Newsletters, the Jewel in the Crown of Content Marketing

Email marketing remains a highly effective way to engage and connect with clients, prospects and referral sources.  Email marketing can take several forms and according to marketing experts, newsletters are the most effective format.  There are few content marketing tactics that do a better job of attracting, retaining and even winning back lapsed clients than a newsletter that contains well-presented, relevant information that arrives on a regular basis.

Whether readers discover your newsletter while browsing your website or it’s delivered to inboxes by an email marketing service, a newsletter (or blog) will build and enhance your brand, keep your business at top-of-mind, drive traffic to your website and encourage prospective clients and referral sources to learn more about your products and services.  Listed here are building blocks that will help you create a newsletter that will reflect well on your expertise, your business and your brand.

  1. Goals   The newsletter will be one component of your overall marketing /content marketing strategy.  Acknowledging that your newsletter is the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy and that your content marketing strategy plays a leading role in your overall marketing strategy will help you to identify appropriate goals and metrics that will monitor the success rate of your marketing activities. Consider how launching a newsletter will support your organization’s marketing goals.  Are you looking to generate leads and sales? Or are you attempting to establish yourself as a thought-leader and expert as a way to build trust and attract more prestigious clients, expand referrals, get a teaching appointment, or speaking engagements?
  2. Frequency   Decide what your schedule will allow you to do in terms of researching sources and publishing original content.  Be realistic about your time, because sticking to a predictable publishing rhythm will be important to your readers.  Choose as your publishing schedule a date (like the 1st, 15th, or 30th of the month) or a day (the 3rd Tuesday, for example).  A monthly newsletter will help you to build readership most efficiently, but a bi-monthly schedule might be OK.
  3. Template   Reinforce your visual brand and use the colors and graphic style elements used in your business cards and website also in your newsletter design.  An online search will bring you to numerous free newsletter templates and email marketing services will have templates as well.  Choose a template that you like and that will be easy to read.  Readers should be able to quickly scan topic headlines.  Make sure that your template will allow you to upload images as desired. Hubspot, the Cambridge, MA content marketing firm, in a recent survey found that 65% of email marketing readers prefer images to text when reading newsletters.  It’s also important to choose a template that will give sufficient “above the fold” space for you to create headlines that encourage readers to dive in. “Above the fold” is a newspaper industry term that describes the area above the fold in the newspaper.  In a digital newsletter, above the fold refers to what readers can see without scrolling.  Place your best headlines above the fold to reel in readers.
  4. Mobile friendly   A 2018 study by Adestra, a U.K.-based email marketing service, found that 59% of emails are first opened on mobile devices but according to Marketing Land, a digital publication whose target readers are marketing professionals, only 17% of marketers regularly send responsive emails.  Take the steps to format your newsletter in responsive design, so that it will be easy to read on a smart phone or tablet.
  5. Newsletter content   Create a newsletter that consistently delivers to readers  information that they are likely to find interesting and useful.  There are those whose idea of a newsletter consists of links to articles that have appeared in industry journals, sometimes accompanied by a personally written prelude.  That’s probably OK to do two or three times a year, but I highly recommend that you research a topic or two and write 800 – 1500 words of original content.  Your newsletter does not have to exceed two pages, including photos or short videos.
  6. Subscriber base   Your mission will be to capture as many email addresses as ethical behavior allows (no spamming please!).  Take a passive approach and make it possible for readers to subscribe on your website.  Take an active approach and initiate a business card exchange as you meet people in your travels.  Mention that you have a newsletter that covers a particular topic and ask if they’d like to receive it.  If the answer is yes, then you’ll add a new name to your list.  Include an unsubscribe feature in your newsletter template.  Check the statistics of your newsletter, in particular the bounce rate and open rate.  Correct or remove bad email addresses, to keep the list clean and your statistics accurate.  According to Mailchimp, the average newsletter open rate is 20%.  However, when you publish a newsletter that consists of original content that readers value, the open rate can be much higher.  From 2012 – 2016, I was the principal author of a women’s club newsletter (I am still a member) and the open rate approached 70%.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Bob Bernstein (l) and Carl Woodward at The Washington Post in May 1973. The two won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973 for their reporting on the Watergate story.  ©Associated Press

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21st Century Email Marketing Tactics

Email marketing is dead.  Long live email marketing.  The pervasiveness of spamming has forever damaged the reputation of email marketing and yet the practice refuses to quietly fade away.  I’ll say that’s because email marketing remains a useful B2B communication platform.  It’s just that marketers need to be smart about how to utilize this valuable resource.  Email marketing in the 21st century means content marketing that addresses topics that interests your clients and delivers value to them and to you.  When planning an email marketing campaign, content is king.

Content does not mean sending out a stream of tweets that describe banal banter such as what’s going on in your office today, accompanied by an image of your morning coffee and pastry sitting next to your laptop.  Your clients are not interested in “fake news” that results in a slew of annoying emails that feature revelations about your perspectives only and are filled with links to Instagram photos of what you found to be amusing as you walked to the post office.

Content marketing means sharing relevant information that will make your clients  become better informed and help them do their jobs better.  You accomplish that by producing original material that addresses topics that your clients feel are useful and distributing it on a consistent basis through your weekly blog or monthly newsletter,

The logistics of that distribution are up to you, whether you develop an opt-in email list and distribute content through a marketing service like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, or if you post your blog or newsletter on a site like WordPress, that is visited by numerous readers, some of whom may be your clients.  In the latter scenario, there is usually an opportunity to subscribe to your content through alerts, individual emails or an RSS feed.

Regardless of your distribution platform, readers and clients appreciate an email /content marketing strategy that is customized and therefore more personal.  Developing an editorial calendar adds seasonal relevance to the topics that you present, for example, as does occasionally letting your content be influenced by the news or changes in government or tax policy.  It’s time-consuming, but the content that your organization provides weekly or monthly demonstrates your authority as evidenced by your expertise and judgment, as well as your opinions (don’t hesitate to have them!).  Freelance consulting specialists must always enhance the perception of our bona rides and content marketing plays a significant role.

As you write, learn to occasionally weave one or two of your products or services into the narrative because after all, the real purpose of producing and distributing content in B2B emails is to create billable hours (sales).  This could take the form of a client success story or news that you’ll appear on a panel, with a link to register embedded in your post.

If your email/ content marketing is sent through a marketing service as an individual email addressed to each subscriber, you are advised to pay particular attention to the subject line.  According to Silverpop’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, the mean open rate of emails sent is merely 20 %, meaning that four out of five email marketing communications are deleted.  A 2015 analysis of over 40 million emails  conducted by Mail Chimp revealed that some of the most effective subject lines are (60 – 87% open rate) :

1. (Insert business name) Sales and Marketing Newsletter

2. Eye on the (insert business name) Update (insert the week or month time frame)

3. (Insert business name and date) News Bulletin

4. (Insert business name) Newsletter, with date

5. (Insert business name) Invites You!

6. Happy Holidays From (insert business name)

In 2014, Digital Marketer analyzed 125 million emails that the company sent that year and found that your business name, along with the words urgent, upgrade, alert, new, available, free delivery and newsletter are among the most persuasive. Oh, and what’s the secret to writing a good email subject line, along with using the key words that charm readers? Make the subject line describe the email topic!

So the moral of the story is, don’t dismiss email marketing as being hopelessly retro and inferior to social media posts.  Instead, think about how to update and adapt its use to fit your needs and the interests of your clients.  If your clients are among your Facebook friends on your Fan Page or they follow your tweets, then by all means continue.  You might consider how some of that content and images might be repurposed to become part of long-form content in a blog or newsletter.  Several recent studies have found that clients respond well to long-form content.  You’ll figure it out and reap the benefits,

Thanks for reading,

kim

Headline Hooks That Reel In Readers

Whether you’ve written an email,  blog post,  newsletter,  white paper or press release,  your primary job is to persuade your intended readers to read what you’ve written.  Anyone worth writing for is buried in potential reading material.  Prioritizing and skimming are the norm.  Use yourself as an example.  When sorting through business or personal reading material,  what persuades you to stop and read?  The headline!

The headline is the hook that reels in readers.  Dull headlines do not grab attention.  They do not resonate with or intrigue your intended readers.  They do not communicate the value of the content that you’ve spent time to research and write.  Package and sell your content with a headline that makes your intended readers know that your content,  email or press release contains valuable information.

Headlines alert intended readers to subjects of interest.  Attention-grabbing headlines cause us to read even articles that we may conclude are a waste of time and which we may abandon,  but the subject line was like a siren song to our eyes.  Consider what would be most appealing,  or alarming,  to your intended readers and also descriptive of the content.  The perspective from which you must create your subject line / title is from the intended reader’s ultimate vetting question,  “What’s in it for me”?

The right headline gets you more attention,  more readers,  more buzz and more results.  Keep these headline categories in mind as you create the headline for your next important communication:

I.     How-to headline

Content that instructs and informs will benefit from a headline that motivates intended readers to take action

  • Cold Calling Dos and Don’ts
  • Five Tactics Guaranteed To Make You A Better Networker
  • Headline Hooks That Reel In Readers

II.    Challenge headline

Headlines that pose a question that intended readers are presumed to want answered,  because they likely grapple with the predicament that the content addresses

  • Is Your Business Model Still Relevant?
  • Will Producing Content Take Over Your Life?
  • Would You Like To Scoop Your Biggest Competitor’s Biggest Client?

III.  Targeted headline

Needless to say,  targeting is the basis of marketing and customer outreach and the more specific the headline is to the interests of the intended readers,  the greater the probability that the content will be read

  • Financial Management Tips for the Finance Phobic
  • PR Strategies for Cash-Strapped Start-Ups
  • Teaching Brings Cash and Credibility to Freelance Consultants

IV.   Warning headline 

“Shock and awe”  headlines put intended readers in a head lock and drag them in,  often times even if they would rather not.  Many newspapers and magazines specialize in such headlines

  • What Your Clients Won’t Tell You About Your Sales Pitch
  • Why Your Advertising Budget is Only Money Down the Drain
  • You Can’t Retire On Less Than $2 Million

V.      Story headline

Entice intended readers with a headline hook that communicates the theme of your compelling narrative

  • A Back Bay Grande Dame Celebrates Her 125th Birthday
  • The Client Wore Black
  • From Living in a Car to Living at the Taj: An Uncensored Story of the Entrepreneurial Life

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Your Ad Here

While we’re on the subject of making the most of what you’ve got and monetizing resources wherever practical,  let’s talk about renting out advertising space in your virtual world.  We’ve all seen the sponsorship promos, banner ads,  hyperlinks and ad words on the websites,  Facebook pages,  blogs and newsletters of nationally known Freelancers.   Some of you may also have seen advertisements or hyperlinks on a colleague’s  site.  As everyone digs deeper for revenue,  we might see a lot more of same.

I’ve spotted banner ads on the sites of three Freelancer colleagues who specialize in PR,  marketing and executive coaching.  The good news is that all chose advertisers whose product line is complementary to their business.  The not-so-good news is that two of the three websites no longer look classy.  In this case,  it’s seller beware.

That said,  if you select your advertisers well and refrain from overloading your site with ads,  you can always try this on for 6 months.  The money you make will no doubt be useful.  Placing ads on your website will create a small and steady cash flow that can make a real difference in your ability to sleep nights. 

The first thing to consider is what you have to offer your new prospect,  the advertiser. The number one criterion of ad placement is the presence of the desired demographic.  Sign up with Google Analytics and  demonstrate to advertisers that your e-world attracts a large and loyal following of people who can potentially become their customers.  The amount of traffic on your site will also help you to determine advertising rates.

Next,  confirm that your site hosting platform will support advertising.  For example,  if WordPress hosts your website,  be aware that like this blog,  it’s probably operating on the  .com side,  which is free,  upgraded and backed up regularly and very user friendly.  It will be necessary to migrate to the  .org side,  which is an open source,  customizable hosting platform that offers more advanced options,  such as the ability to support what is entailed in advertising.

If the concept still looks feasible,  then decide where the ads can be placed.  Look at your home page and measure the available space.  Is there room for a banner ad or two,  or will the less intrusive text option be more to your liking?

If you have a content management system and you’re good with graphics,  experiment with your home page layout and eliminate or relocate certain text and photos to create more potential ad space.  Think right side or bottom of page for banner ads.

Research shows that ad words are best used on sites that generate huge traffic.  They are a pay-per-click option with a low response rate,  so big numbers are needed to make ad words profitable for both parties.

Now it’s time to give serious and careful thought to the types of businesses that you would be comfortable having as advertisers.  Give still more thought to your sales pitch.  As always,  it will be imperative to define what’s in it for them:  the right demographics and a popular site. 

Establishing a flat monthly rate based on the size of the ad,  with discounts given for multi-month commitments, is the easiest payment structure.  See the rate card and ad contract of a local newspaper for guidance.  You can set up a PayPal subscription for billing and payments.  You are further advised to set up a separate account for each advertiser,  so that site stats can be checked and ad start and end dates can be reviewed.

However,   it may be wiser to sign up with an online advertising management company.  Certain basic features of ad management are free,  but it may be worth paying for additional  features like billing.  That way,  if an advertiser cancels and you forget to take the ad down,  you won’t find yourself giving away free space.  Agencies to investigate include Etology,  Commission Junction,  Adbrite and Linkshare.

Because businesses are always in search of an effective way to reach customers and enhance brand awareness,  ads and sponsorships within the virtual world continue to proliferate.  Some businesses even provide a special link,  sometimes to a particular website page,  so that they can track advertising performance on your site.

It is imperative to consider the possible impact that virtual ads could have on your business.  For those who provide a certain type of product or service for a certain clientele,  including ads on a website will be a delicate balance.  The painstakingly cultivated perception of value and quality could be undermined by the presence of ads on either a website or newsletter.  Take care not to cheapen your brand in exchange for a few extra dollars a month.

Thanks for reading,

Kim