Brodeur: You Can Spare Some Change

I get a lot of reader email, and much of it revolves around online newsletters. How often should we send our email newsletter out? How can we best track open and click-through rates? Why is our HTML formatting not working?

Although I can’t answer all these questions in one article — every individual, company, or organization has different needs and challenges — I can describe a bit about how one company revamped its online newsletter and in the process doubled its subscriber base. Moreover, as a result of the change, it has seen some quantifiable results in terms of tracking its readers’ online activities.

Brodeur Worldwide is a global public relations firm that has been experimenting with many types of email newsletters. The company has sent out long, glossy HTML editions, short text versions, and everything in between.

But late last year the firm decided that it wanted a polished, more homegrown email newsletter to send to those it calls “friends and influences” — prospects, media/analysts, former employees, and others.

“We wanted something that was easy to navigate, that was visual, and where we wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle,” says Brodeur’s Jennifer Fiorentino.

So the staff began experimenting with a service from iMakeNews. It came up with an HTML newsletter that looks much like a Web page; in fact, the newsletter is also posted on the Web (and the email version links to that page). You can see it yourself here. The first version was sent out earlier this year.

One person is dedicated to writing the feature stories in each issue. This same individual collects briefs for the newsletter and is trained to use the service’s features, including selecting recipient groups and putting the copy together.

Here are a few of the changes Brodeur has seen since implementing this newsletter:

  • Prior to using the iMakeNews service, the company sent out text-only versions. Fiorentino says that tracking was virtually nonexistent (it’s tough to check open rates, for example, on text-only email messages), and the landing pages — those URLs mentioned in each newsletter — didn’t see much change in activity. But when the new version hit the inboxes of the regular subscribers, Brodeur saw heavy spikes in related Web pages.
  • Pass-along rates increased. “We saw a tremendous number of unidentifieds” visiting the Web site, Fiorentino notes. In other words, the newsletter was being forwarded along at much higher rates than previously observed.
  • A surprising number of readers check out the news about Brodeur. Because Brodeur didn’t do much in terms of tracking before, it’s tough to measure whether it’s the new layout that has encouraged more recipients to read parts of the newsletter such as “About Brodeur Worldwide,” but it’s reasonable to assume so, especially in light of so many pass-along readers. “It’s so easy for [the readers” to get that information, and it’s a good tool to develop your business,” Fiorentino says.
  • Although the newsletter is designed as a quarterly, the firm is working toward sending out a monthly edition. Fiorentino credits the flexibility of the service as one factor.

So if you’re considering revamping your own newsletter, this service may be worth a look.

This seems like a good place to reiterate that if you have any leads on case studies in which email newsletter publishers have “done it themselves,” please send them along. For understandable reasons, I already hear a great deal about software solutions, service providers, and so on. But if you’ve come up with your own solution, I’d love to hear about it.

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