Note: This post was originally published on the WebMarketCentral blog.
A few years ago, I was tasked with reviving a declining company newsletter. In the previous six months, subscriptions had declined by 50%, and unsubscribes were significantly outpacing new subscriptions. Over the next six months, subscription increased by more than 400% and the rate of unsubscribes was reduced by 90%. How did that happen?
First, the newsletter was split into two separate publications. One went only to customers, and focused on topics customers cared about: new product releases, patches, usage tips, changes in support offerings or hours, customer events and the like. The other version – the prospect newsletter – was designed primarily to appeal to prospects, although existing customers were welcome to sign up. It was completely reoriented from an all-about-us format (“Our new product is the greatest thing since boneless chicken, yada yada…”) to more an industry newsletter that just happened to be sponsored by the company.
Next, the newsletters were promoted separately, with the customer version promoted only through communications to existing customers, and the prospect version promoted using a variety of other marketing methods. After testing several programs, the most successful turned out to be promoting a white paper in popular trade publication newsletters (such as IndustryWeek) and promoting newsletter opt-in on the white paper download registration page. It was also promoted on the company’s home page—which is long gone now, but you can see how the newsletter was promoted in the upper right of this page (click on the icon that looks like a newspaper, next to the pop cans) from the Wayback Machine.
The key to retaining readers, however, and getting them to encourage others to subscribe, was to revamp the content — to change it from dull to dynamic, from insipid to interesting, from stuffy to stimulating. For instructions on how to accomplish that task, check out the new How to Write Effective Email Newsletters page on WebMarketCentral.com.
Despite the increasing ubiquity of newsletters, they can still be an effective marketing tool—if written from the perspective of the reader rather than the sponsor.