Time for an email newsletter audit?

Allison Van Diest
Allison Van Diest

[Editor’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Allison Van Diest

Email newsletters are one of the most critical components of an effective online marketing strategy.

They can be difficult to keep up with for many reasons, not least of which are the basics of regularly assembling great content and effectively managing your subscriber list.

In the rush to keep your content and list up-to-date, have you taken time out to ensure you’re optimizing one of your most important marketing vehicles?

In case you haven’t had a chance to audit your newsletter lately, here is a quick list of points to consider that may help you see your housefile and conversion rates grow:

What is the thing you most want to achieve with your newsletter?

Is that objective conveyed with a clear call-to-action? How effectively is that call to action showcased?

An organization I was recently working with had been somewhat lost in the habit of publishing almost everything that anyone at the organization wanted to share.

Revisiting what they wanted the newsletter to accomplish and focusing the design around the actions they wanted will improve response.

Do you have the right mix of messages?

Are you warmly greeting and acknowledging your audience, providing updates on projects, and making relevant asks? Some newsletters spend too much time on just one of these categories, when a healthy balance will be most effective.

A consistent news update is interesting, but engaging your audience emotionally by making meaningful asks and showing appreciation will build loyalty in your list members.
Can a first-time reader tell what your organization is about?

Many organizations forget or underestimate the viral nature of email newsletters.

A good way to keep your mission front and center is to highlight some key statistics in the newsletter header.

This allows even a first-time reader a chance to understand the organization’s impact in a glance.
Along the same lines, how easy and inviting is it for me to forward your newsletter? How easy is it for me to subscribe for the first time, assuming I received the newsletter from a friend?

If your newsletter links back to longer articles or to the ability to fulfill actions on your website, be sure the ability to forward-to-a-friend and subscribe is prominently displayed on landing pages.
Do you offer exclusive, preview or premium content in your newsletter?  Providing special value not available elsewhere or as quickly will ensure a more engaged readership.

Get your readership used to reading your newsletter promptly to find out about special rates, events, firsthand accounts and more.

Showcasing a special reader from time to time who exemplifies the action you hope to motivate will drive the behavior you want and entertain your audience.
Are you measuring open rates and conversion rates?

In most email messages, the conversion rate (the rate of email recipients that act on your email) is the single most critical metric to track. For some email newsletters, however, conveying information is as important as driving donations or actions.

Either way, you want to ensure that your readership and activity is trending up.

It is natural for a list to go through periods of contraction; after a major list building activity, your less enthusiastic subscribers may leave your list.

But those who have been reading should continue reading and acting, or you may need to examine your newsletter’s content and timing for problems.
Finally, how are you managing “emotionally unsubscribed” list members?  These are people who joined your list, read your messages, hopefully took action at some point, but have since stopped reading and responding.

Maybe they aren’t turned off enough to click that unsubscribe link, but they are clearly tuned out.

The most effective email marketers are reading their lists with the same attention that they hope their list members use to read the news.

When list members seem to have lost interest, savvy marketers will examine behavior to determine what is required to reengage their lists, and make adjustments accordingly.

So, how often do you look at your newsletter with a critical eye? Is your active readership trending in the direction you’d like? How do you keep your email newsletter vibrant? Which newsletters do you admire?

Thinking through some of these points as you set out to update this month’s content could really pay off.

For more tips, tricks to improve your online strategy, visit the NetWits Think Tank blog.

Allison Van Diest is Blackbaud’s senior product marketing manager, Internet Solutions.

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