Welcome back! When I work with clients who are publishing or looking to publish an email newsletter, a few common issues arise. As promised last month, I’ll address three of them today: setting goals for the email newsletter; creating an effective subscription page; and finding affordable editorial content.
Setting Goals for the Email Newsletter
To be effective, your email newsletter needs to have a focus and goal. The goal plays a large role in defining the content and format of your newsletter. Here’s a short list of the most common goals:
- Generate advertising revenue
- Generate subscription revenue
- Generate leads
- Sell ancillary products or services
- Position the organization as a leader in its field
- Drive traffic to a Web site
- Keep the organization’s name in front of prospects and/or customers
- Retain customers
- Upsell customers
This list isn’t all-inclusive and the goals aren’t mutually exclusive. I recommend you choose one primary goal. You can add one to three secondary goals. After you decide on these goals, quantify them whenever possible. This frequently involves a guesstimate. That’s fine. Figure out what’s realistic and go with that. You can always adjust up if your estimate is low. If your estimate is high, you may want to revamp your approach.
Creating an Effective Subscription Page
Getting people to subscribe to your email newsletter is critical. If you request too much information on the subscription page or the newsletter description is weak, you’ll lose prospects. Here are a few tips to optimize list growth:
- Don’t ask for more than five to seven information items on the subscription page. More, and people will tend to abandon the page without completing the process. You can always gather additional information later.
- Request information that will help individualize the content. For a business-to-business (B2B) email newsletter, you need an email address and a first and last name. Requesting a Zip Code and/or state is becoming standard, and title and affiliation are often required.
- Don’t ask for information that’s clearly only requested to help you market to the registrant. Asking for a street address, phone number, or information on purchase authorization signals you want to sell the registrant’s information and fill her electronic, snail, and voice mailboxes with solicitations. People will either abandon the page without subscribing or lie. Neither of these furthers your cause.
- Use multiple choice and drop-down menus wherever possible. These simplify things for subscribers and make it easier to analyze data (you won’t have to sift through and group those who wrote “Marketing Director” with those who typed “Director of Marketing”).
- Include a brief description of your email newsletter — and this is critical — written by a marketing person. It should include the following:
- Feature: The type of content your email newsletter offers
- Benefit: Benefits to the reader of subscribing/reading the email newsletter
- Frequency: How often you publish
- Audience: Who reads your email newsletter or who you write it for
- Call to action: Exactly how to subscribe
Finding Affordable Editorial Content
Many sources of syndicated articles are available in exchange for attribution. Although these are cost-effective (many are free), finding good quality articles highly targeted to your audience is often difficult. There are many other ways to get affordable editorial content. Here’s what I recommend to clients:
- Interviews: Speak with an industry expert. Write the interview in a question-and-answer format. This can work well with a panel of experts.
- Seminar coverage: Attend an industry conference or seminar, and write an overview.
- Case studies: Write up an industry success story.
- Guest columnists: Invite industry experts to contribute. Often, they’ll do it for free for the exposure. If you get someone who’s good, ask him to write on a regular basis.
- Previously published pieces: If you read something you find valuable, share it. It’s usually not a problem to write a brief intro, then link to the original. If you want the article to appear on your site or in your newsletter, you must request permission and possibly pay a fee to avoid copyright violation.
Does all this take time to accomplish? Yes. But finding good syndicated articles takes time as well. You’ll produce a higher quality email newsletter using these methods. Be organized and plan each issue ahead, with enough time to write and edit articles.
Thanks to everyone who emailed me after my last column, especially those who told me what they’d like to see covered in the future. Far and away, your top request was choosing an email vendor. Though I won’t talk about specific vendors, I will provide an overview of different features offered, discuss how to determine what you really need and what you can live without, provide some online resources to assist you, and give you some key questions to ask.
I’ll be in San Francisco later this month at ClickZ Email Strategies. If you’re attending, email me and let’s meet for coffee.