The Blog - Marketing 261 | Your Go-To Marketing Shop
Monthly Newsletter Challenges: How to launch a Newsletter That Drives Engagement [with template]

Monthly Newsletter Challenges: How to launch a Newsletter That Drives Engagement [with template]

“We need a monthly newsletter!”

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.
Monthly Newsletter Strategy Results
Image source. Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report

 

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.

Newsletter Strategy Segmentation
Image Source. The Lifecycle Mapping Method For Email Marketing, designed by Philip Storey, copyright Enchant Agency.

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.

Newsletter Strategy Monthly Reporting
Sample report. This is an example of how you can track your newsletter results month-over-month. This data lives in an excel spreadsheet and shared each month with the company via a Google presentation.

Final Thoughts

Launching your monthly newsletter will require some legwork and collaboration. When you have designed your strategy, and gotten the process in place, it’s going to pay off immensely (remember the 4,400% ROI?)

Use the newsletter strategy template to make sure you don’t miss any critical step so you can optimize your engagement and conversion rates. Share the elements of your newsletter strategy with us on Twitter.

Everything You Write Is Your Brand….Everything!

Everything You Write Is Your Brand….Everything!

Within the last 30 minutes, you might have sent an email to a client, responded to a reply on Twitter, made a comment in your user community, and shared a new blog post on LinkedIn.

In your mind, this is just maintenance work: Keeping up on correspondence, communicating with customers and prospects.

True as that may be, each minor email and a quick Twitter reply is doing much more than you may realize. They all contribute to telling your brand’s story and connecting that story to customers.

Read More

Traffic and Clicks Don’t Matter: Why It’s Time To Change How You Measure Marketing Success

Traffic and Clicks Don’t Matter: Why It’s Time To Change How You Measure Marketing Success

There’s good news and bad news.

First, the good news: Your startup website is getting traffic, which means your early digital marketing efforts are generating some results. With the content landscape more competitive than ever, reaching an audience is far from simple, yet you’ve managed to do it.

Now, the bad news: The results you’re getting might not be the results you want. Traffic is excellent and necessary and all that, but there’s a difference between good traffic and bad traffic, and quality is impossible to tell when you’re only counting clicks.

Read More

Keep the Story Alive: How to Repurpose Your Content

Keep the Story Alive: How to Repurpose Your Content

Does Your Marketing Strategy Include Repurposing Content?

How long does it take you to create a piece of content? And I’m not talking about your run-of the-mill, 300-word blog post. I mean content with purpose and substance.

HOURS!

Full transparency here: This blog post took me about 10 hours from brainstorm to distribution. For a small little marketing shop like Marketing 261, that’s a big chunk of time spent.

If you’re anything like us, you probably lack the resources to regularly spend this much time producing content. And, you also want more from the content you’ve already spent hours creating.

That’s where content repurposing comes in. It’s using your existing material to your advantage AND breathing new life into content you’ve left on your website to collect cobwebs.

By reimagining, reworking, and reformatting your existing content, you can produce fresh pieces without starting from scratch each time. Here’s how content marketing pro Benji Hyam uses content repurposing at Grow & Convert:

Read More

Give Your Blog a Personality……Create a Blog Style Guide

Give Your Blog a Personality……Create a Blog Style Guide

How To Create A Blog Style Guide

If you’re in charge of your company’s content, you’re undoubtedly in charge of keeping it consistent no matter who’s writing it: you, a colleague, or even outside freelance help.

How do you stay consistent? How do you make sure the quality of your blog posts—no matter who’s writing them—never wavers?

A blog style guide, of course. So let’s talk about building one.

Read More

Revenue Is The Only Marketing Metric That Really Matters

Revenue Is The Only Marketing Metric That Really Matters

Thanks to Leadfeeder for having me as a guest blogger. The original post, All sales teams would love a 2000% increase in their monthly lead volume… Or would they? can be found on Leedfeeder’s blog. You’ll learn more details on the marketing campaign, as well as the specific steps I would take to improve it.

I once launched an inbound marketing campaign that increased lead generation by 2,000%. With that kind of result, you would think I was popping open the Champagne and celebrating, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, if I could go back, I’d do it all differently.

Read More

Productivity Apps and Why They Don’t Work

Productivity Apps and Why They Don’t Work

App overload is definitely a thing.

115 Productivity Apps to Maximize Your Time?! Are you kidding me?

There’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to productivity apps and I’m pretty sure you’d hit it way before you download the 115th one.

Why You Probably Don’t Need 115 Productivity Apps

Here’s my beef with lists like these and other people swearing by certain apps that claim to help you kick your work day into gear: you can’t tell someone how they should manage their work. Not without knowing what type of person they are, how they work best, and what their motivation to do good work is.

If you’re a visual person, like me, you might find the app-less route helpful. Below is a step by step system to which I attribute my relentless craving to get things done.

Read More

How I Made a $30K Marketing Automation Mistake

How I Made a $30K Marketing Automation Mistake

Is marketing automation necessary for your startup?

I once spent $30K on a marketing automation solution that was completely unnecessary.

It wasn’t my finest moment. So much so that I want to share share with other marketers—especially startups—because it was an expensive lesson that I don’t want others to repeat.

Now, before you get the idea that I’m a spendthrift, let me explain. It was in the early days of my marketing career, I was the marketing head for a startup and bound and determined to launch the business better and faster than anyone else could envision.

I had had previous experience with marketing automation at another company and naturally thought this small company could benefit from it too. I just thought it was something all companies needed.

But let me share the three problems with this thinking:

Read More

A Content Marketing Guide for Using Trello

A Content Marketing Guide for Using Trello

From brainstorming to writing the first draft to design, edits, and publication, there are a lot of hands involved in getting an article blog-ready.

I don’t know about you, but by the time we’ve hit each of these steps (and run it up the flagpole each time), there’s anywhere from 3-4+ different people involved in getting it all done right.

That’s a lot of collaboration. So what’s a content marker to do? Use an editorial calendar—or actually, something we think is even better—a system. It’s a clear and organized funnel that blog posts travel through from brainstorm to publish. And we do it all with project management tool Trello.

Read More

Marketing AMA: When You Need A Little Boost

Marketing AMA: When You Need A Little Boost

Marketing is Complicated, Sort Of

Marketing originated in bringing goods to physical markets for sale or trade. Setting prices, showing products, promotional shouts of “Get your apples here,” all happened in one place.

If it was only that easy in today’s startup world, right?

Today’s marketing involves creating relevance for your brand, building awareness of your product or service, developing compelling validation for your solution, and taking the right mitigating actions along the path to purchase. All with limited resources and sometimes with tiny, non existing budgets.

Marketing AMA: Ask Me Anything

We believe this entire process can be made more effective and does not have to be as daunting as it seems. Our AMA sessions are formed to help CEOs and marketing leads recall that marketing retains its simple, uncomplicated foundations if it’s backed by:

  • a well defined strategy
  • an organized & attainable plan
  • purposeful execution

By targeting your marketing efforts around these three interdependent drivers, we’ll help you focus your marketing initiatives so they all lead to measurable business growth.

Read More

What Startups Get Wrong About Their Marketing

What Startups Get Wrong About Their Marketing

“If I could go back, I would do one thing differently,” a client recently told me.” I would have hired a good marketer right from the start. Now I am playing catchup and feeling like I am a bit behind instead of leading the pack.”

This is a common story in the startup world. While many tech companies are built on great products and software solutions, the people behind those solutions don’t always know how to properly market their company to their target audience.

Read More