How can I ensure my email newsletter content is relevant and compelling?
Answer: To ensure your email newsletter content is both relevant and compelling, consider taking a layered approach. Structure the “top” level of the newsletter—the email that is sent out—by arranging the content into items with a title, a brief synopsis (or introductory paragraph) and a link to the full article, which in turn resides on your Web site or on a microsite hosted by your email service provider.
This way, the newsletter as it appears in the email inbox will display a number of interesting topics with lead-ins “above the fold” and will begin the process of engaging the subscriber further. Moreover, you can now measure content popularity when the subscriber clicks through from their email into the full article residing on the Web site or microsite. With content popularity analysis, the upcoming editorial calendar for the newsletter can be adjusted to reflect topics that your subscribers want to read.
To really maximize the relevancy and compelling nature of your newsletter, consider layering content further. In many cases, it is possible to structure the content in three linked layers that the subscriber successively clicks through: 1) The top layer consisting of editorial content designed to retain and engage the subscriber; 2) The middle layer consisting of soft-sell content that places your product or service in the context of related editorial; and 3) The final layer consisting of a strong call to action that drives tangible business results.
With this three-layer approach, the editorial content serves to drive subscriber retention (shoot for a 99%-plus retention rate), while the soft sell teases out purchase interest or intent and the strong call to action drives response. In this manner, you'll accomplish the effect of an entire email marketing campaign within a single newsletter and hang on to your key email marketing asset—your subscriber base.
David A. Fish is CEO of IMN (www.imninc.com), a provider of e-communications services such as email marketing, microsites and blogs.
Different groups at my company send marketing emails. How do we manage frequency?
Answer: You've got to centralize your approach. According to a 2007 JupiterResearch/StrongMail survey, 62% of email marketing campaigns and programs are sent from more than one department in an organization. Unfortunately, without centralization, one hand can't know what the other is doing.
Centralization starts by combining industry best practices with input from the various departments to set some companywide policies. For example, set an email frequency standard to place a limit on the total number of emails a customer can get. Next, categorize the types of email going out—for example, newsletters, relationship messages, promotional campaigns and transactional (service-based) email. This allows you to set standards covering which emails take precedence and how frequently any promotional or relationship campaign should go out. Typically, transactional emails should always maintain the most critical position on your list, followed by newsletters, relationship messages and, finally, promotional campaigns.
Centralization and categorization also allow you to set conditional rules, so you don't send the wrong message at the wrong time. If customers are receiving transactional emails related to a service ticket, they shouldn't receive any promotional emails, which would show a lack of concern about their current situation and could permanently damage the relationship. This level of personalization is especially important in b2b email marketing because many departments—support, sales, account management, etc.—can be involved in resolving an issue.
Whatever policies you finally set up, ensuring they are followed is the next big challenge. Attempting to manage this in an ad hoc way may be doomed to fail. Instead, centralize all customer email on a single technology platform capable of categorization and managing frequency automatically.
Tricia Robinson-Pridemore is VP-market and product strategy for StrongMail Systems (www.strongmail.com), a provider of email marketing solutions.