6 easy steps to creating a great newsletter content strategy
As a communications platform, email boasts about four billion daily users – more than double that of Facebook – and that number will grow in the coming years. Email’s personalized appeal and massive user base make leveraging your contact list a great way to drive sales and keep existing customers engaged. And one of the best ways to do this is through a regularly-scheduled newsletter.
Newsletters let you put a personal stamp on your email marketing strategy, providing value and insight to customers. When users sign up for newsletters, they expect to be informed, not sold. To succeed, you’ll need to create a robust newsletter content strategy. Lucky for you, it’s our job here at Aimtal to create great newsletters (among other things) for our B2B clients, and we’ve outlined six steps to make yours a hit.
1. Define your newsletter goals
Keeping specific goals in mind helps inform your decisions about your newsletter’s content, style, and tone. Concrete goals are also crucial to measuring success, which we’ll touch on later.
Think about your overall marketing goals and initiatives, and then decide how a newsletter can help achieve them. For example, If your goal is to increase conversions by 20% for a specific buyer persona this year, think about how you can tailor your newsletter messaging to speak to that specific audience.
First, what can you offer in your newsletter that others can’t — what value will your subscribers receive in exchange for their email address? Second, how will you steer your readers towards the conversion point you’re working to achieve?
To maximize your success, focus on creating SMART goals. Increasing conversions by 20% for a specific buyer persona this year is a SMART goal because it’s:
- Specific: you want to increase conversions by 20% this year, not get some new customers.
- Measurable: you can measure the number of new conversions you get, and compare it to numbers from previous years.
- Achievable: Increasing conversions by 20% sounds reasonable and possible, but increasing conversions by 10,000% does not (although, if that happens, you’re definitely doing something right!).
- Relevant: Increasing conversions is pertinent to your marketing goals, but finding out what your customers’ favorite colors are probably isn’t.
- Timely: You want to increase your conversions this year, not at some point.
Once you’ve identified your newsletter goals, it’s time to think about who you’ll be emailing.
2. Research your audience
A newsletter can be an excellent marketing tool if you offer relevant insights to your audience — and a huge annoyance if you aren’t. Your email marketing strategy will only succeed if you know your target audience and how you can help, motivate, entertain, and inspire them.
If you haven’t identified your ideal customer or audience segment yet, here are a few ways to narrow it down:
Build audience personas:
Think about who uses your product. Use that information to create a person–3-4 versions of your ideal customer. Some questions you should be able to answer about your perfect customer include:
- How old are they?
- What industry do they work in?
- What’s their job title??
- What problem does your product solve for them?
- What are their main challenges?
- What information would they find useful?
Once you have your audience segments defined, decide where each one is in your lead generation funnel.
One buyer persona may be looking for high-level information about your industry, so they spend a lot of time on your blog reading how-to guides and explainers. Another persona might already use your product, so they’ll be more interested in updates and tips to get the most out of their purchase.
Create different email lists for these audiences in your email management software, and tailor your content accordingly. The end goal of your newsletter is to inform and engage, but your audience segments will find different kinds of content useful, so make sure you’re giving the right information to the right people.
Use your existing analytics:
If you have a website, you should have a Google Analytics dashboard set up for it. These analytics can tell you a fantastic amount about the people who visit your website. They’ll also tell you where visitors spend their time, showing you what type of content your audience finds valuable.
Check your competitions:
Who are your competitors marketing to? What kind of information do they include in their newsletter? Taking stock of who your direct competitors are trying to reach can lead to great audience insights–all free of charge.
Ask your audience:
If you already have an email subscriber list, use it! Consider sending a short survey or poll to understand better what your audience is interested in. You can also leverage your social media audience by creating Twitter polls or asking for feedback.
Creating well-defined audience segments should be one of your main priorities. In fact, 50% of marketers surveyed by Aimtal said that audience research was the most important area to focus on when creating a newsletter strategy.
That number is telling–it’s an industry-wide best practice, so your competitors are researching and segmenting their audiences, too. If you want to create a newsletter that truly stands out, you need to know exactly who you want to reach and what they want to know.
3. Define your messaging and tone
Once you know who you’re writing to, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you’ve created a cohesive brand identity, make sure your newsletter messaging matches the rest of the content you create. If you haven’t, take some time to think about your values and how you want customers to perceive you. At its most basic, messaging answers the question, “What does your company do, and why does it do it that way?”
Setting the right tone in your email requires considering your audience and goals. Starting your newsletter with “Howdy, ya’ll?” is fine for cowboys, but it might not be for English professors. Your content should also influence your tone, but try to stay upbeat whenever possible.
Remember that email is a highly personal form of communication, and your tone may want to reflect that. Try to be personable and concise; they’ve given you access to their inbox so that you can give them quality information quickly.
4. Plan your newsletter topics and align with other marketing initiatives
Before you send out your first newsletter, you should develop a content plan. First, reference your goals and decide what kind of newsletter best suits your needs. If you want to guide users to resources on your website, strategically plan which content pieces you choose to create a narrative or solve a problem.
If you plan on using your newsletter to answer questions or explain industry trends, make a list of relevant topics and pick one or two per edition. Create a cohesive three or six month newsletter content strategy plan that takes your reader on a journey. If your plan and your content are engaging, your readers will start to look out for your emails to find out what happens next.
When it comes to content ideas, you don’t need to start from scratch. The newsletter is part of your larger content marketing strategy, so align it accordingly. Make sure the content and branding match the rest of your marketing channels, like your social media and website.
For instance, if you’re highlighting Customer Love Month on your social platforms, feature a customer success story or offer a giveaway in your newsletter. Create a couple of monthly social posts encouraging your followers to subscribe to your newsletter, and include your social channels’ links in your emails.
Your newsletter is also a great place to showcase your other content marketing efforts. If you have a fantastic blog, make sure you link to the latest posts. The same goes for videos, positive media hits, webinars, etc. – anything you’ve made that you’re proud to show off. The more helpful, informative content you share, the more your email list will grow.
5. Optimize your newsletter settings
Making sure you have a clean, readable newsletter is essential to a successful email strategy. You’ll need a strong, attention-grabbing headline, an interesting and informative email body, and a call-to-action (CTA) to help achieve your goals. Here are a few best practices to consider before you start writing:
Research suggests seven-word headlines are the most effective. Your subscribers signed up for your insights, so let them know the theme or topic before they open it.
The preheader is the text displayed directly after the subject line. Constant Contact recommends a five to eight word preheader for best results. Think of it as a short lede expanding on the subject line, designed to engage your subscribers with your content.
This is the most crucial part of the newsletter, so get right to the point. Try to stay between 100 and 300 words. A custom-branded graphic can be a great way to break up your copy, but keep them relevant and use them sparingly.
It’s best to limit your CTA to between two and five words. It should be engaging and let the reader know how they’ll benefit from clicking on it.
Let your reader know who this email is coming from. Newsletters are more personal than monolithic sales and marketing emails, so have it come from a specific member of your organization. For newsletters focused on thought-leadership, consider using your CEO. If you’re sending out monthly product updates, have it come from a product team lead.
Use the footer of your email to include short, relevant information about your company, including social media links and contact information, as well as the ability to share the newsletter with a colleague or, sigh, unsubscribe.
One final note: 47% of email users are most active on mobile devices, so make sure to optimize your newsletter for them.
6. Measure your success and make adjustments
Once you’ve started to send out your newsletter, your email management software should provide you with statistics. There are many different metrics to measure your success, but these three should give you a good summary:
- Open Rate: According to Campaign Monitor, average marketing email open rates hover at around 20%. You might need to spice up your subject line and preheader if you notice a lower-than-average open rate. When you send your newsletter can also impact open rates. Generally, the middle of the day and the middle of the week are the best times to arrive in your readers’ inboxes.
- Clickthrough Rate (CTR): The clickthrough rate measures the percentage of people who clicked on your CTA. This average rate is about 10.5%. If you’ve got a high open rate and a low CTR, you’ll need to rethink your CTA and perhaps the body of your email.
- Unsubscribes: This metric tells you how many people opted out of your emails. If you see this rate increase much past .01% of your email list, you’ve got a problem and should look for ways to adjust.
Your newsletter content strategy doesn’t end when you hit send. You should monitor each edition’s success and adjust your content to improve results.One great way to see what your readers respond to is A/B testing your content. Send two different versions of your newsletter, one to each half of your targeted audience list. Test casual and formal tones, different headline styles, emoji use, and even the time of day you send out your emails. If you notice the casual, emoji-filled version has a higher open and click-through rate, incorporate that knowledge into your next draft.
Staying up-to-date with your newsletter analytics can also inform your content. If you notice that one of your audience segments constantly interacts with your newsletter at a lower rate, you might not be providing the relevant, engaging content they’re looking for. Head back to step two of our guide and start your content strategy process over for that audience segment–the more thought you put into your tailored content, the more likely you are to succeed.
All the news(letter) that’s fit to print
Congratulations! If you’ve followed the steps above, you have a great newsletter in the making. Of course, every company and marketing plan is different, so bend these suggestions to best fit your needs and goals.
If you need more email inspiration, here are some examples we love. And finally, if you’re looking for a great example of what a newsletter can be, make sure to sign up for Aimtales, our monthly newsletter offering.