The Newsletter Debut That Roared

What does it take to get email newsletter click-through rates of close to 30 percent? From unique visitors, no less? And what does it take to get total click-through rates of more than 80 percent?

Just ask the people at Mediconsult.com, an online resource for medical information, interactive tools and online communities. Devoted to a range of five dozen or so chronic conditions, including Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and obesity, Mediconsult’s flagship web site is designed to provide information that consumers can use to supplement the care they receive from their physicians.

And that’s where Diabetes Dispatch comes in. This monthly, email-only newsletter is sent to some 1,400 readers, serving up news reports, tips, recipes and other articles that focus solely on diabetes. The first edition (in its current format) was sent out on June 19, with the help of FloNetwork Inc., and the fact that it is a text-only newsletter makes the click-through results even more impressive.

So, let’s take a look at some of the factors that have contributed to this newsletter’s successful debut:

A strong target audience. According to Diana Tamblyn, a Mediconsult marketing specialist, one of the primary reasons the Diabetes Dispatch is popular with its recipients is because the audience is highly-targeted. We’ve all seen sites where visitors sign up for mailing lists almost as an afterthought. Although some visitors agree to receive mailings, product announcements, etc., along the way, they’re really only interested in registering, say, for the sweepstakes contest.

Yet, this isn’t so when it comes to Diabetes Dispatch. These readers hand over their email address for the express purpose of receiving the newsletter. Plus, they do so only after visiting the portal site and clicking on the link for the diabetes newsletter; readers aren’t solicited in any fashion.

That may change, Tamblyn adds, now that Mediconsult has seen how popular the newsletter has been with current members. The site is considering such options as promoting Diabetes Dispatch at conferences, publicizing it in online support groups, and renting third-party lists.

Useful content. Another reason the newsletter has loyal readers is its content. A no fly-by-night operation, Mediconsult’s editorial staff of 20 (different staff members focus on different medical conditions, and more condition-specific newsletters are in the works) sits down and, with help from the marketing folks, determines what types of articles would make for good reading.

Once the content is chosen and a staff writer creates the bulk of the newsletter (the blurbs that link to longer articles on the web), the newsletter is run by specialist Dr. Anne Peters, the primary clinical diabetologist at UCLA. In addition, Peters also writes a brief intro, putting a human face on the content.

Delivery. Diabetes Dispatch was actually launched last fall, but the delivery mechanism caused some problems. Tamblyn notes Mediconsult had been using Majordomo, but server load problems and a growing membership made the list tougher to manage. So Mediconsult joined up with FloNetwork Inc., an e-marketing application service provider that specializes in permission-based online direct marketing and communications.

Mediconsult relies on reports from FloNetwork to determine which articles are the most valuable (for example, the first issue, “Farewell to Finger Sticks?” garnered a 16 percent click-through rate alone, while the featured recipe languished at the bottom of the list) and then uses that data to tailor future newsletters.

And given Diabetes Dispatch’s impressive start, don’t be surprised to see those future newsletters continue to produce enviable click-through rates.

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