Email newsletters are a powerful means for content marketing. They allow you to regularly broadcast and deliver content to a wide user base. However at the same time, they are an archaic electronic delivery format that lacks permanency or interactivity. When considering content marketing through email newsletters, here’s a few things to consider first.
Why email newsletters are a glass half full
Newsletters are a powerful means of communicating and educating an audience on a regular basis. Here’s why newsletters can be so effective:
- They are a one to many or broadcast medium. This means you create the newsletter once and educate many people at once through that effort. You also ensure that all readers have the exact same reading experience unlike other mediums.
- Newsletters sent over email are universal. Email is a decades old form of electronic communication and has permeated every individual, organization, device and form factor. If you send a newsletter, people will be able to read it easily without having to install any proprietary software, or learn how to use email.
- Newsletters are a push medium. Unlike websites and blogs which are only read when a visitor proactively decides to visit it, emails are pushed to users requiring no extra effort from a reader other than opening the email and reading it.
- Newsletters are a recurring medium. Newsletters are typically sent on a regular recurring basis, so many users expect and depend on them as a means of information flow. For example, readers may get upset if they do not receive their daily newsletter, whereas, few readers would get upset or even notice if they missed a tweet.
- Newsletters are measurable. Newsletters are a mature form of communication where we know how to measure newsletter engagement by measuring open rates, click rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates.
- Newsletters are easily digestible. Readers can typically see a quick digest of the content in the newsletter, and then if interested click off to a portal to read the full extended text.
Why email newsletters are a glass half empty
Now that we have explored what is great about newsletters, let’s talk about where newsletters may fall short:
- Newsletters lack permanency. Once you send a newsletter, it’s gone. No chance to change, update, or tweak after you hit send. Of course you can make a newsletter archive available, but fundamentally newsletters are transient.
- Newsletters are a one-way conversation. They are a one-to-many broadcast medium, there’s no way for readers to share their perspectives on the content.
- Newsletters are not dynamic. Once a newsletter has been sent, the content in a newsletter can not be permuted either by the sender, or the readers.
- Newsletters are not searchable. If you have a years worth of archived newsletters, it’s near impossible to easily search across the content in the newsletters. Of course you can search your inbox, but that’s surfaces matching newsletters but not matching pieces of content.
- Newsletters do not facilitate self-guided discovery. Readers of a newsletter can only read what’s in the newsletter and perhaps what is linked to from the newsletter, they cannot discover other relevant or related content on their own. The only avenue for this is to ask the newsletter sender to include such content in the next newsletter issue.
- Newsletters are not real-time. Newsletters are usually sent every day, week, or month. Because of this, readers have to wait until the next newsletter for updates. For time-sensitive breaking content, newsletters are not a good medium.
Building a strong email newsletter program
If you have decided email newsletters are the right channel for your audience and your content, the next challenge is creating those newsletters. Here are a few best practices to follow:
- Send regularly and consistently. One of the most important ways to keep your unsubscribe rates low, and your readership engaged, is to send email newsletters on a regular and consistent basis so that people can rely on you as a resource for information. Sending newsletters multiple times a day may be overwhelming. On the other end, sending newsletters every quarter may cause your readership to forget your brand and unsubscribe on the next issue. Depending on your flow of content, daily, weekly, or monthly newsletters work best.
- Grab-and-hold. Unless your readership is frequently forwarding your newsletter to friends and colleagues, it is difficult to grow your list. Instead, grab new subscribers through an online property such as a microsite by attracting them via social media or from search engines. Then hold them as a captive audience once they subscribe to your newsletter.
- Opt-in readers. Once or twice a year, it’s important to confirm with your readers and your email list that they are still interested in getting your newsletter. Ask them to respond to a survey or reply to an email to confirm they are still interested. This allows you to know that the audience receiving your newsletters is interested in the information and ensures that your metrics are not skewed.
- Mix in curated content. Not sure how to create enough content to email your audience every day, week or month? Curated content is great fodder for an email newsletter. Providing a synopsis of the the day’s latest content from around the best on a specific topic (even it’s not your own) is always a compelling read. It’s like the President’s Daily Brief prepared just for your prospects.