My E-Newsletter Experience: Key Lessons

Over the past two months, I’ve been immersed in a new chapter of promoting my services as a copywriter, creative director, and business coach: e-newsletter publishing. Along the way, I’ve been updating you on my progress so you can learn from my real-life experiences.

Now that I have two e-newsletter issues under my belt, here are some insights and observations that may help you. (To view an archived Web version of the e-newsletter, go here. The only thing missing is the table of contents.)

Open Rates Exceed 42 Percent

I’m not sure, but I think it’s because my database is clean and up to date. It consists mostly of current clients, colleagues, ClickZ readers, and prospects who expressed interest in my services.

The rate would probably go even higher if I cleaned out some of the deadwood, such as the names on those business cards I got at networking events 10 years ago. So, after the third issue, I’ll email nonresponsive names on the list, offering to remove them from the database (see Jeanniey Mullen’s excellent column on exit strategies). I’ll also review the list and unsubscribe those people who haven’t clicked or responded in the past.

I Should’ve Done This a Long Time Ago!

Not only have I gotten a bunch of great new clients as a result of the e-newsletter, I’ve also resumed relationships with people I wouldn’t normally have the time to call. The e-newsletter has elevated my business in the eyes of prospects. They tend to treat me like a bigger entity than the one-woman shop I am.

The e-newsletter is also a great way to establish immediate contact following a networking event. After hosting a roundtable at a recent FOLIO: SHOW event, I sent all the attendees my most recent issue with a follow-up note.

Finally, it’s helped me to expand my coaching practice, which I never had time to promote beyond word of mouth.

Subscribers Read the First Three Articles the Most

I suspected this would be true, so the most important messages were put first. My e-newsletter serves as an online portfolio. It showcases my best work with case studies. I always lead with the very best, most creative samples of my work because that’s the type of work I want to continue to attract.

Know from the outset what you want your e-newsletter to achieve. My challenge has been keeping clients up to date on the different types of projects I work on and the industries I specialize in. My healthcare clients know I work in that field, but they may not realize promoting events has become as specialty. My email clients may not know I can also create award-winning dimensional mailers.

That’s why I have a multipage e-newsletter, not the more prevalent one-pager I see from most consultants. Though it would be a lot easier and cheaper to do just one article instead of the six I currently publish, at this point I’m reaching out to a number of audience segments. That’s part of the original strategy.

The beauty of an e-newsletter is you can adjust your strategy in a heartbeat. There’s no reason why I can’t, at any point, publish a one-page case study, conduct a survey, make a special announcement, or even move to a completely different format. And, versioning the e-newsletter is always a possibility.

Reviewing E-Mail Reports Is Key

By taking a look at my undeliverable and bounce-back reports, I can see which of my subscribers’ corporate email systems block the e-newsletters and contact them personally to let them know they’re missing out on the issues they’ve requested.

I can also see what articles are of most interest to different audience subsegments. I can get a glimpse at who may be considering coaching if they’re reading those articles.

When you operate a small consultancy, it can be a bit painful to look at the unsubscribe list. Although I’ve only had a miniscule unsubscribe rate, it’s hard not to take it personally when I see names I know on the list. Of course, that goes under the category of “get over it.” Clearly, not everyone will be ecstatic about reading yet another e-newsletter! My forward rates also tend to be very small.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is you need a plan to deal with the increase in interest and sales an e-newsletter inevitably creates. Now I’m considering hiring support staff to handle all the inquiries, update the database, generate proposals, and more. But I’d rather have it this way than the alternative: working under my prospective audience’s radar.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

Related reading