“8.9%. That was the open rate of the email newsletter.”
Over the last few months, there have been some changes in my company. First, we were acquired by a bigger company. This new partnership is going to really help everyone I work with create amazing products for our customers. We are in the process of creating something amazing.
Second, it is an opportunity to start working with other marketing professionals and build a complete marketing machine. No more marketing team of one. This is going to be fun!
As I start to meet some of my new teammates, they are telling me about their current projects and tactics they are executing against. Digital marketing, paid advertising, event marketing, webinars, etc.
We finally get to every marketer’s favorite thing, the email newsletter. I am not sure if they brought it up last because it was a pain point, just like most marketing departments.
“Oh, and we have the email newsletter or company newsletter.”
They go on to explain that it is primarily built by marketing, but the content comes from sales and customer success.
“And, we get an 8.9% open rate.”
Say what?!? an 8.9% open rate. This is the worst open rate I have ever seen, besides that client that used to buy email lists and blast his message all over the world (I think he sold SEO or website redesigns, I am sure you know the guy).
“Do you have any ideas about how we can improve this?”
I turned my webcam off, grabbed the wastebasket, and threw up (not really, but I wanted to). This conversation brought to life so many more questions.
I know many of you are in the same boat. You are holding onto an email newsletter that may or may not be beneficial. It is something that the sales team or product team or executive team or whatever team is holding on to. It has been their way to “communicate” with the customer base.
Today, I want to dive into the email newsletter a bit deeper because I know you are like me. You are asking, “Why would I put that much work into an email newsletter for an 8.9% open rate. I have better things to do with my life, like wait for that next LinkedIn connection that wants to see if I need to increase my leads by 50%.” (I am sure you know that guy too).
So join me as we chat about the email newsletter. I will warn you now, this is a long post. So grab your coffee, a snack, or maybe even lunch as we take an adventure together.
Common questions about your email newsletter
Before we dive into the real question, is the email newsletter a thing of the past, we need to answer a few common questions about your email newsletter. I feel like this section is to ensure we are all on the same page moving forward.
I want to answer these questions, because I am just like you, ready to kill the email newsletter every month and get that frustration off my back. Let us set the stage.
What are the benefits of an email newsletter?
If you read the first question, you might be asking yourself. “Yeah, what are the benefits of an email newsletter?” Just like any marketing communication, there are some real benefits to your customer newsletter that maybe you forgot in the process of putting this thing together.
Deliver visitors to your website
You spent months planning, designing, and executing against your company website. I am sure you and your marketing team would like to see more traffic delivered to this shiny new toy. I know, just like you that increasing website traffic does not happen overnight. Boom sauce, you have an email newsletter that can deliver traffic to any page you pick. It is like a magic wand that you can control. Honestly, your email newsletter is probably the easiest way to deliver targeted traffic to your website.
Email marketing still has a huge ROI
Do you believe that email marketing is dead? Well, you are probably not alone in this thinking. However, email still delivers a 3800% return on investment. So, for every $1 you spend on your email newsletter, you should see about $38 in return. Get off your desk and stop dancing, we have a lot to cover still. Your email newsletter is probably the biggest driver of your email marketing strategy, so I guess it is not dead yet.
A low-cost marketing tactic
Ok, if you are like me you are looking at the above benefit of your email newsletter and calling BS on the whole thing. I mean you can set up a free ActiveCampaign account and start sending emails to your list in like an hour. The ROI number I believe is something that marketers try to tell themselves to sleep at night.
Now, the real nuts and bolts here. The reason there is such a high ROI on your email newsletter is that it cost almost nothing to execute. Yes, you can purchase something like HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, or some other marketing platform, but the actual email is dirt cheap. Your email newsletter, even at an 8.9% open rate, probably drives as much return on investment as your high performing ads because of the low cost.
It is a super low-cost marketing tactic that I believe every company should be using.
Side note. When I was running my marketing agency, I would chat with small businesses that did not understand how important a monthly newsletter was to the growth of their business. It was always a struggle to get this in place first and then work on the ads, social media, and SEO. Please, if you are reading this as a small business owner, small marketing department, or whatever, please start an email newsletter and get into the habit. It will build momentum.
Connect with your customer base
ROI and low-cost marketing for the win! We are cooking with gas now. Your email newsletter is an opportunity for you and your company to connect with your customer base. Did you have a great quarter? Thank your customers. Did you close on a new acquisition? Let your customer know the great news and how it benefits them. You have a chance to build a real relationship here. Don’t ruin it (salespeople, looking at you).
Introduce your brand to potential customers
As I am examining the list for our newsletter, I am trying to understand who is actually getting this communication. I see a few tagged items and start to explore. Where is the adventure going to take me?
I find out that pretty much everyone that has ever attended an event, signed up for email, or unsubscribed (I know I just got the chills too) is receiving the email newsletter.
I can’t talk about the unsubscribes, but you have an opportunity here to introduce non-customers to your brand and let them know what you stand for.
Again, this is why you need to keep sales out of the discussions (I think you are seeing a trend here). Use your newsletter to drive value-based content, it will build your brand as an expert versus a greedy, greasy sales-driven organization. Yuk!
Say it with me, let’s be better than the competition. Let’s be better marketers.
I am going to leave you with one last email newsletter benefit. If you are using your newsletter for good, not evil, it will drive growth. It is that easy.
What is the difference between email marketing and an email newsletter?
Man, the benefits of an email newsletter got me all excited again! I am ready to relaunch this email newsletter.
Now, you might be wondering what’s the difference between email marketing and an email newsletter. Well, here is the way that I look at it and I hope my logic makes sense.
Email marketing has the goal of sending a sales message to your customer. This can be targeted, a blast or auto-magically sent through email automation. These campaigns should be very targeted to drive sales. The results should be easy to track back to revenue.
Your email newsletter on the other hand is a way to engage and inform your email list about your company. Your newsletter should engage and educate about your company. It is more than a sales tool, it is a brand builder. The results are going to be harder to track to revenue because it is a more general message.
Now, you need both to survive.
I look at the email newsletter as part of the overall email marketing strategy. Think of it this way. If you are 100% on with a sales message, always trying to push new products or services, you will probably increase your unsubscribes. Now, if you add your email newsletter into your overall cadence and email marketing strategy, you will be able to pull that same lead or prospect back in because you are such a cool company by showcasing the great things for the community and your employees (I hope).
As you start to get really deep and use email marketing to generate more sales, remember the difference. Again, I am going to pick on sales here. Not every communication needs to be a sales pitch. Remember, if you are going to build a thriving brand, treat people on the other side of your communication like you would like to be treated.
What department should own the email newsletter?
Sales, marketing, human resources, operations, I mean fill in the blank. I have been asked more times than I can count, what department should own the email newsletter? Well, by now you know my opinion. Anybody but sales.
In all seriousness, this is a hard question because there is so much that goes into the email newsletter. Yes, someone is going to have to build it, probably the marketing department. Someone is going to have to write the content. Someone is going to have to manage the project and herd the cats. Someone is going to have to make the pretty graphics. It is a true team effort.
Here is my suggestion about the ownership of the email newsletter. I believe that customer success should be at the heart and soul of this communication. Think about it, they are responsible for the success of all customers. They understand the customer better than anyone in the company. If you are giving them the keys to the customer retention car, they should be able to create an email newsletter that your customer actually wants.
The ownership of the email newsletter is truly at the company level. However, your people closest to the customer are going to give you the best content and results.
Another random thought: I believe that customer success should be part of the marketing team. This is the best way to generate referrals, upsell, and cross-sell. Many companies do not treat customer success as a growth channel and hire below average employees. They believe that once they are customers, they will never leave. But you should never stop marketing and engaging with your customers. This is the low-hanging fruit and an easier way to grow.
How to start an email newsletter
I guess I have more to say about the email newsletter than I thought. Well, here is why you are still here, I think. Let’s start an email newsletter that is going to deliver against all the email newsletter benefits, drive results for your company, and get you that promotion.
Here is how I have gone about starting an email newsletter in the past.
Generate excitement from all departments
Ok, if you are going to be successful in your email newsletter journey, you are going to need to generate excitement from all departments. Trust me, getting others to help generate the content needed for your email newsletter can be very difficult.
Once the rest of the company and team are on board, then, only then, can you move forward. My advice to all other marketing professionals, do not try to do this alone. You will get buried.
Determine your sending cadence
Your sending cadence is vital for two reasons. First, it helps train your co-workers to generate content and get into a rhythm. Second, it is easy for your customer to know when to look for your communication. Once you determine your cadence, do not, I repeat, do not change or alter it.
Really Big Tip: According to studies, Tuesdays at 10:00 am is the best day to send emails. So, your cadence should revolve around this.
Choose a solid email service provider
There are literally thousands of email service providers (ESP) out there. I have used a bunch. The point here is simple, find one that you like. I have used ActiveCampaign for the last 3 years and I really like it. But really, you need to find one that fits your needs. Many ESPs specialize in eCommerce, some for B2B, and just about everything you need. Do your research and get to know what features your business needs.
Schedule your first kickoff meeting
Ok, the excitement is up, the cadence is ready, and your email service provider is in place. Rock and roll, dude. It is time to schedule your first kickoff meeting. The purpose of the kickoff meeting is to gather all the stakeholders, department heads, and anyone else that is going to be helping produce this beast. You need to review your deadline for content creation, content editing, and all the other steps needed to send and deliver your email newsletter. These things do not just come together. Typically I schedule my kickoff meeting for the day after we send the newsletter for the month. If you are going to stick to your cadence, you need to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Focus on your customer, not sales
Your email newsletter is for the distribution of news and increased engagement with your audience. It is not to generate sales, this will come later as your build trust. This is very hard for many companies to grasp because we tend to focus on revenue-generating tactics. If you need revenue now, an email newsletter might not be the right tactic for you at this point.
KISS, Keep it simple stupid
Raise your hand if you have ever gotten an email from a company and it looked like this blog post. It just won’t stop. Unlike this amazing blog post on the email newsletter, that email is going to get a fast pass to the trash can. Worse yet, the spam can. This can hurt your overall sending ability.
When you are putting your content together for your email newsletter, keep it short and simple. Don’t confuse your audience with too much content. Let’s be honest, they really do not care about what you have to say unless it benefits them.
Write for humans, not robots
According to our last TPS report… Worst subject line ever.
When you are writing your email newsletter, write like a human. Nobody knows your internal jargon. I would even take out the industry jargon unless you know for a fact that your audience knows what you are talking about. Remember, the person receiving your email newsletter is a real person and they probably do not have a Ph.D. Write like a human and keep it conversational.
Random Really Big Tip: I have my 5th grader read my copy. Don’t get me wrong, she is a super smart 5th grader, but if she can wrap her head around what I am writing, we have a winner. The main point here is that I am trying to use an industry jargon filter. That’s all. Love you kid.
Track your performance
You are now ready to launch your email or company newsletter. Boy, that was a lot of work. Don’t get too comfortable there is still more to do. It is time to track your performance and ensure that you are generating great content for your audience. Determine how you are going to measure your email newsletter and what metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) are important.
Personally, I look at 2 metrics. I look at the open rate and click rate and trend these metrics over time. Trending these two metrics over time shows me if I am improving or if I need to change my approach.
Open rate (percentage of the total list that opened the email) – this is my indicator to ensure that my audience continues to find value from the email newsletter over time. If this trend dips, we need to look at cadence, send times, email list health, or the overall message. Maybe we are being repetitive.
Click rate (percentage of the total list that clicked on a link in the email) – this is my indication for the actual content of the email newsletter. If you analyze your content of each newsletter over time, your audience will tell you what types of content they want.
Your metrics are important. As you evolve your email newsletter, the metrics you look at might change as well. Start simple and measure your success over a few months to get enough data to make key decisions.
13 Tips Improve your email newsletter so people will actually open it
A few years back, I was sending a regular newsletter for my marketing agency. It was one of my main drivers of new business because it was a way for me to encourage referrals and increase shares on social media. I used many of the tips and tricks for my newsletter that I learned while running email marketing for a large retail company.
Fast forward to today, I still send a monthly newsletter for my company and most of the tactics are the same. But here are my nearly 10 years of experience sending an email newsletter of some sort.
Keep your list clean
Remember the 8.9% open rate. Well, I believe that the list is a major reason for the low open rate. Let me explain.
The more I dive into the list, the more I see users that have never opened an email. They either came in from a tradeshow (uninterested reader), moved on to a new company (dead email), or imported from another email list (the dreaded duplicate).
In all my email lists, I have an automation rule to remove based on the following criteria.
- if the user has not opened an email in the last 5 sends
- if the user email has bounced 3 or more times
- if the user has unsubscribed
Ensuring that your list is clean is one of the easiest ways to improve your email newsletter metrics. It can even cut your cost as many email marketing systems charge based on the number of contacts. Keep that list clean people.
Provide value with every interaction
Raise your hand if you have ever received an email newsletter that was not relevant to your, your business, your position, or really anything in life. I know your hand is up in the air waving like you just don’t care. Make sure that your content is relevant to your audience. The use of segmentation and personalization can really save your email newsletter and generate the results you are looking for.
Improve your copy
A minimal copy is going to be the best. I know how many hours, days, and even weeks you can spend creating the best content. But the reality is, less copy is better. Cut your copy when you can. Make it engaging, entertaining, or motivational in nature. Copywriting is really a marketer’s best friend and yes, it can be difficult.
Improve your design
As I am sitting here writing what seems to be a novel, I am going to tell you about the importance of design. I am also going to use this 4000 plus word blog post to tell you that people really do not like to read. The design of your email newsletter is going to be what elevates your brand.
I also know that many marketers these days do not have the luxury of a graphic designer to pump out these great graphics. I am one of them. I have learned over the years how to use photoshop and other tools to make things work, but I would still consider myself a C- designer.
If your company is serious about your email newsletter, please take your design to the next level.
Please, stop being so sales focused
There is a 90/10 rule that you should follow. Again, I am talking to the salespeople still reading. 90% of your email newsletter needs to be informative or educational. The goal is to add value to the reader. The other 10% can be saved for that one super important call to action, so make it count.
Introduce your email newsletter through email automation
Whenever we get a new email subscriber, we default to adding them to the next email newsletter. It is easier this way. I am going to challenge you to be a better marketing professional here.
Before you start sending an email newsletter, set up an automated email sequence to introduce your new subscriber to your brand. Use this sequence to help set the expectations and give them a sense of what your email newsletter is all about. This will help set your email newsletter up for success.
Don’t hide that unsubscribe button
The word unsubscribe is seen negatively in the marketing world. However, my take is a little different, take it for what it is worth. If someone does not want to receive your emails, then let them go. Let them unsubscribe. Do not be ashamed of it. Focus on the audience that does want to hear from you and create a relationship with them. These are the leads and opportunities we are looking for anyway.
Never stop testing
I have a rule. If you have an email list of over 500, you need to be testing something every send. From the subject line, use of emojis, or types of content, or graphics never stop testing your email newsletter. The more you test, the better your email newsletter will become.
Include a way to share your content
Most email newsletter templates already have this, but give your readers the ability to share your content on social media. If your content is valuable, your readers will share it and turn your email newsletter into a lead generating machine. Something that everyone will love, even sales.
Work on that subject line
We all get to crunch time and need to get our email newsletter out the door. We look into our marketing swipe file and we grab a subject line that we have used in the past, copy, and paste, we are off to the races. I am guilty of this.
Your subject line is the first interaction and many times makes or breaks your email open rate. Make sure you put the work in, get creative, and create a subject line that your reader is going to connect with.
If you truly want to improve your email newsletter and create something that your audience is going to open, it starts with your email subject line.
Write a killer opening line
How many times have you opened an email with a killer subject line to be shot straight into the sales pitch? Yeah, more times than you can count. Remember, when you send your email newsletter, your readers and audience are giving you a piece of their day. Capture their interest with a killer opening, not a lame sales pitch.
Pay off the subject line in the content
You have a killer subject line, a solid opening, then boom we change directions completely. We often try to pack so much content into our email newsletter that we send a mixed message. If you are going to chat about dogs in your subject line, don’t show pictures of cats and gerbils. Your content must be consistent with your subject line.
Don’t waste your space
In your email newsletter, there is some prime real estate. The portion of the newsletter that you can see without scrolling down, also known as above the fold. This is the most important part of your email newsletter. Use this area to capture the attention of your audience. Use a solid graphic with a great opening line to entice your audience to read more.
Ask you the customer what they like about your email newsletter
Do you remember when we were talking about the department that should own the email newsletter? Well, here is another reason that customer success should be running the show. As they are speaking and supporting your customers, they can ask questions and get valuable feedback about your newsletter. This is only going to help your future sends.
Measure your results against your goals
We already talked about this, but please measure your results. This is the only way you know if you are getting better. I would review your results against your goals every quarter. This way you do not make any rash decisions at the moment.
What you should include in your email newsletter
Wow, you are still reading. You rock! The final section of this article is to decide what we should actually add to our email newsletter. There are so many topics that you can include, but I want to share with you my email newsletter table of contents.
This is your killer opening line. Use your introduction to let the reader know about what they are going to be reading. Maybe include a table of contents so that the reader can quickly scan the topics. Your introduction does not need to be very long, it just needs to be enticing.
Here is where you can brag about your company a little bit. Is there any news that your customers need to know about? Acquisitions, new executives, PR releases, or anything that you think gives a little insight into the company will go a long way. Again, this does not need to be very long, unless there is a huge announcement that requires explaining. Give a brief update about what is going on behind the scenes. Short and simple.
Okay, here is probably the most important part of the email newsletter. It is also the hardest to put together. If done correctly you will provide value and have your readers waiting for the next one. Give your take on the industry. This is what your customers are looking for. It shows thought leadership, experience, and builds confidence. Your industry update can be a link to a recorded video or blog post. Just make sure you do not skip this step.
This one becomes tricky with the more products you have. If you have one product, it is easy to update the roadmap and showcase your new features. If you are like most companies, you have many products or services and you need to be able to connect the right audience to the product update. I will admit, this becomes tricky.
Do you have an ongoing webinar session, do you attend trade shows, or do your partner with industry associations? Use this information to let your audience find you and attend events you will be participating in. Any event that you are taking part in should be showcased here.
There are so many other types of content that you can add to your email newsletter. Just don’t get too carried away. Here is a list of other items you could include in your email newsletter.
- Links to your recent blog posts
- Industry articles and reports
- PR releases
- Employee and new hire bios (depending on how big your company is)
- Meet and greets of your customer service agents
- Job openings
Make sure you do not go overboard with it. Remember, you do not want your email newsletter to drag on forever. You might not even need to add additional information to your newsletter.
Closing and Wrap Up
Leave your audience with something to remember. Leave them wanting a little more with a teaser of next month. Put a bow on this addition and make sure that your readers are ready for the next edition.
Is the email newsletter Dead?
Now that I have carpal tunnel, it is time to put this beastly blog post to rest.
As we wrap up, we are in the middle of the 2020 COVD-19 pandemic. We are getting more and more emails, both from companies that we want to hear from and unfortunately more from companies, we do not want to hear from (spammers). This blog post was meant to help you create a better, more valuable piece of content for your customer.
Now more than ever, your customers are looking for a real connection with your company. This is truly what your email newsletter should be about, connection.
In closing, I am sure that you can see that I am still a huge believer in this customer communication channel. It is still a huge driver of revenue and will never go away. Unless we can deliver our newsletter via drone or VR, nevermind another blog post, the email newsletter, when done correctly can be beneficial for your company in many ways. Think of the email newsletter as the watering can.
Connections, not sales. Don’t give up on your email newsletter, make it better.