informational and (b) seem to have more to read.

When preparing your text e-zine for distribution, type your copy, in a single column, in Times Roman or another easy-to-read typeface.

The column width should be 60 characters, so you can set your margins at 20 and 80. However, to make sure the lines come out evenly, you must put a hard carriage return by hitting “return” at the end of each line.  There are a variety of services and software programs for distributing your e-zine as well as your e-mail marketing messages to your online database. I use and recommend Bulking Pro (www.bulkingpro.com).

My frequency is monthly, though occasionally I do a second issue if there is major news that month.

I am a freelance copywriter. Let me show you specifically how having an e-zine helps bring in business for me.

I recently gave a speech on software direct marketing. It was recorded, so I had audio cassette copies made. In my e-zine, I offered the cassette free to any subscribers involved in software marketing — potential clients for my copywriting services.

Within 24 hours after I distributed the e-zine, we received over 200 inquiries from marketing managers at software companies requesting the tape, many of whom needed copy written for direct mail and e-mail to promote their software.

By comparison, most copywriters tell me that when they send postal direct mail to a list of prospects, they average a 2% response. At that rate, they would have to send out 10,000 pieces of mail to generate the 200 leads I got in an hour for free.

That’s what an e-zine can do for you. Once you build your subscriber list, you have an incredibly powerful marketing tool and the most valuable asset your business can own: a database of buyers with e-mail addresses and permission to mail to them at any time.

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