In recent posts, I have been focusing on the role and value of an engaged community in marketing success. Email newsletters are a critical component in “feeding” the community as well as informing the larger audience. For a publisher, convincing a reader or viewer to subscribe to updates closes the content loop, and makes them a highly valued Joiner, to borrow a term from Jeffrey Rohrs, author of Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers (affiliate link.) For a brand, the subscriber has given permission to be contacted directly, which brings them is one step closer to becoming a customer.
Yet, we don’t leverage newsletters as well as we could. It is simply too hard to create and send newsletters for most marketing organizations, so we don’t create enough of the super-targeted or opportunistic missives that are more likely to lead to success. Our newsletters are broad and generic, and often deleted unopened. Even those that are offer-driven tend to hit too wide or too late to drive the consumer behavior we want.
Some of the challenges that contribute to this are:
- lack of email systems connectivity to websites and sales/marketing databases, to more efficiently manage the lead flow process and target emails more specifically to consumer interests and behavior;
- design requirements. A well-designed newsletter is more likely to succeed but most marketers aren’t designers, and the design backlog can be a roadblock to getting timely missives “in the mail;”
- organizational silos that put the power of the email newsletter tools in one department, making is difficult for others to harness the tactic for their business objectives.
How can we do better with newsletters? Short of fixing the three challenges I noted above, which are longer term, organizational issues, there are three things you can do immediately.
- Review YOUR newsletter subscriptions, and think about the ones that actually engage you past the first, heady SUBSCRIBE moment. Which you likely did as the result of another transaction (download a white paper, enter a sweepstakes, purchase a product, etc.) I recently did this as part of a massive INBOX ZERO effort, and pruned a lot of newsletters that I never even opened. The ones that remain (including a few that I remember subscribing to FOR the content) passed one of two tests: I am a customer, want to get the special offers, and have acted on a newsletter at least once or I regularly share on social or use articles in my blog posts;
- Better target YOUR subscribers that exhibit these engagement behaviors and also target their lookalikes. What content works? What doesn’t? Even if you have lots of subscribers to your newsletters, most of them are passive. Keep sending those passive users your content, because opens do still matter, but spend more time on the engaged readers. Offer them exclusive access or content to increase their loyalty;
- Scrub your list regularly. Get rid of the subscribers who don’t ever open your content. They just inflate your subscriber numbers which makes your open rate look bad.
Your email newsletters can be one of your most effective community engagement tools. Or they can be digital “bin fodder.”
Updated 18 September to add link to an article from eMarketer reporting on a July 2017 survey by Adobe that puts some quantitative measures to some of the points I discuss in this post. Not surprisingly, 50% of respondents said the most annoying thing about email marketing was frequency – too much. None of the other reasons even got close to similar significance, BUT among the top complaints were two data-related issues: an offer than makes it clear that the data about me is wrong (24% ) and urging me to buy something I have already purchased (20%).