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Email Newsletters: a best practice that needs to die

I like this blog post from lead sloth. It reminds me of the days I worked at Fairfax Media and News Corporation, sending out millions of email newsletters every month. I can say from experience that this article hits the mark. I saw open rates and click rates erode and flatten out when the business did not change anything in terms of its content – ie. the same old thing over and over again with no targeting.

As a result, I initiated a project at News Corp allowing users to customise the content in their email so that it was more relevant to them. By doing so, you not only encourage more engagement, but there is valuable targeting information you glean by looking at the content chosen by the user. The publisher would then truly be able to communicate one to one with that user not only in content but also in direct mesagging, and thus new advertising opportunities emerge.

This way both the publisher and reader wins.

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Email Newsletters: a Best Practice That Needs to Die

Thursday, August 5th, 2010 | Email Marketinglead nurturingJep Castelein

DemandBase has just announced a webinar series called B2B Marketing Best Practices that Need to Die (I will present one of the sessions). Today, I’m working on my presentation for Monday’s lead nurturing webinar 7 steps to finding untapped revenue in your marketing database, where I’m presenting real best practices.

That made me think: in lead nurturing, are there any common “best practices” that are actually ineffective? Yes! For example, the monthly newsletter.

Today’s prospects are “crazy-busy” and “frazzled” according to Jill Konrath in her new book SNAP selling. I totally agree. If you send prospects an email, it better be relevant. If not, your email will be ignored, deleted or – worse – flagged as spam.

Monthly newsletters were a best practice in the early days of email marketing. They were designed to “stay in touch” and offer something of interest to everyone. In other words: it tried to be everything to everyone!

Newsletters break the primary rule of effective email marketing, that is: you need to segment your list to make messages relevant. A monthly newsletter is undifferentiated, and won’t please anybody. Instead, create unique messages for smaller segments of your database.

If you’d like a response to your email, you need to have a call-to-action. That works best if you have only 1 call-to-action per message. Again, this is where newsletters often go wrong: they try to promote a webinar, a whitepaper, and a new product, all in the same message. The result: terrible response rates for all of these call-to-actions.

Instead, segment your audience, figure out what they’re interested in, and send them targeted emails with only 1 topic and 1 call-to-action. And stop sending that monthly newsletter.

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