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Feb 2004 Contents

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Using email to promote usability

Ilise Benun

author of “Self Promotion Online”

There are still far too many people who don’t understand what usability is or what it can do, which is why all self promotion efforts you make, whether as an independent or part of a usability group, should be educational. And one of the most effective and inexpensive tools for educating your market is email.

An email marketing campaign – simply sending regular email messages to everyone you know and everyone who knows you – is the ideal way to market your services because it can consistently accomplish so many things at once: share your knowledge, build credibility and position yourself as an expert, while also spreading the word about your services and distinguishing you from others like you.

Email also drives traffic to your Web site in a much more reliable and controllable way than the search engines can. And best of all, email is interactive. It initiates a dialogue so that, when your recipients get a message from you, they just might be prompted to reply with a question or project.

Creating the content for your email marketing campaign, whether sent monthly or even quarterly, doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. Once you find a template and a formula that works, all you have to do is treat your campaign like a client’s project and devote the necessary time.

Here are some ideas for content.

  1. Case studies and real-life examples. People love to see what others just like them have done, and they will take time to read a simple case study that describes a problem you solved for a client. This is a good springboard to offer more general advice. Showing how you've helped clients address specific challenges is good from a promotional perspective too because it gives concrete examples of the work you do, which can otherwise seem abstract to those who can hire you.
  2. Offer a list of your top 3-5 tips on a subject. People love to read tips because they're quick, short and to the point. You can send anything from “5 things you can expect from a usability test” to “The ROI of usability.”
  3. Answer your clients' frequently asked questions . Keep track of the questions your clients ask, whether via email and/or in person. Then answer each in a short article. If you can't think of any questions, send your current clients/customers a quick message asking for their questions.
  4. Offer your opinion on a hot topic. Don't be afraid to tackle the hot issues in your field. Offer your own expert opinion - your readers want to know.

You also don't have to create all the content from scratch. You can simply pass along links to articles that would be of interest to your market or links to web sites they might find useful. (Hint: There's a ton of useful info on

Email keeps you visible, keeps your market connected to you and literally motivates people to respond. Most important, it is the back and forth of dialogue that builds relationships. If you do your email marketing right, your recipients will actually look forward to receiving your messages. They may even thank you.

Ilise Benun is the Vice President of the NYC UPA chapter and the author of “Self Promotion Online” and “Designing Websites for Every Audience.” She writes, consults and gives workshops about online and offline self-promotion.
Sign up for her Quick Online Marketing Tips here:

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