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Is Your E-zine Getting Too Personal?

By Heather Reimer
Posted Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Personalization has quickly gone from being the hottest new "must-have" for e-zines to the most misunderstood and misused e-accessory.

Some newsletter writers are particularly guilty of crossing the line between good touch - bad touch. I've noticed a trend lately towards using business newsletters to share the writer's most private, personal troubles (or stream of consciousness prattle), deviating entirely from the stated focus of the publication.

For example, here are excerpts from three highly- respected, high-circulation online marketing newsletters, all published within a few days of each other. Names have been omitted to protect those guilty of sharing too much:

Exhibit A: "If you're wondering how mom is doing, she went through round one of chemotherapy. No problems. Not bald yet. It takes more than one treatment to lose your hair! Overall in excellent spirits, feeling quite well. Thanks for your prayers on her behalf."

Exhibit B: "Hi, I'm back! Did you miss me? I didn't publish yesterday because I was in the hospital getting a PET scan (no, they weren't looking for hamsters in my colon;-). A PET scan is the latest imaging technology. It creates a 3-D image of your entire body using giant cameras and nuclear physics. Cool, huh?"

Exhibit C: "My father passed away on Sunday. He died in his sleep, the way he wanted. Thank you to the 200 of you who sent me your thoughts after the last article about him. I wrote the eulogy for his funeral with the help of the rest of my family. If you'd like to find out why he was so special, take a look at the eulogy at ..."

Having read those, are you feeling all jumped up about marketing now? Or are you a little bummed out?

Personalization should make your customers/readers feel you understand them. It can have a warming effect on your relationship with them. It can even allow you to target products and messages specifically to their interests. These are universally agreed to be good things.

The challenge now for players in the industry is to set a few guidelines and limitations for themselves, i.e. just how personal can we get before we've gone too far? As a heavy user of e-zines, I love personalization - within limits:

Please, use your e-zine to speak to me in a one-on-one, relaxed style about marketing or whatever your topic is.

Speak to me personally about your own professional experiences, failures and successes.

Speak to me of inspiring case studies involving real people.

Survey me to find out what I need.

Subdivide your opt-in database into super-specific categories so you can narrowcast your messages to your various target audiences.

Use software to personalize your e-zine by sprinkling my first name throughout the copy. (Yes, I still get a kick out of that!)

That's personalization at its finest. But hamsters in your colon? Like the guy breathing down my neck in the bank line-up, you just got much, much too close. And instead of inspiring me, you've creeped me out.

Suspect your content is not working as hard as it should? Heather Reimer writes action-inspiring newsletters, web content, sales letters, ads and articles. Proofreading/editing also available at low rates.
***Get a FREE content analysis report on your site when you request an estimate.***

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