Does Your Newsletter Serve a Purpose?

Here are the cold hard facts:

Most small businesses aren’t using their email newsletter to their best advantage.

If we take a stroll down memory lane, we might remember that way back in the dear dead days of early websites and blogging, email newsletters — and blogs themselves — were a novelty. We were excited to sign up to hear from businesses and people we wanted to engage with.

Then, automation and marketing tactics took over. Suddenly, we’ve reached a place of serious email overwhelm. Many businesses require an email address to interact with them, and then take advantage of your opt-in by spamming you (there’s just no other word for it) with dozens and dozens of emails that you didn’t actually want to receive in the first place.

A couple of weeks ago, a business owner asked in a group I belong to if she should stop sending emails every week — or give up her newsletter altogether. She said,

The emails I send are providing insights and resources. There are links to connect with me, and reminders about my services, but mostly they are providing useful information to my customers and network. I do notice a return on my time investment. I don’t want to annoy people. I’d rather create something of value that they are excited to receive and return to when they need to reference a particular subject.

She was essentially worried about her open rate and about “annoying” her audience with too many emails.

So what’s a smart, conscientious business owner to do?

How much is too much for email newsletters?

First, on the subject of frequency…

To me, email newsletters are what we call “top of mind” marketing. They help keep your business and brand top of mind for a potential customer so that when they are ready to buy, your name comes to mind first.

(Note: I’m talking about newsletters here, NOT sales emails.)

If we think of our newsletters as top of mind marketing, there’s no harm in the fact that our audience may choose to dip in and out, opening our emails some weeks and not opening them other weeks. The nice thing about email as a marketing channel is that it’s discretionary: they can choose whether or not to engage based on their interest level, need, and time.

My answer to the business owner in the group forum was to continue to send her emails as frequently as she can produce quality content.

Because that’s really the problem with too much email — most of the time, it’s not actually that we are upset that there are too many emails, but that there are too many emails with zero value.

What kind of value will you provide?

That brings us to a stickier wicket when it comes to email newsletters. A newsletter simply for the sake of having a newsletter isn’t going to support your business very well, so you must consider how you will provide value in exchange for the privilege of being in your potential customers’ inbox.

Let’s look at some different options for providing value:

The Product / Discount / Sale Email: This is the type of email newsletter many product-based businesses go with. The content revolves around introducing new products and reminding customers of promotions. The value of this email is almost entirely transactional; they aren’t really newsletters in the strictest sense of the word, and probably fall more into the “sales email” category.

The Blog Post Email: For many service-based business, the blog post email is the go-to. It includes either a link to the business’ latest blog post or the full text of the post. Which is better? There are pros and cons to each. If you link to the full blog post, you’re driving traffic to your website, where a curious reader might click around to learn more (or make a purchase); you’re also “training” your reader to click links in your emails. The downside is that fewer people will actually take the initiative to take action, but the people who do are more engaged.

Including the full text of the post in your emails is convenient for your reader. It may encourage more of your subscribers to read more of your posts. On the downside, your readers have no reason to go out of their email and onto your website.

The Subscriber Exclusive: One way to create true value is to offer your subscribers exclusive content that can’t be accessed by the general public. This could be any kind of content from a personal note from you to additional how-to content, downloads, discounts, offers, etc. The upside of this kind of email is that it makes subscribers feel special, and encourages them to stay subscribed. The downside is that it requires additional content production from you.

The Inspirational Email: Lots of coaches and other lifestyle businesses include an inspirational element to their emails. It could be an inspiring quote, a video, a meditation, a challenge (see below), or some other inspirational content that helps the reader feel inspired and motivated on a regular basis.

The Challenge / Course Email: Businesses that teach something may choose to offer teaching content through their emails. The emails may be part of a lead magnet, an automated sequence, a paid product, or a “subscriber exclusive,” but the content adds value by teaching something or encouraging the reader to take some kind of action regularly.

The Roundup Email: For businesses or business owners that frequently have true “news” to share — like events, press mentions, promotional offers, appearances, etc. — a roundup email may be a good addition to the mix. If the business is very content heavy, publishing multiple pieces of content a week (say, several blog posts per day or per week, or a blog post, video, and podcast episode), a roundup can also be used to share links to all the week’s content, or a curated selection of the week’s content. This provides value if your average reader might feel overwhelmed by the amount of content you produce and want to see just the highlights or have a convenient way to access everything in one place.

The Interesting Tidbit Email: Some businesses use their email to curate links to other people’s content, linking to the best content around the web on a particular topic from a particular timeframe. This provides value to the reader because they don’t have to scour the web or read a lot of nonsense to get to the good stuff. It also provides value to the author because it can be a great way to network and build connections with other experts in your space. It can be very time consuming to produce, however.

The Testimonial Email: Some businesses lend themselves extremely well to testimonials, case studies, and “before and after” style content. A health or weight loss coach, for example, might do very well to share inspiring testimonials and case studies from their clients. I recently saw a case study from a natural deodorant company about how they helped a young girl with a rare disease who was battling terrible body odor from her treatment, and I thought it was very compelling.

The Combination Strategy: You may have noticed that you could easily and creatively combine any of these ideas into a hybrid style of newsletter. If you sell a product, you might sometimes include new product introduction emails, interspersed with testimonials and blog post emails. Or you might combine a blog post email with a roundup email, including your content with other experts’ interesting content. If you do a roundup email every week, you might also include a subscriber exclusive section, a testimonial section, and an inspirational section.

Whatever you choose, remember that the tenets of good email marketing still apply. Try to stick to one main subject per email (the exception here is a roundup email, which contains multiple subjects and calls to action by nature) and to know what action or change you hope to bring about with each message.

 

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