“We need a monthly newsletter! What’s our newsletter strategy?”
Yep, the familiar battle cry from many online marketers… especially after seeing statistics such as “email marketing delivers an ROI of 4,400%!“
When done right, email marketing is a powerful tactic to engage with your prospects, nurture relationships, move them along the sales funnel, and increase conversion rates.
Here are just a few reasons why an email newsletter should be an essential component in your marketing mix:
- It’s very affordable.
- It drives traffic to your website.
- It’s easy to track and analyze the metrics.
- It allows granular segmentation and personalization.
However, many marketers jump into launching a newsletter only to realize that it takes way more than slapping a few lines of copy onto a nice-looking template and hitting “send.”
You may be familiar with some of these challenges:
- Under pressure to come up with fresh and exciting articles every month and deliver the right content to the right audience at the right time.
- Inability to get clean data on the subscribers to properly segment your list.
- Lack of resources to set up a responsive template, which could result in poor image rendering, readability, and user experience for mobile users.
- Low open rate, click-through-rate, or engagement rate (which makes you wonder… is it worth the trouble?)
- Difficulty in associating your overall business objectives to email marketing metrics.
- Lack of time to create a high-quality newsletter that yields the desired ROI (a task that can take up to 10 hours.)
As a marketer or business leader, you know you need a strategy, set the right KPIs, and track your metrics. But what else?
To help you focus your time and resources, we have put together a step-by-step fill-in-the-blanks newsletter strategy template that lists out all the critical steps for executing an engaging email. If you want to create your strategy from scratch, below is a brief summary of what should be included in your document.
State Your Newsletter Strategy Objectives
As with any marketing initiative, you need to set your objectives and align them with the overall business goals. Start with a valid reason why you’re investing the time and resources into creating a monthly newsletter (which doesn’t include the CEO or other team members saying so!)
Also, use your segmentation strategy to inform the objectives. For example:
- Converting top-of-the-funnel subscribers into leads.
- Turning leads to an MQL or a free-trial user.
- Getting trial users to sign up for paid plans.
Set Your Goals
Based on the objectives, you can now set goals to measure the success of your newsletters. There are many metrics you can track (e.g., delivery rate, open rates, unsubscribes, etc.); however, you could get sucked into the rabbit hole of chasing vanity metrics if you don’t have specific goals to guide your efforts.
The KPIs should be as closely associated with a conversion event as possible. Here are some key metrics to consider:
- Click-through-rate: this metric is particularly important if you have a sales-focused call-to-action in the email.
- Conversion rate: this metric tells you if the subscribers are taking the action you want them to make when they click through to a landing page.
- Return on investment:: this metric reveals if the revenue you generated from an email is worth the time and money spent.
- Email-generated sales: your earnings per click will show you which emails are generating the most revenues for your business.
Define Your Audience and Segment Your List
In this day and age of marketing personalization, people are allergic to irrelevant content. You can’t just blast out the same newsletter to every subscriber on your list and hope for the best.
Start by defining the key stages your customers and prospects go through during their path to purchase. Then, use these milestones to inform your segmentation strategy.
Here are some newsletter segments commonly used by B2B tech companies: subscribers, leads, active free-trial users, expired trial users, customers, and churned/past customers.
Set Up Tracking
“What gets measured gets done” — tracking your metrics helps you stay on target. Besides, you can share the success with everyone in the company to get buy-in and support.
You can collect and measure the data from a variety of sources, including conversion reports from your marketing automation or email service, Google Analytics, internal reporting, spreadsheets, etc.
Determine the best way to track your goals by referring back to your marketing objectives for each segment. It’s critical to define what metrics to measure based on your marketing objectives, so you can find out what’s working well and what needs to be fine-tuned. Also, keep your reporting consistent, current, and sharable.
Establish Brand Guidelines
By adhering to your company’s brand guidelines, you can deliver a consistent user experience that helps improve brand awareness, build trust, and nurture relationships.
Here are some essential branding elements to consider for your newsletter:
- Tone and voice: should your copy be conversational, formal, or cheeky? How does it reflect your brand personality?
- Emojis: will you use them in subject lines, copy, or signatures? Or not at all?
- Images: do you use stock photos or illustrations? What should these images communicate?
- Fonts, links, and CTA buttons: how can you create a consistent experience that ties your newsletter to your website and brand?
Determine a Send Schedule
By inserting the newsletter schedule into your content calendar, you’ll get a big picture view of how your content marketing and email marketing can work synergistically.
For example, you can plan on sending a newsletter around events or critical launches to support other marketing initiatives. This can also help prevent having multiple emails sent to the same subscriber segment in one day (which could make it look like your company doesn’t have its act together!)
Plan Your A/B Testing
You can read about email marketing best practices till the cows come home, but the proof is in the pudding. The only way to know for sure what works for your particular audience is to test the various elements in your emails.
When designing your A/B tests, make sure to:
- Note down precisely what you’re going to test (e.g., subject line, time of the day/day of the week, “From” line, CTA placement, etc.) — you should be testing only one variable at a time.
- Determine why testing this variable matters.
- State your hypothesis by writing down what you think will happen.
- Map out how you’ll use the results to improve your next newsletter.
Pick Your Email Service Provider
You don’t need a full-blown marketing automation platform to send a newsletter. Tools such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, or ConstantContact are sufficient to get you started. Alternatively, if you’re already using Drift or Intercom, you can streamline the process by using the same tool for email marketing.
Choose your email service provider based on your purpose, marketing objectives, and other vital elements in this strategy outline. For example, if A/B testing is an integral part of your strategy, then choose a provider that offers a robust split testing functionality. Or if you want to use emojis in the subject line or inline, make sure the provider has that capability.
Identify the Types of Content
All the groundwork you have done will be for naught if your content doesn’t offer value and engage your audience. Your newsletter content needs to be in alignment with the objectives and goals defined in your strategy. It should also be positioned to speak to the specific audience segment.
For example, for a top-of-the-funnel audience, the content should focus on educating them about their problems; for a middle-of-the-funnel audience, you may focus on helping them evaluate the solutions to their challenges.
If you don’t have the time or resources to create fresh content for every newsletter, you can alternate original articles with curated content. For example, identify a theme and share the links to 3-5 relevant articles. Add a couple of paragraphs to position the content and share your point of view.
Determine Your Call-To-Action (CTA)
A CTA is an essential component in your newsletter, and you should tailor it for each specific audience segment based on the content and their next step in the customer lifecycle stages.
Be mindful about what you’re asking the readers to do. E.g., don’t make them submit their information to download a freebie — they’re already on your list so there’s no reason to make them jump through more hoops, or don’t ask someone who’s already signed up for a free trial to do so.
Maybe your main action is just to get a reader to click and read your content. If that is the case, think about having a retargeting campaign set in place to engage the audience that expressed interested in your content.
Pass it Along
Besides proofreading for typos, broken URLs and grammar errors, which is a must, you also need to test other elements in your newsletters. Before scheduling a newsletter, make a plan for how you will examine the email to check that all the details are working as intended. You can use a tool like Litmus to verify how your newsletter looks in all email clients and on every device. And without a doubt, pass it along to a reliable source in the company to help you check for issues.
Refer to the 13-point checklist in the newsletter strategy template, so nothing falls through the crack.
Take Action on the Data
Last but not least, you should collect and analyze the right metrics. However, don’t be tempted to refresh your dashboard every 5 minutes!
After sending out a newsletter, wait three days before assessing the results. Refer to the KPIs you have previously identified to ensure that you’re focusing on what’s going to improve funnel conversions for each audience segment instead of chasing after vanity metrics.
Launching your monthly newsletter will require some legwork and collaboration. When you have designed your newsletter strategy and gotten the process in place, it’s going to pay off.
Share the elements of your newsletter strategy with us on Twitter.