Looking for an outlet to communicate all of the great things that are happening at your company? Or are you looking to revive an old newsletter?
Your company’s newsletter can be a powerful way to nurture existing and potential customers into thinking about your offering more frequently; and, when used to provide value for the customer (not just a laundry list of all the new latest and greatest updates to your product), it is yet another way to build your company’s brand.
We have 12 steps to get you back in the nurturing game.
Step 1: Figure out what is keeping you from being successful with your newsletter.
If you are re-launching a newsletter, go back and analyze what happened during your last newsletter attempt, and why you got off schedule. Did too many other things “come up”? Were you short on ideas for content? Was it unclear who was responsible?
Diagnosing the problem will help you know how to address it when, inevitably, the same issues pop up.
If you are starting a newsletter, expect that these types of problems will pop up and so plan accordingly (which is what the following steps are for).
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Step 2: Coming to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This one is pulled directly from Step 2 of the 12 Step Program. Does it sometimes feel as if everything is just moving too fast to keep up with – and you could very well be going insane from all of the marketing tactics you could use?
Again, while in this sense the “Power” may not be exactly what the founders of AA had in mind, again, they have a point. When it comes to being consistent, deferring to an outside authority can keep us on track when, inevitably, it gets tough to follow through.
Enter the Editorial Calendar. A.K.A: Your Go-To Master Plan
To build this calendar, use whatever works for you and your team (Excel, Word, whiteboard, piece of paper, etc.) and plan out the key pieces of information that you will need to make your newsletter successful and an important part of nurturing your database.
- Launch dates for the year of each newsletter;
- Topic ideas;
- Foreseeable key events happening around the time of each newsletter (either within the company, or out);
- New Product launches
- Key Holidays
- Company News
- Production dates (when will you start, when will certain pieces be finished, when pieces need to be approved);
- Who is responsible for various pieces (writing, list management, programming, etc.).
However you choose to set up your Editorial Calendar, make sure it is a plan that you can live up to, and isn’t too ambitious. If you find that after the first couple editions the plan is unrealistic, go back and revise.
Step 3: Commit to the Plan
It’s great to plan, but the plan only gets you so far. Make a commitment to stick to the dates…no matter what. If product schedules get behind, feature spots fall through, don’t let it bother you – replace that space with something else, and just keep going.
Think of your Newsletter like a newspaper. If a story didn’t come through, would the newspaper stop printing? No – they would find another story to print instead.
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Step 4: Develop a Brand for your Newsletter
Your newsletter serves as a reminder of how great your company is, and subsequently represents the company as an extension of your brand. While the investment of resources may not be as intense, its development should be taken as seriously as if you were training a sales associate/representative in how to behave in front of the customer. Does a title like “2012 Q3 In Review” really extend the brand your company is striving for?
Try titling your newsletter something other than “August News”, or “Quarterly Newsletter” to build a connection with the reader, and infuse a bit of personality.
Step 5: Be consistent with your Content Type.
Consider dividing your newsletter into different sections which are repeated in each edition.
- Interesting trends in the industry;
- How-to Tips;
Or spot-lights of clients/partners/customers/vendors
add value for the reader and show that you are thinking about what they might be facing – therefore doing more than just updating them about the company.
While updates or exciting news about the company are important to share, be sure to include customer-focused goodies, as well.
Furthermore, keep to the routine. Select a few key sections like the ideas listed above, and then include them in each newsletter. This will help people in knowing what to expect in your newsletter.
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Step 6: Use data to drive relevance.
Your reader’s behavior is a powerful tool for gaining insight into what they find valuable. Using your newsletter as a hub to drive traffic to your website, have an option to “read more” each section that is hosted elsewhere. Then track the links that are clicked most often, and if you notice any trends, begin to segment your list to have slightly different articles which are then more tailored to a group’s interests.
Having a good base of how you will use your analytics to create more individualized experiences may be more work, but it makes your company more relevant in the eyes of the reader.
Step 7: Appeal to Desires and Wants in Your Content Selection
In the previous post we covered how, when planning the content sections of a newsletter, consistency between issues will not only bring predictability to your newsletter, but it will also allow you to track what topics are most interesting.
But, what are the topics you should actually write about? We have two golden nuggets of advice for you:
People desire to be better at something they are doing
– or –
People want to have special information.
When writing your newsletter, clearly appeal to these two desires and wants. For example, let’s say your company is marketing to engineers, use an article that compares types of software that those engineers use in their everyday job duties and (to appeal to exclusivity) is only available to those who are subscribed to your newsletter.
Then, reinforce the position of “I’m giving you this good thing and look for more good things like this in the future”, to keep them interested in learning more.
If you are ahead of the game, and already have a few of these articles lined up, highlight what will be covered in the next newsletter – and remind the reader that, by being a subscriber, only they have access to this exclusive wealth of knowledge.
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Step 8: Use the Subject Line to Pique Interest
Your subject line is like a movie trailer.
While “August Newsletter” is an easy way to categorize your newsletter, you would never see Disney promote their latest creation as simply the “Summer 2012 Animation Film”.
So, to make your subject line a little bit easier, try including an interesting tidbit from the newsletter.
For example, let’s use the previous example of creating an article that compares software and is exclusive to your newsletter list.
Try a subject line like:
“Expert Insight: Choosing the Right Software [August Newsletter]”
That way you have an interesting article that appeals to people’s desire to be better, and which frames the type of content you are sending (i.e., it is a newsletter, not a promotional email to sell a product).
Whatever you think will be of the highest value to your readers should be what you promote in the headline (a.k.a. subject line) to get them to open your newsletter. From there, the content should do all the work to engage your reader.
Step 9: Optimize your Newsletter’s Preview
Let’s say your readers primarily use Microsoft Outlook. When they first come across your email they see a preview of the email to the right of the subject line. To optimize, and get them interested, in this small section they should be able to clearly see three things
Your Brand Name with standard company branding for the newsletter;
A brief sentence that explains the nature of the email.
For example (if you followed Step Four and developed a brand for your newsletter), use something like:
“[ENTICING NEWSLETTER NAME HERE]: Your Quarterly Newsletter for the latest Tips, Tricks, and Insider Knowledge to the XYZ Industry”
3. Bold and optimized headlines to see what the newsletter contains such as:
“Latest trends in XYZ…”
“Benchmark Your Computing Up-Time”
“5 Tips to Getting More Out of Your Day”
Making these three pieces clear in the preview of your email demonstrates value right away, and gets people reading more.
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Step 10: Maximize Your Newsletter Open Rate with an Optimized “From” Address
In email marketing there are three aspects of the email which you want to optimize:
Content of the Email
We have already covered how to write effective Subject Lines; how to structure and position the content of your e-newsletter; and how to use the “preview pane” space to pique interest.
So, for an effective “From” Address the key is to have the email come from a person, not just the company name.
Think about your own inbox, who gets attention first? People who you know, then names you don’t recognize, and finally companies who are clearly sending promotional materials.
Move your newsletter one notch up in the From Address hierarchy and make it personal. Perhaps structure the newsletter like the “Letter from the Editor” section of a magazine, and have the newsletter come from someone instrumental in your company.
Step 11: Hit Send to a Test Group
The scariest part about using email marketing is the moment you hit “send”.
But, it does not have to be.
With email marketing, such as e-newsletters, the goal is to find out and measure what gets people on your list to open your email, read, and click on the content or links which are interesting. Discovering the best formula requires a bit of testing.
Take a small percentage of your list, enough to reasonably represent the whole group (less than 10%), and send your newsletter.
Using an Email Marketing Service Provider, monitor for 24-48hrs after sending this first email. After this period you will have enough information about who opened the email and where they clicked.
From there, adjust your email such as the subject line, the wording of your links, etc. to get more clicks. Then, move on to the 12th and final step to launching a stellar newsletter.
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Step 12: All About Relevance: Launch, Measure, Recalibrate
Hate to break it to you – but your job is not done once you hit send. Yes, you are about 90% there, but this final 10% moves your marketing from good to great.
You can’t just send your newsletter once a month, quarter, or blue moon and expect to be successful without ever analyzing what is resonating with your audience. Being the best in Marketing comes from being relevant.
- Knowing your audience as they are as people (i..e, interests, pains, etc.);
- Building the content which resonates with them (i.e., the content which directly addresses those interests, pains, etc.);
- Delivering in a way that piques interest and captures a response (i.e., optimizing your materials);
- Constant recalibration to make measure and stay relevant – the final steps we present here.
As the final step to launching a newsletter, remember to go back, look at the behavior of your readers, and readjust your plan, foundation, and structure of your newsletter to resonate and be relevant.
Branding, Consistency, and Relevance are the three keys to building a good foundation for your newsletter.
With your first newsletter, there are some important metrics to be aware of. These include:
- E-mail Marketing starts with the list. With your first newsletter, you might see a 20% bounce rate, even with a list that has been verified. If you are concerned about the bounce rates of your newsletter, look at the hard and soft bounce detail provided by your email service provider.
- Normal Open Rates for Email Marketing is usually somewhere between 15%-20%. When you are using a new list, or resending to a list which you have not been in contact with, expect your Open Rate to be closer to 10%.
- A normal Click Through Rate is 1%, at minimum. But shoot for 5%, especially if you are using the four pillars of relevance. (Note: Your Unsubscribe Rate will probably be higher than the click-through rate with your new newsletter because you have been out of touch. Don’t panic, just keep building your presence with your audience who wants to engage).