We are a marketing agency of email savants. It comes with the territory of being the agency of record for a company that has superior email capabilities. I can tell you the optimal character count of the subject line on an iOS mobile device (55 characters, thank you very much). Jeannette surpasses Hubspot while coding an email that will render well in notoriously-problematic Outlook. Do not even try to stump Shina on the differences between authentication, identification, and validation because you’ll fail and be shamed.
So it’s no surprise that we believe in email, particularly in newsletters, to reach audiences about their products and services. We’ve seen clear data on the correlation between targeted email and increased audience response rates. And, it makes sense. If someone has opted in to readily receive your content, they’re likely going to open, read, and engage with it.
The Case for Individuals, not Algorithms
An email newsletter is the only place where individuals—not algorithms—are in control
Recently, I read an article in Forbes which asked several established marketing executives how they could boost their content marketing. It included a quote from Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, about how she reinvented her newsletter into a personal email newsletter. “An email newsletter is the only place where individuals—not algorithms—are in control. So what if marketing leaned into that inherently personal space?”
Ooh. In control. You have my attention, Ann. (In fact, I just signed up for her newsletter, Total Annarchy)
Let’s break down what she’s saying, because she also mentions that most companies use newsletters as a distribution strategy instead of taking the opportunity to educate and engage an audience that has willingly opted in to hear what you’ve got to say. I’ll circle back to that in a minute.
Capturing Attention is Only Half the Battle
There are two marketing channels that rely on algorithms: paid search and paid social media. Paid search requires the stars to align so that Google will find, crawl, and pull up your content in response to a query. Although paid social media programs have to constantly be refined in order for this approach not to burn up a bunch of cash, I find it works best for retargeting. And of course, both channels are effective for driving traffic to your website.
The HubSpot click map lit up like a Christmas tree
It also has to be said that we aren’t really talking about the same audiences. To some extent, you’re at the mercy of keywords, relevance scores, and bidding strategies when you’re looking to attract visitors to your brand. We’re not in their personal space (yet) so we have to find clever ways to capture their attention.
But a newsletter is a lead nurturing tool, and that group of people has already bought into the idea that your content is valuable enough to cough up their information. Handley’s pivot on her personal email newsletter seizes the opportunity to truly shape the reader’s experience—and make it valuable and meaningful.
Strategy in Action
Several months ago, we did something similar with our pharma client’s weekly newsletter. For a long time, maybe 18 months, we had an above average open rate. But our engagement rates had leveled off, and after several email tests, we came to this conclusion:
- We had a loyal audience that was conditioned to open email communications from our client.
- Our audience had evolved, and since our newsletter content was speaking to them two years ago, our content needed to evolve, too.
As Handley did, we re-examined the newsletter’s function and transitioned from an aggregated news source to a hybrid of industry news and corporate updates. We elevated our newsletter to a key cross-channel marketing tool, offering access to ebooks, webinars, and product promotions.
Sweet, sweet control
The HubSpot click map lit up like a Christmas tree. We were able to pinpoint which articles were resonating and began offering more. We tested some lead-generation materials and started acquiring more data on our existing leads.
Sweet, sweet control.
The post script on our newsletter revamp was that engagements over six months jumped 48%. Our reevaluation provided us the intelligence to deliver what anyone who signs up for an email newsletter hopes to get: meaningful, valuable information that helps them do better.