How to Create an Email Newsletter That Actually Drives Leads

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Email newsletters can be incredible lead generation tools, but they’re very easy to get wrong.

Think about it: How many email newsletters have you subscribed to (or been added to)? How many do you actually read?

The truth is that most company newsletters are poorly executed and don’t do much to attract or hold a reader’s interest, much less drive leads. Yours is probably experiencing this very same challenge.

But it’s not too late. You can still raise your newsletter from junk mail to being a must-read. All you need to do is adopt industry best practices in a few key areas.

How to grow your newsletter subscriber base

You need more subscribers for your newsletter to succeed. It’s a simple concept, yet something many newsletters struggle with. Readers are more demanding and sophisticated than ever before, and are constantly trimming down the list of things they have to read.

So how can your newsletter make the cut?

1. Focus on educational or informative content.

Modern consumers are tired of being sold to online—especially when said sales pitches are being dumped into their inbox. In fact, the first thing you probably do yourself is delete promotional emails.

Don’t let your newsletter be one of them!

Keep your content 90 percent informative and 10 percent promotional. You’ve got a ton of content you can use to fill the newsletter:

  • Articles from your company blog
  • Company news updates
  • Product changes or improvements
  • Upcoming events

If you feel you don’t have that much content of your own to share, you can also curate content from other industry peers or experts.

This step alone will help greatly improve your subscriber base.

2. Craft compelling subject lines.
The email inbox is a battleground. You’re competing for attention, and your only weapon is your subject line. Here are some suggestions on how to get a leg up:

  • Keep your subject lines short. Subject lines that are 50 characters or less have higher open rates than longer ones.
  • Keep the tone casual. It has the advantage of being direct and short (see above) and friendlier for the audience.
  • Use your content. Take the title of one of catchiest articles in your newsletter and use it in the subject line.

3. Make it easy to sign up.
What does a person have to do to subscribe to your newsletter? How many steps do they have to take? Are they even aware it exists?

If your newsletter signup page is hidden deep within your site and nobody on your sales team mentions it, then don’t expect your subscribers to rise above the double digits.

Create a one-field newsletter signup form (just the email is fine) and put it on every single page of your website. Then send people to your newsletter every chance you get. Make it a footnote in every conversation with a new prospect.

Your subscriber numbers will skyrocket.

How to attract the right audiences

No matter how large your subscriber base grows, it won’t do your business any good if it’s not attracting the right audience. That’s why every marketer should take the following steps:

1. Define your ideal readership.
Before you write a single word of newsletter content, you need ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my ideal reader?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What relevant information can I share?

Once you start defining those, then you can start tailoring content to that specific audience and growing an audience that will help your business in the long run.

2. Personalize more than the name.
Until recently, personalizing an email meant auto-filling the reader’s first name. But modern customers are wise to that—it’s old hat and doesn’t have as much impact as before.

Nowadays, newsletter editors need to personalize the content that goes into the email. You accomplish this by having multiple versions of the same newsletter that are segmented and targeted for specific groups. That way, there’s a higher likelihood of getting content to readers that appeals to them.

How to convert your newsletter audience

Remember what I said earlier about having 90 percent educational or informational content and 10 percent promotional? The reason it’s not 100 percent educational is because you’re still a business, and you still need a way to move people through the buying cycle.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get readers to convert without driving them away with sales-y newsletter content:

1. One (and only one) call to action.
Your newsletter can have a lot of content, but it should have only one call to action.

A single call to action keeps the reader focused and has a greater chance of driving conversions. You’re not having that call to action compete with other CTAs for attention. The path to the next step is clear, and if that path is compelling enough to the reader, then you’ve just gained a win.

2. Conversion in context.
There are a number of things a reader could potentially do to move forward in the marketing/sales funnel. But you should choose the CTA that is most beneficial and relevant to the user at the time they read the email. Where are they in the buying process? What season is it? What product are they using? All of those questions should shape how you want them to convert.

It helps even better if there is something else in the newsletter content related to the CTA. For example, there could be an article about conference you held last year, and the CTA is a registration button for this year’s conference. It makes sense in context, and helps drive better conversions.

3. Test, test, test.
The only thing constant is change; but in marketing it has to be the right change.

Constantly A/B test different aspects of your newsletter to help improve readership and performance. Refine layouts, colors, and images to see which version performs better. Also test out different subject lines and calls to action to see what drives more conversions. You can even A/B test new types of content to see what pulls in more readers. For example, do people prefer infographics or case studies?

Most of these minor changes will only result in an incremental jump in numbers, but they will eventually add up to a large gain in your subscriber numbers and conversion rates.

How to use marketing technology to your advantage

It’s a great time to launch a newsletter. You don’t need a large team. There are a bunch of tools and apps available that can help streamline the process and keep your workload minimal.

1. Marketing automation tools
Gone are the days where you have to code newsletters in HTML or write them in Outlook. Marketing tools like MailChimp, GetResponse, and Marketo offer comprehensive solutions that let you create an email, publish it, and track metrics all in one app. The better ones even allow you to create landing pages so you can increase the likelihood of conversions.

2. Web traffic tools
Web traffic solutions make it much simpler for you to manage your website and grow your subscriber list. I like SumoMe in particular because it offers a variety of tools, each of which can have a great impact on your newsletter’s performance.

The SumoMe wordpress plugin, for instance, creates a simple and prominent form that makes it easy for people to subscribe to your newsletter. The SumoMe Heat Map allows you to see where people’s eyes go as they read your site or newsletter, which helps you tweak the layout for better performance.

3. Integration tools
The challenge with using multiple marketing apps is that these different systems have trouble talking to each other. But this nifty app called Zapier helps you tie them all together.

Let’s take this example: Your newsletter signup process is as follows: Someone fills out a form on SurveyMonkey. That data is put into a Google spreadsheet, which is then entered into MailChimp. Only then will the user start getting the newsletter.

Exhausting, right?

Zapier lets you connect all of those apps together so that the new user data jumps from SurveyMonkey to Google Drive to Mailchimp automatically, without any need for you to click a single button.

In conclusion

We just shared a lot of strategies and tools you can use to build a dedicated newsletter audience. But if there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s this:

Think of the reader and what they would like to hear from you; not what you think they should hear. Go out of your way to make the newsletter experience easy and enjoyable, from testing new layouts to tracking topics of interest. Even the conversion process should be as simple and no-frills as possible.

In essence, build a company newsletter that people want to read.

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