As a media company, you likely rely heavily on your newsletters to engage unpaid subscribers and ideally convert them to paying ones while driving ad sales for placed sponsored content or display ads.
Unfortunately, many newsletters being sent these days leave a lot of room for improvement, and may not be speaking to your readers as well as they could be.
Pitfalls and Opportunities
Pitfall: Generic, one-size-fits-all content
It’s tempting to send content that appeals to the masses, as you can email a larger group of people with one piece of content. But, this tactic risks being only partially (or not at all!) relevant to at least a portion of your readers. You also miss out on any ability you might have to target certain readers with certain content.
Opportunity: Segment and target
Instead of sending one blanket newsletter, publishers should try to segment their audience and send newsletters containing different content to different audience segments. By using data gathered from site behavior, demographics or previous content views, you can create custom lists and then custom emails for those specific lists. For instance, if your content is geared towards lawn and garden care, I may subscribe to the same newsletter as another reader, but I might be more interested in lawn equipment, while another reader might be more interested in garden design.
Email List Cleanliness
Pitfall: Forgetting about list decay or using “dirty” email lists
Most email programs provide features for list cleaning based on bounced emails or unsubscribes. But many don’t account for inactive readers - those who haven’t opened one of your weekly emails in six months, for instance. But continually emailing this group could give you “spam” status either by the email program of the reader, or by the reader herself. It also “throws off” your email analytics by including disengaged readers, instead of focusing on how well your content is doing with engaged ones, who are the ones most likely to take action.
Opportunity: Clean up!
Be sure to clean up your email lists on a regular basis in order to maintain credibility and avoid the spam folder. If you’re targeting as we mentioned above (which you should be!), it also helps to update your segments with the same thought in mind - if reader’s preferences shifted, keeping them on the list that will deliver the most relevant content may increase the likelihood they’ll retain their engagement. If you’ve noticed your reader who was interested in lawn equipment may be showing signs of decreased engagement, maybe they’ve finished with the heavy duty part of their lawn care and moved on to design. Try them out in another segment, and if they’re still not responding, you may want to flush them entirely. Remember, there are always ways to re-grow your email list.
Pitfall: Sending the same content
If your weekly emails contain the same or very similar content each time they go out, or if you do little to try and improve your content or use more innovative engagement tactics, your readers will inevitably start to get bored. This leads to a decrease in engagement quickly, and sometimes it’s hard to get readers back on track.
Opportunity: Analyze, test and improve
By looking at your key metrics and analyzing reader engagement with your content, you’ll be able to tell what’s working and what isn’t working, and therefore what you can improve on. You could also use A/B testing with your emails so you can try out different formatting, timing, or subject lines to identify what works the best with your readers. If you’ve highlighted the same gardening tool three newsletters in a row and engagement is static or decreasing, it’s time to introduce new content.
Pitfall: Siloing your email efforts
Failing to correlate your email activities with your other marketing activities is a big no-no! If your emails are being used for lead generation, it doesn’t make sense to not understand how your email “numbers” are affecting your sales “numbers”. Or how much traffic they’re bringing to your website content. Open rates aren’t enough to look at.
Opportunity: Make the connections
Track what happens with your emails all the way through to your other marketing activities. Once a reader opens your newsletter, what are they clicking? And once they click to the site content, where do they go from there? This gives you a more accurate account of what leads, sales and on-site activity those emails are generating. It’s especially important for emails that contain sponsored content so you can make a direct connection between your email marketing efforts and content “pick up”.
Pitfall: Sending too much or too little
Not understanding how much your readers want to be addressed runs the risk of either inundating them with too many emails, or losing out on conversion opportunities. Many marketers put newsletters on a set-and-forget schedule without revisiting the actual timing of their campaign.
Opportunity: Test out your timing
Another great use of metrics is to see if there are any changes in engagement KPIs if you experiment with when you push out your email campaigns. There are many stats on the “best days” or the “best hours” to send out emails, but your readers may have their own schedule. Try to vary your sending schedule for a few weeks or months and see what gives you the best activity levels. Who knows, maybe gardeners like Saturday morning emails as they’re thinking about playing in the dirt over the weekend.
There are many areas in which you can think about and possibly improve your email campaigns. These are easy ways for you to make sure your newsletters hit the inbox at the right time, in the right way, and give your readers the value they need to start and continue their relationship with you.
Originally published Jun 9, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017