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Stay-in-Touch Marketing
How to Use Newsletters to Propel an e-Learning Consulting Practice

By Hal S. Richman / November 2011

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Stay-in-Touch Marketing

How to Use Newsletters to Propel an e-Learning Consulting Practice

November 18, 2010

"Stay in touch" marketing is a key strategy for promoting your e-learning consulting practice. In this article, I will share with you what has worked (and not) for me over the past 15 years.

"Stay in touch" marketing means exactly that: staying in touch with past clients, current prospects, business partners, and associates. The best way to stay in touch is to send out a monthly newsletter with some interesting content focusing on your areas of expertise, whether it be mobile learning, informal learning, evaluation, or anything else. At the very least, the newsletter will let people know you are still on the planet, and on a good day, it serves as "pull" marketing where people come to you with work.

Tip 1. It's Not About You

The newsletter is not about you. It's about your clients, prospects and associates. Every time I have followed a cookbook marketing approach to promote "my" services and issue a "call to action" to get business, the universe has just yawned.

The newsletter needs to be part of a marketing package. Your web site should be the mother ship that supports your marketing package. In one of my businesses, we update the blog and resources section of our site every morning; it takes about 30 minutes. And we send out a one-page newsletter once a month—not every six months, as I used to do. A lot of content for the newsletter comes from the site, and this works well because the information is engaging and useful.

Tip 2. Use a Template

It's best to develop a template for your newsletter. A template lets your audience know what they can expect each month and makes your life easier.

In my performance and evaluation practice, the template structure looks like this:

  • Magnetizing topic. In a recent newsletter, the topic was systems dynamics and international development. I summarized two recent articles on this topic in no more than 80 words each with a "read more" link, and included one eye-catching graphic.
  • Projects on the go. People want to know what I'm working on, so I always include very short descriptions of current work, including links for those who wish to read more.
  • Timely ideas for planet Earth. In a recent newsletter, I discussed Howard Kunsler's excellent book The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century.Footer. I use three short lines in the footer to describe what I do and contain links back to my site.

Tip 3. Use an Email Service

I use an online email marketing service right here in Nova Scotia: SimplyCast. I had been using Constant Contact, but I found the templates too constraining. SimplyCast allows me to use its HTML editor to compose my newsletter in sections (header, footer, body text), test the newsletter, manage my lists, and track results.

My newsletter open rates are lower than I expected (see chart below). After recovering from the thought that I'm not the sole focal point of all the people on my list, I discovered that if a mail reader does not automatically download images, the email is not tracked. After surveying some of my associates (and looking at my own inbox), I realized that everyone is busy.

The key points for achieving stay-in-touch marketing success are

  • consistency of marketing
  • using truly interesting and timely content
  • and taking feedback about what works and what doesn't.

Tip 4. Manage Your Subscribers

Segregate clients, prospects, business partners, and associates with a tag so you can send focused mailings. If you send mailings on a geographic basis, make sure to include state, province and country information in the list.

Large organizations use customer relationship management systems to handle all their lists. The rest of us are left to figure out how to manage and synchronize our lists on Outlook and Address Book with online services like SimplyCast and Constant Contact. If you figure out how to do this without any heavy lifting, you win Park Place.

Tip 5. Opt-In is Standard

Your lists must be opt-in. The online services mentioned include this as a feature in every mailing. You will have the ability to see who opts out.

Make sure you have an easy way to let people sign up for your newsletter. I have the an applet on my web site that automatically updates the list on SimplyCast (see the image).

And finally, don't take yourself so seriously. My sense is that you need to take advice from marketing experts and at the same time be true to your heart about who you are what you want to be. When I travel internationally, I always take pictures that I place on my newsletter. Below, that's me, at a sheep farm in Sardinia. This is what people will remember—not that I am some big shot.

About the Author

Hal Richman has more than 16 years experience in learning and performance. His work focuses on linking learning, training, and development to workplace performance and organizational results, and leveraging innovative methods and technologies to do this.


  • Sun, 05 Dec 2010
    Post by Demetria

    These are great tips on stay-in-touch marketing, or what I also like to define as "relationship marketing".As online marketers we absolutely need to have a logical and working method to keeping in touch with current and past clients/prospects,etc. I am currently using YourMailingLIst Provider for my email marketing, but will take a look at Simply Cast. Thanks for this post.

  • Tue, 08 Dec 2009
    Post by Jon Kruithof

    A prevailing undercurrent is that education, like medicine, is a bitter pill to swallow. I agree with Ryan Cameron, and do think that educators have to be media moguls in some sense. It seems to me that e-learning in general will not change, but the educator behind it will have to adapt. The educator will have to be a scriptwriter, web designer, filmaker, image manager and do it well, and for less. With that critical consumption of media and the ability to discern fact from fiction will become more important. As we move further into the future, and into virtual worlds, identity and who one is will become critical to manage and control.

  • Sat, 26 Sep 2009
    Post by Farhad


  • Mon, 25 May 2009
    Post by Don Li

    @ ryan cameron This is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent comments regarding learning and software I''ve read for a quite while. @ Scot Aldred Another thoughtful observation though I don''t necessarily agree with all its assumptions. For one thing, the relationship between traditional way/method of learning and e-learning does not have to be XOR (mutually exclusive), but rather evolving... Too bad very few thought-provoking authors/media gurus actively and effective provide some counter-weight to the dumbing of the pop-culture...

  • Thu, 05 Mar 2009
    Post by Agus Santoso

    One day, maybe in the next foreseeable future, if a teacher/lecturer/trainer/educator insists to have a F2F class, s/he will be the only person standing in the classroom because his/her students have preferred to study online !!!!!

  • Fri, 27 Feb 2009
    Post by anjum wasim dar

    e-learning is effective long lasting colorful and full of latest knowledge.We at BCOE have inroduced e-learning from 16 Feb with the use of PPT Multimedia presentations and there has been instant change in the mental approach thinking process and attitude towards learning among teachers and students. learning and imparting knowledge has become much easier.

  • Mon, 26 Jan 2009
    Post by Kingsley Tagbo

    2009 will see a sustained and increased migration away from Traditional Class Room Training to Anywhere, Anytime, AnyPace Video Based Training for the business analyst, computer programmer, data analyst or software development community.

  • Sun, 25 Jan 2009
    Post by arnold garcia

    As universities and other school systems look to cut costs in a failing economy, e-learning can only keep growing. They reduce the need for classroom space as well as other neccesities like AC or heating, electricity, etc... It might require some investment in computing resources but they would be offset by other savings. Students benefit from this as well, it saves them time and money. Not to mention most students today love working on computers.

  • Thu, 22 Jan 2009
    Post by Jane Bozarth

    My guess is that we are nearing the do-or-die point for those classroom trainers who have been resisting e-learning. The state of the economy will demand that organizations take a hard look at travel and other costs associated with traditional classroom training, and based on cost (rather than quality) will increasingly shift old business to new delivery methods. I have already seen instances of e-learning-resistant trainers/HR departments left behind as other organization decisionmakers (IT, C-Suite) made decisions for them, based only on economics, and imagine that will only increase.While I welcome the move to increased use of e-learning (as I never did understand how the classroom got to be held in such exalted esteem), this isn't necessarily good. It breeds the "convert" (rather than transform)-a-classroom-course-to-online-mentality- but it may be the best push forward we'll get. This brings with it, as others here have noted, a shift toward buying or building whatever is the cheapest instruction, and away from thoughtful instructional design. I agree with Dr. Mayer that we will see increasing understanding of evidence-based practice but worry that it will be ignored in favor of easier, crank 'em out approaches. Also as much a hope as a prediction: the increasing use of social media may create the perfect storm for learners to start taking charge of training offerings and let-me-get-it-myself content.

  • Fri, 16 Jan 2009
    Post by Dana Alan Koch

    2009 will also be a year where learning is moved more directly into the workflow and out of the classroom. To the comment made earlier this is learning at "the moment of need" (Conrad Gottfredson's phrase). Ubiquitous and less-expensive technology, social networking, peer-to-peer collaboration and user generated content are among the contributors to the increasing reality of workflow learning. Add to this the continuous pressures on budgets (in good and bad economic times), the requirement to show business value for training spend (Return on Learning), the predicted frequent job changing of the new generation of employees (See Tapscott’s books) and you have a training business that will push more learning to the actual workplace and strive to embedded learning into tasks. I see this as going beyond traditional performance support and into something much richer, much more customizable, and much more personal... 2009 won’t see the reality of this, but will move us to this type of ideal.

  • Thu, 15 Jan 2009
    Post by Carol Whittington

    Thanks Lisa for bringing together such a diverse range of ideas and visions. As a consultant not knowing if I was going to be working or not in the next few weeks, I have recently been pondering this question myself on my own small scale. While these are only predictions and the future has yet to be decided, these views helped provide clarity on my personal experiences and gave me the knowledge that the non-traditional eLearning I have been doing most likely has a place in some part of the future, even if finding that place may be difficult for me and many of my colleagues in the current economy.

  • Wed, 14 Jan 2009
    Post by Lynne Jones

    Lisa, thanks for harnessing the comments. This is what it is all about...quite diverse expert comments available to all to access and comment on. Great informal learning, Jay. Ryan Cameron and Scot Aldred have brought some realistic comments to the mix however I value all the differing and similar expert opinion and hope many of the predictions do come to fruition. What a wonderful world we live in!

  • Tue, 13 Jan 2009
    Post by Emma King

    Great Inspiring List. 2009 will be year for companies to reuse content that they have previously created by starting to utilize EPSS solutions that can provide this information to users at the moment of need. Providing immediate assistance to enable individuals to accurately perform a task utilizing a combination of resources from a single point of initiation. We face a credit crunch and a knowledge crunch but if we utlize tools effectively we can ensure that the knowledge captured by SME''s is shared at the time it is needed

  • Mon, 12 Jan 2009
    Post by Scot Aldred

    Thanks Lisa, and congratulations on gathering predictions from such eminent colleagues in elearning. Ryan Cameron has acknowledged an important misconception with regard to cost cutting. While Ryan discusses the open source cost advantage myth, there is also a matter of quality development and support to acknowledge. Many of my colleagues will claim that online learning is inferior to face-to-face instruction and in a sense they are correct. The move to online learning is often done with little understanding and acknowledgement that the learning environment is completely different. When online learning becomes a replication of classroom instruction, or could be classified as "Shovelware", it is indeed inferior to the face-to-face alternative. Using the above models is, in most cases, a lower cost alternative, but significantly inferior and ineffective. If, however, the online learning is authentic, engaging, media rich with high levels of online facilitator support, the learning experiences can easily eclipse that of the classroom. Following this approach makes online learning just as expensive as face-to-face although the scalability is better than the traditional approach. Web 2.0 and virtual environments will bring outstanding opportunities for formal and informal learning experiences, but it will not save organisations substantially with costs.

  • Mon, 12 Jan 2009
    Post by Viplav Baxi

    My 2 cents for 2009! Silverlight (more so) and Flex for learning development and tools will see a significant rise. LMS mindshare shall start being significantly impacted by Learning 2.0 solutions such as Mzinga and ELGG. As the adoption starts, enterprise measures/metrics will also start falling into place. Adoption of Learning 2.0 approaches will start in earnest in the second half of the year. LPO or Learning Process Outsourcing will gain momentum in 2009. The use of the mobile as a learning platform shall see renewed interest - the start of ubiquitous learning being made possible by technological developments in the handset, services and network space. The use of virtual worlds for learning will acquire more importance - if things are right, it should mark the beginning of the end for traditional virtual classrooms. Games and simulations will see an increased adoption.

  • Mon, 12 Jan 2009
    Post by Lloyd Dawson

    Great list Lisa. In times when public confidence is low, the last thing the public needs is to hear is an abundance of ''doom & gloom'' messages from all around compounding the fear and loss of confidence that already exists. Every bust contains the seeds from which the next boom will spring. Your list gives educators the inspiration to rise up above the tide. Well done!

  • Mon, 12 Jan 2009
    Post by Gerald Friedland

    Network-based bandwidth and storage space has gone up while skills in using tools hasn''t so much. Therefore, I think we will see a shift towards web-based managed services. These services will provide, recording, transmission, storage, and content management in one site. They might even contain experimental media analytics approaches for automatic indexing, etc...

  • Mon, 12 Jan 2009
    Post by Jay Cross

    First of all, congratulation, Lisa, on capturing responses from from so many great thinkers that patterns emerge. This is a milestone for creating meaning with eLearn magazine. I sense a great divide among the responses. Some see eLearning ascendant because it''s less expensive than the old ways. Others of us sense opportunity for wholesale change, re-jiggering a system that had gotten seriously out of whack. It is wonderful that everyone finds an upside to the downturn.

  • Sun, 11 Jan 2009
    Post by Sohail Mahmood

    E-learning is poised to grow because of lowered costs, increased awareness of potential for incorporating new technologies in enhancing educational content, and networking advances already available. The primary reason is the availability of the infrastructure worldwide at reduced costs.

  • Sat, 10 Jan 2009
    Post by ryan cameron

    In reading these comments, its seems there are some key assumptions that are probably wrong. 1. Open source is not, actually, free. Someone has to build it, someone has to maintain it. Open source is simply transferring an up front and usually meagre licence fee for a long term highly specialized labour cost, which in many cases ends up creating situations where organizations are completely hamstrung by their IT department/gurus. 2. Consumers will probably not get increasingly sophisticated in building their own training. Looking at the education systems and social trends, it becomes clear that people are losing essential creative skills, basic historic and heuristic abilities, and thus, to even reach them, e-learning needs to become more like movies or television shows, or for that matter facebook apps, as pop culture is the actual language people are increasingly speaking. E-learning will have to be "sold" to people and will compete directly with the latest movies, hit tv series, and the swarm of competing social networks, both general and highly specific (a la So, the future of e-learning is, the courses that engage (shock etc) and entertain first, then educate later, will be the only ones to be effecatious. A bit of broccolli mixed into the kraft dinner so to speak.

  • Tue, 23 May 2006
    Post by Grandon Gill

    This was a great article. The one thing I would add about cheating is, however, that it has reached epidemic proportions nationally--and not just online. (See for some sobering statistics). We have one professor who has gone so far as to purchase a metal detector wand to help identify cell phones in his classroom exams. In many ways, cheating bears striking parallels to the illegal immigration problem that has recently grabbed the headlines. In both cases, we decry the violation of laws and policy--and how it is unfair to those who pursue their goals by legitimate means. Unfortunately, however, we have also become dependent on both behaviors. Without undocumented workers, many sectors of our economy would collapse. If we were 100% successful at identifying and punishing cheaters, our universities would collapse (assuming the Academic Integrity Center''s "80% of all college students" admit to having cheated at least once is valid). Equally unfortunate, there are no good solutions to either situation, and anything we try is likely to be messy, and involve more compromises than any of us are going to be comfortable with.

  • Thu, 30 Mar 2006
    Post by John from NC

    As an e-learning student going on four years now, I have worked hard on the courses taken and have done so with the utmost integrity. I certainly hope my online degree will be creditable to the outside world when I’m finally able to state the degree on my resume. Each course I''ve taken has had a proctored final exam that requires showing my identification. I''m sure there are many ways to cheat, but one has to remember traditional colleges have the same problem. How many times have we heard students caught in scams, from Ivy leagues colleges as well? When you pause to think about it all, it’s not the way we learn, but the very integrity we have instilled in ourselves that makes us do the right thing. Therefore, it’s not the institution or the avenue of learning taken, but the very individuals who decide cheating is how they’re going to obtain their own goals. In our travels however, those of us who do the right thing will surpass on the ladder of achievement and success over those who have lost their integrity along the way.