Net development is the number one company concern today. Old services like catalog copy and spec sheets are becoming standard fare, while newer services like selector guides are sprouting up all over. Once a service like CAD downloads or Selector Guides becomes available from one site, the word spreads and the service is multiplied tenfold in a short period of time, with others often imitating what competitors do.
One example of a service that has been around a long while and continues growing enormously is the e-mail newsletter. Manufacturers have found the one way to get an OEM design engineer's attention is to educate him or her on component benefits through and e-mail newsletter. In fact, Design News also publishes e-mail newsletters covering several technologies. They are extensions of the magazine.
Click-throughs. Companies who provide a newsletter to design engineers have found that this can benefit their website as well. The thought process is that engineers always want or need additional information. SDRC (Cin- cinnati, OH) organized its eI-DEAS newsletter precisely around the needs of its users. Furthermore, the company believes that the newsletter should be made available only to those readers who subscribe to it. Called "per- mission marketing," this strategy calls for a newsletter to be delivered only with the explicit permission of the user/subscriber. This approach is philosophically different than "push marketing," under which permission is not required to send a newsletter.
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This article is part of a continuing series of monthly pieces on "E-services and the design engineer," sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. Design News will continue to report on the latest developments on the Web, and how new Web-based products and services make life easier for engineers. Please share with us your experiences with websites that help you do your job better and faster.
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Many newsletters allow the reader to click through to the site, but place them onto a home page. "With our news-letter, eI-DEAS, engineers can easily click through to a specific section of our company site using what is called a deep link," says Alan Solomon, director of E-Commerce for SDRC, a CAD pioneer in Milford, OH.
The eI-DEAS newsletter is a good example of a single-product newsletter. Every issue of eI-DEAS has a mix of material that is specific and detailed for its audience. "You provide a tighter focus with a single-product newsletter," Alan says. This focus can include technical tips based on FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), the latest news announcements pertaining to the product, case studies, and previews of future releases of the software.
There are basically two technologies used for e-mail newsletters. The first is html-enabled, which means that the newsletter has the ability to present colors, headlines, and graphics directly in your e-mail box. SDRC's eI-DEAS is an example of an html-enabled newsletter.
Another is the SYNRAD Applications Newsletter. SYN- RAD provides laser application solutions for industry. On a monthly basis, the news- letter highlights one application as the "Application of the Month!" as well as several runners-up. Most issues also include at least one feature article. An application section is intended to help engineers with their own designs.
Although the SDRC and SYNRAD newsletters are html-enabled, many e-mail newsletters are plain text versions. Less graphically oriented, these newsletters are faster to download. The plain text newsletters typically supply the reader with "information only" and are aimed at updating the reader on specific technical or application-oriented solutions that may not require graphical representation. Once again, deep links are often used to benefit designers looking for a product or solution.
The Southco (Concordville, PA) newsletter, Southco eNews, uses permission marketing for its newsletter and allows recipients to easily unsubscribe. The newsletter is designed to alert customers to new products and services available on the company's website. According to Robert DePippo, manager, Global Web Development, "Based on our first two newsletters, we've seen solid jumps in our overall web activity, as well as in specific areas of the site. Our very first eNews letter generated a 40% jump in site visitors."
What do engineers use most in a site? Two things, according to DePippo. "Featured stories that use deep links, such as case studies and application solutions in networking and telecommunications, and our On-Line Interactive Product Selection Guide quickly jumped to the top five page visits once our newsletter came out."
Any site that purports the delivery of information to its audience provides some sort of magazine or newsletter type material. Many manufacturers have opted to provide a newsletter only on their site rather than one that is e-mailed regularly. The Algor site is particularly strong in this area and provides anyone who enters the site with the opportunity to delve into its newsletter archives, application stories, or news release archives. The Algor site provides much of the material in PDF format, which is easily saved to a hard drive for later reading.