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10 Tips for Better eNewsletter Results

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This tip sheet provides well-defined steps for

This tip sheet provides well-defined steps for
improving the execution and overall performance
of your next eBlast or eNewsletter outreach
effort across your industry community.

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    10 Tips for Better eNewsletter Results 10 Tips for Better eNewsletter Results Document Transcript

    • ascendintegratedmedia.com 10 Tips for Better eNewsletter Results This tip sheet provides well-defined steps for improving the execution and overall performance of your next eBlast or eNewsletter outreach effort across your industry community M Case study ore than a year ago, Ascend Inte- Although Marketing Sherpa’s 2009 figures provid- grated Media embarked on a new ed Ascend a strong starting point, it quickly became approach to delivering its eMedia apparent that Ascend’s own rules of engagement, de- products by employing a landing velopment processes and page framework to better serve its quality control efforts Comparative metriCs event clients. This landing page framework serves resulted in performance M arketing Sherpa, a as a year-round repository for all event media that is metrics that were signifi- third-party email developed for a meeting — the preshow promotional cantly higher than Mar- metrics company, elements, preview stories, directory content, sessions keting Sherpa’s bench- provides benchmark metrics across sectors for organiza- and conference information, show daily stories as well marks. As such, Ascend tions to compare their email as highlight stories following the event. Associated discovered that its own effectiveness against sector per- eBlasts and eNewsletters were designed specifically to benchmarks consistently formance averages. For 2009, drive traffic to the landing page (website) so the audi- outperformed those of here are the average open and click-through rates (CTR). ence could delve deeper into event coverage. industry standards. At the time that Ascend was building its program, In fact, after nearly 15 Non-profit/trade association it did not have sufficient internal analytics to measure months of producing more average open rate: 17.43% the effectiveness of the program. Therefore, it turned than 175 eBlasts, Ascend average Ctr: 2.8% to Marketing Sherpa, a third-party metrics vendor, for consistently delivered medical/Dental/Healthcare its benchmark metrics. Marketing Sherpa examines products that exceeded average open rate: 7.11% performance across a broad swath of eBlasts and the benchmark averages average Ctr: 2.8% eNewsletters, all of which closely align with the indus- published by the Rhode ascend 2009 results try sectors that Ascend serves, including trade associa- Island-based company by average open rate: 21.27% tions and medical/dental/healthcare eMedia. 22 percent to 200 percent. average Ctr: 3.78% 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 1
    • DefiNiNg terms Problem Identification there an information gap that only you can fill? Is your F or the purposes of this Increasingly, organiza- eMedia plan filling a void or duplicating informa- white paper, here are tions are turning to eMe- tion that already exists? In seeking a niche that is not the definitions of eBlast, eNewsletter and eMedia. dia to deliver pertinent yet filled, you increase your opportunity for success. information and educa- If there is already an information source providing eBlast: an email outreach that narrows the elements of cover- tional content from their similar information, how do you plan to make your age to focus on a theme or organizations. Unfortu- offering better, more informative, richer? subject matter. It provides the nately, in some instances, Once you have identified the content you plan to reader with a quick overall read and serves to drive traffic to the these organizations are deliver and confirm that it is the content your audience website for more information. ill-prepared to deliver needs, you should ask yourself if an eBlast is the best The frequency of an eBlast can the entire program, from way to deliver this information. Does your audience be driven by an event, an infor- concept to measure- prefer to read your proposed type of content online or mation need or other specific purpose. ment, in a manner that in print? Obviously, you are not going to please every will return the most constituent, but knowing the channel the majority of eNewsletter: a longer form of an eBlast that tends to cover in- bang for the buck. They your audience prefers will help shape your answer. dividual departments/subjects ignore key elements in In confirming the delivery method, you also can much like a print eNewseltter. startup and development define the exact form the content will take. For ex- It typically has a set frequency, such as weekly or monthly. requirements that can ample, if you are going to provide information about advance success and high late-breaking research studies to your medical resi- emedia: collective term used to identify content prepared performance. dents, do they want the full-blown study, a synopsis and delivered using email and Here are 10 key with high-level findings or an outline or synopsis with the Internet, connecting email considerations for your a link to more information? messaging to websites. eBlast or eNewsletter Also, in knowing your audience, you will be able campaign. These best to identify what day of the week your eMedia out- practices can help anyone who is working on a new or reach will be most appreciated. Conventional eMe- existing eMedia campaign to raise the bar on the over- dia wisdom suggests that eBlasts and eNewsletters all effectiveness of their electronic media outreaches. should go out Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. In the early days of eMedia campaigns, most organizations 1. Know Your Audience focused on this three-day sweet spot to send their Before launching any eMedia program, you should eMedia outreach. know your audience. This requires a deeper knowl- However, Ascend has increasingly found that this edge than simply the total number of your member- conventional wisdom does not apply universally. For ship list. You need to know your audience’s needs and example, one association’s physician membership had wants in terms of information. Your audience’s time is more time on weekends to catch up on their reading. valuable. You want to enrich their information gather- Because of this, Friday afternoon/evening was deter- ing, not harass them with email clutter. mined to be the optimal time to send eBlasts. When you know your audience needs, you can Likewise, another client from the retail sector identify what you will deliver to meet those needs. De- knew that first thing Monday morning was the best termine if your eMedia campaign will cover an indus- time to snag the attention of its readership, just as its try event or your association annual conference, pres- retailers were kicking off the new week. In both of ent in-depth, late-breaking research, provide general these instances, the eBlast metrics defied conventional industry news all year long or offer something else. wisdom and proved what the associations knew best, You also should know what other types of elec- that Friday night and Monday morning, respectively, tronic content your audience is currently receiving. Is were the optimal times to reach their audiences. 2 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS
    • Finally, in knowing your audience, you should Try to keep your subject line under seven to eight know what frequency of outreach is acceptable — words total. The primary reason for this length is many daily, weekly, monthly. Once you determine the email preview windows will show just a portion of the frequency, set the dates and stick to them. In order to subject line. develop a following with your audience, you should One client Ascend seek to provide regularity of messaging — for exam- worked with wanted to ple, every Tuesday morning they can expect to receive use a long prefix to iden- metriCs termiNology your eBlast. tify the eNewsletter. It open rate: A measure indicat- was similar to: XYZ Fall ing how many people “opened” 2. Identify Great Content Exhibition and Confer- the eBlast or eNewsletter you The heart of great content consists of important messag- ence Wrapup. This was to send out. The open rate for your campaign is most often cal- ing that delivers on an unfulfilled need and is written in be the prefix that kicked culated as the total number of a form that most resonates with your audience. off the subject line for all “opened” emails, expressed as Your eMedia outreach must provide your associa- of its eBlasts. In many a percentage of the total num- ber of emails sent or — more tion’s great content. However, it should not become email windows, that usually — delivered. The number the place to throw everything including the kitchen is all that would have delivered is itself measured as sink. Your eBlast should be targeted content and hold- appeared three days in the number of emails sent out ing to the standards set forth by your organization. a row. The reader might minus the number of bounces generated by those emails. Knowing and understanding your audience’s needs have opened the first will direct your efforts in developing and providing one, but afterward, what Click-through rate (Ctr): CTR is obtained by dividing the great content. If it is original information and not dupli- would be their motiva- “number of users who click cated, if it is delivered when and how they need it, if it tion to open the second on an ad” by the “number of is provided in the form that is most useful to them, you and third? times the ad was delivered” (impressions). For example, if are halfway home in providing great content. Further, this same a leaderboard ad is delivered client wanted to include 1,000 times (impressions deliv- 3. Empower Subject Lines a main headline after the ered) and 10 people click on it The subject line is your invitation to readers to open prefix. Unfortunately, the (clicks recorded), then the re- sulting CTR would be 1 percent. your eBlast or eNewsletter. With the growth and reli- lead-in took so much space In most cases, a 2-percent CTR ance on email communications, complemented with in the subject line, no one would be considered success- an unhealthy dose of unsolicited spam, the average would have read it all. ful. If a person clicks a single audience member may be receiving upward of several Being clever or witty advertisement multiple times, the CTR doesn’t change. hundred emails a day. You want your subject line to in a subject line can be an soft bounces: A bounce is immediately stand out, connect, engage and induce effective way to encour- considered soft when an email the reader to open the email. age readers to open address is good, but perhaps Subject lines that work are accurate, succinct, your eBlast. However, in temporarily unavailable clever, informative descriptors. Subject lines that do doing so, do not mislead. because their server is down or just busy. In the instance of not work are vague or exaggerated, long or run-on, For example, one group a soft bounce, you may be inane or bland descriptors. played off the familiar able to resend at a later date Most organizations want to identify their eBlasts book title for its subject without incident. with a tie to the association moniker. If you are going line: Everything You Ever Hard bounces: A bounce indi- to use a subject line prefix such as this, limit it to two Wanted to Know About cating that the email address is not deliverable. The email words. That will allow you to get to the juicy part of your Radiology But Were address simply doesn’t exist. It is invitation sooner. However, the information that follows Afraid to Ask. Unfortu- a bad address and should be should truly lure your audience to open the email. nately, the eBlast content deleted from your email list. 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 3
    • types of email filters didn’t deliver. It featured ter is probably the worst example of a subject line. F ilters are used by a recipi- only one article about It provides nothing more than the date. Unless the ent system to identify and one element of radiology. reader has received this eNewsletter before, he or she organize spam. The differ- ent types of filter systems are: It was hardly everything may not even know who sent it, what it is about, let • simple and complex lists someone would want to alone why they should bother opening it. that are known to be associ- know about radiology. In creating subject lines, be sure to avoid employ- ated with spam This misled the reader. ing popular words used by spammers. These words • black lists and white lists that identify known IP addresses of Another example is likely will get your email bounced or filtered out by a spam and non-spam senders, a recent email sported company or email spam filter. respectively the subject line: Thank Email spammers are continuously employing • hash-tables that summarize emails carrying hash values you so much for your new and effective ways to entice people to open their which are symptomatic of support. Upon opening emails. Therefore, the list of most commonly filtered bulk mailings the email, it was not a words used in spam is long and growing. Table 1 • artificial intelligence and personal thank-you from provides examples of words you should avoid in your probabilistic systems that analyze word frequencies the association. It was subject lines in order to prevent your eBlast from get- and patterns that usually are simply the association’s ting bounced or otherwise filtered. associated with both spam eNewsletter. There was and non-spam messages not a clear indication Table 1. Words to avoid in subject lines upon opening the email act now don’t hesitate new customers save why the subject line was amazing stuff free no obligation save now a show of gratitude. It likely left the reader feeling buy free preview opportunity take action now duped and potentially jeopardized future open rates. cash marketing solutions opt in terms and conditions All you have to do is look through your own cash bonus money back please read this is not spam email account to get a sense of what works and what congratulations money making profits U.S. dollars doesn’t. Here are a few bad examples from the main- stream press to illustrate what not to do: To test the effectiveness of your subject lines, • Today’s Paper: Asia from the Wall Street Journal Online review your open rate metrics following your first se- If the reader is interested in Asia, he or she might open ries of emails. If the open rate of one or more of this. Or perhaps the reader is a loyal Wall Street Journal your eBlasts seems low, try to determine what about the reader. But a better subject line might have been: subject line that didn’t resonate with your audience. WSJ Asia: Stocks plummet on Toyota stock news In 2005 and 2006 when rumors were flying about Steve Jobs introducing the game-changing iPhone, you • Knoxville.com Entertainment eNewsletter: Upcom- could guarantee that your tech eNewsletter would see ing events a bump in open rates with the mere mention of the This subject line demands that the reader is a loyal Knox- iPhone in the subject line. Find out what the equiva- ville.com reader. There is very little that is intriguing or lent to the iPhone is with your audience. interesting about this subject line. It is especially disap- Use metrics to learn more about your audience pointing as the lead story was “Diana Ross Works Hard, and what resonates with them. Go to school on your Wows Crowd.” To lead with a story about the 66-year- subject lines. If one type of subject line doesn’t work as old Motown singer wowing a crowd and to leave it well as you would like, try a different approach. buried under the above subject line is a wasted effort. 4. Enhance With Visuals • Thurs 3rd June 2010- Part 1 Even if your content is purely academic and your This subject line from a cellular technology eNewslet- readers are accustomed to reading gray tome-like 4 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS
    • pages, your eNewsletter should offer visuals in the deliver essential messaging directly to that category form of pictures, graphics, illustrations and buttons. of recipients, rather than forcing everyone to weed These are all effective ways of catching and engaging through your eBlast for content of value to them. You your readers’ attention. can make the content that much more effective by talk- Early on, some consultants advised eBlast and ing the talk of the category. It makes your messaging eNewsletter senders to limit the use of images in emails that much more effective and increases the opportu- because “some of your readers will never see them nity for your open and click-through rates to soar. anyway.” Although it may be true that some readers Another way you could segment your audience actively turn off images or some people work at compa- around an event would be for attendees and non-at- nies that block images in emails to save bandwidth or to tendees. Your messaging for registered attendees could stop porn, that is a shrinking population. focus more on the content of the event, while the focus As time has gone by and email outreach has become for the non-registered members could be geared to more commonplace, the use of images has become inte- encouraging them to register, providing tools to make gral to engaging readers, adding to the reader experience registration quick and easy and to showing them what and communicating more effectively. they would be missing if they did not attend. The pictures do not have to be large; the email is not the vehicle for sweeping graphic panoramas. They 6. Strike the Right Tone simply need to provide a sense of the direction for the As with any media outreach, you should have a clearly article or feature. defined audience; your tone should match that audi- Even if your feature provides only a headshot, it ence. For example, a medical eBlast aimed at practicing helps break up the copy. Further, it connects the reader phsyicians should not be written in a tone conducive to the speaker in your article. for patients, or vice versa. Physicians and other medi- You also can include other types of informational im- cal professionals do not necessarily need definitions of ages such as charts, graphs and other graphics that will basic medical conditions. If you write that way, you risk enhance the reader’s understanding of the subject. sounding as though you are talking down to trained professionals. However, in writing for patients, it would 5. Segment Your Audience be appropriate and beneficial to explain medical terms Many associations host a diverse membership, a range and conditions in simple layman’s terms. of job titles and functions. In many instances, the asso- Your tone is further defined with your mission. Do ciation would benefit if it could segment the member- you intend to educate, inform or entertain, or do you ship list and provide content specifically tailored for plan to do all three? The answer to this question will that job title. Unfortunately, many associations cur- guide how you develop and write your content. Your rently do not segment their membership lists so they tone becomes your eBlast’s personality and further can easily parse out certain titles. ingrains the brand. Consider the example of a medical association As you build your content plan for your eBlast membership that includes residents, researchers, campaign, you need to identify essential elements of the nurses, office personnel and practice management eBlast and how it will be shared. For instance, do you professionals in its major membership categories. The want a personal column from the association’s leader- medical association hosts an annual event with confer- ship to lead off each eBlast? Will the tone of the eBlast ence programming that targets each of these categories. be consistent with your website? Or alternatively, will it However, programming that resonates with residents take on a more informal tone? These are determinants may not even apply to the needs of practice managers. that you need to refine as you prepare the content. By segmenting the audience list and developing Finally, in developing the content, you need to messaging specifically targeting those titles, you can know if you wish to provide functional information — 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 5
    • just the facts, ma’am … the who, what, where, when email addresses of people who want to be engaged with and how — or are you looking to establish a more your content. relaxed relationship with your reader? Is it possible that your audience responds better to creative and pro- 8. Beware Interstitial Challenges motional copy in eBlasts and seeks more serious and Some association bylaws require any outreach featuring academic content composition on the website? advertising to provide an interstitial page between the eBlast and the advertiser’s website. This is done with the 7. Clean Your Email Lists intent of preventing any confusion of church and state You should be in the constant process of cleaning your between the host association and the advertising entity. email lists. People opt out, change jobs and change Interstitial means “in between,” and effectively is email addresses all of the time. Your eMedia strategy a “page” that come between the eBlast and the website should make sure that with each eBlast you identify page it references. and remove bad addresses, update change of email ad- For example, say that Bayer has a leaderboard dresses and add new member email addresses. ad on a medical association eBlast. If this association List hygiene is essential for two reasons: your requires interstitial pages, the reader who clicks on the reputation and good results. Bayer ad would go to an interim page that asks the Without proper list hygiene, you risk damaging your reader to confirm that he or she wants to proceed to sender reputation and getting your emails blocked by the advertiser’s website or return to the eBlast. While the Internet service providers (ISPs). For example, if you this requirement is expected within some association continue to send emails to bad addresses, ISPs will take circles, it also can negatively impact click-through notice. This could lead to your email being blocked. rates. For the user, it comes across as, “Are you sure You also could run afoul of spam traps. Essential- you want to go to the Bayer site?” ly, an unclean list tells ISPs that you don’t care about Some users argue against the use of these intersti- your customers or about adhering to best practices. tial pages to present online advertising because they Best practices require that you respond to unsubscribe force readers to answer twice by clicking twice for requests and bounce data immediately. information that in most online instances they only Reputation aside, list hygiene also makes financial have to request once. sense. Restoring customer connections and increas- Less controversial uses of interstitial pages include ing deliverability leads to increased open and click- alerting the user that the next page requires a login through rates. If you use a third-party email provider, or has some other requirement the user should know removing bad addresses also will reduce your associ- about before proceeding. ated CPM charges. Cleaning lists will directly affect your open rates 9. Employ Calls to Action and click-through rates. You should strive to have 98 “Click here,” “More” and “Read More” are all impor- percent to 100 percent deliverable addresses. Why? You tant calls to action. They ask the reader to click for might consider 94 percent to be an effective deliver rate. more information. A call to action is essential if you However, if you deliver to 94 percent of a potential of, want to drive subscribers to your website. say, 10,000 addresses, you have effectively wasted the A common approach is to provide a percentage of opportunity of reaching nearly 600 members due to bad a story on the eBlast and promise the entire story if the addresses. If you clean your list and improve your deliv- reader clicks on the More button. This approach allows erables, you automatically improve your open rates. the reader to quickly scan the contents of the eBlast Say your average open rate is 17 percent. In this or eNewsletter, selecting the individual stories and situation, it potentially could have been 23 percent ei- elements that are most important to click through and ther by correcting those bad email addresses or adding read in their entirety. 6 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS
    • You also can provide links within the story (hy- perlinks) that take the reader to other locations to aid in telling the story. This makes your content more of a one-stop content play for the reader. For example, you provide a story about the rising percentage of patients exhibiting type 2 diabetes. You run the first paragraph or two in the eBlast and offer a link to your website for the entire story. However, in those first two paragraphs as well as in the rest of the story, you hyperlink to other articles on the subject. This provides readers with more Ascend Integrated Media is information in a convenient manner if they choose to ready to be your partner and drill deeper. It also increases the average readership time and click-through rates. expand the possibilities of your custom communications 10. Provide tools your readers can use and event media. Contact us An effective eNewsletter always is mindful of tools the audience can use in the form of additional links, today for a consultation with forward-to-a-friend features and viral connections one of our vice presidents of through social networking. media development. For example, if you provide a promotional eBlast to encourage registration to your first annual conference BarBara Kay event in Bora Bora, you should consider providing a PReSIdeNT boxed item including all of the links a reader will need 913-344-1310 bkay@ascendmedia.com to take them to conference registration, host hotel res- ervations, the preliminary program and general island maria arNoNe information. Even though you may feature separate vICe PReSIdeNT, MedIA develoPMeNT articles about each of these elements, make it easy for 913-344-1374 your reader to do everything necessary to prepare for marnone@ascendmedia.com your conference in Bora Bora. Barry gorDoN And think virally. Attendees may want to share vICe PReSIdeNT, MedIA develoPMeNT the email with a colleague so he or she can also attend 913-344-1433 this important event. The forward-to-a-friend feature bgordon@ascendmedia.com has a three-fold benefit in this situation. First, your eriC JaCoBsoN outreach increases virally. Second, you potentially sign vICe PReSIdeNT, MedIA develoPMeNT up an attendee you might not have otherwise reached 913-344-1436 before. Third, you also increase your email list with a ejacobson@ascendmedia.com “recommended” new email address. tim Nass Social networking is not only extremely popular in vICe PReSIdeNT, MedIA develoPMeNT the mainstream, it is also integral to most association 913-344-1365 outreach programs. By providing easy access to Face- tnass@ascendmedia.com book, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious and other popular triCia WalsH social networking groups, you benefit from your mem- vICe PReSIdeNT, MedIA develoPMeNT bership talking up your articles, your information and 913-344-1480 your great content. twalsh@ascendmedia.com 10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 7