As GDPR privacy regulations took effect in the EU businesses worldwide began to rethink their lead generation strategy.
Many USA based businesses are now asking people to opt-in to their email list versus distracting customers and potential customers with an offer of a free download to get them to join the list.
Small business owners and dealerships are finally beginning to recognize that in many instances, they were attracting the wrong type of audience with free downloads and coupons.
What that leaves us with is the realization that we may need to take a good long look at
- how we’re enticing people to join our email list, and
- what we’re doing with them once they get there.
The return of the e-newsletter
This means that we can put the shiny object away and we can return to focusing on delivering quality content once they join the list.
Over the past few years now, the conventional thought was that an e-newsletter was not enough of a reason for most people to opt-in to signing up.
But with the confluence of events from Facebook sharing customer data, Experian data breaches and more, privacy is now at a heightened awareness.
As a result, I am willing to bet that we’re going to experience a return to the glory days of the e-newsletter before e-newsletters turned into 100% sales messages, all the time.
Today, customers are looking to be educated, for value, enlightenment or entertainment and they will sign up because they know that the e-newsletter will provide quality, valuable content.
It’s Back To The Basics
That means, we need to return to the basics of newsletters and ask ourselves a few questions to ensure that what we’re providing (or what we will begin to deliver shortly) is remarkable enough that people will willingly trade their precious contact information in exchange for it.
As with blogging or video creation, “Because someone told me to,” is no longer a good enough answer.
To be successful with any communication, you have to have a clear goal in mind for your newsletter, for both your business and for your reader.
Goals for your business might include:
- To engage with and build trust with your target audience and customers.
- To be able to sell and upsell to your audience via email.
- To become a thought leader and authority in the market.
- To get traffic to your blog and website.
- To upsell service offers, seasonal service or routine maintenance.
- To provide a private, VIP, or exclusive experience for your most loyal customers or those you want to build a unique or exclusive relationship with.
- To be able to segment your audience to show them more relevant information or messages; this can be based on the age of their current vehicle, the length of time they have been a customer or other.
And so forth.
Regardless of the “what” and “why” of the ultimate goal of having a newsletter is, you absolutely must be clear on that goal in all content.
For example, you know that 100% your sales come from referrals or purchased leads, not from people on your list, then the goal is not to ever sell to your audience via email. The goal should be to build trust, become a thought leader, or drive web traffic.
Or you excel at building customer loyalty and work diligently at maintaining a relationship with your existing customer with a focus on continuing to lower your marketing costs through customer loyalty. Then your goal is to educate and entertain your current customers.
If you are using the internet to launch model to launch a product or program several times a year, such as paid webinars, your goal is definitely to be able to sell to your audience via email.
On the flip side, you must understand what the goal of your reader is when signing up for your newsletter.
In recent years, we’ve made the lead magnet or bribe the goal of signing up for our newsletter with the pie in the sky (delusional) dream that people would stick around afterward to hear what we have to say.
You must evolve now from this practice and focus on longer-term goals of your audience and customers.
The goal of your audience may very well be:
- To learn more about your business /dealership (to know you better, to like, and trust you)
- To receive coupons or discounts (this is highly unproductive if this is the exclusive goal, the spend vs. the redemption is low)
- To learn about new products and services before anyone else (FOMO)
- To be entertained
- To be educated
- Or to be inspired.
How do you know what you can deliver to them that will keep them on your email list as loyal readers? You need to figure out their goal.
An example of this is from a client I’ve been working with for more than three years now.
The dealership was using their e-newsletter exclusively to send out discounts and notices of sales.
Today, that’s not the primary goal of the newsletter.
The primary goal is to build that know, like, and trust factor of the dealerships customers — we intentionally made the CEO the face and personality of the brand (dealership), and his customers resonate with the lifestyle, stories, educational aspects, and goals.
The upside of this is that we’ve been building trust with the dealership customers for a few years now — to the point that when we mentioned that he was looking to fill a few open positions at his dealership, in one of the weekly emails, the dealership immediately got 18 responses. Four of which resulted in qualified new hires for the dealership in service, sales, and BDC.
The dealership was able to fill the positions with highly qualified people with minimal costs.
I’d say that’s a definite sign of trust, especially in a very tight job market!
So, when and how should you send a newsletter?
The mistake that I see many businesses and dealerships make is their first thought is not what the goals of the newsletter should be, it’s often, “How often should I send an e-newsletter?”
There is no one correct answer, and it depends, but in general, aim for no MORE than once a week and no LESS than once a month. You better have a good reason to go outside these guidelines, and it better be good.
Sending a newsletter under one time a month and people will forget you; on the other end of the spectrum, if you send an email or newsletter more than once a week and they get sick of you, you become a pain in the keister.
Once a week seems to be the sweet spot for building loyalty and driving conversions and if you cannot manage this, then shoot for twice a month.
Another critical thing to consider about frequency is your give-to-ask ratio. In other words, how many emails are you sending that GIVE compared to those that ASK?
I suggest that you should have a ratio of 5:1 — five emails or newsletters that GIVE or SHARE information for every one ASK or SPECIAL OFFER you make.
So if you are using an email sales sequence (an ask) with 10 emails, you need to have sent 50 emails that give value. This is just a ballpark ratio; however, if you’re sending valuable content every week or month, in general, you don’t need to worry about your ratio. You’re doing just fine.
For example, last week, we chose not to write a new blog post or send out a regular newsletter since we were hosting a webinar on how what routine maintenance should be performed at what intervals and why. We knew that we would be sending four or five emails asking people to take part in the webinar, and did not want to clutter their inbox with another subject matter.
Which raises the issue of the “what”…
What should I include in my newsletter?
Once you have decided on clear goals for your newsletter, you should have a solid strategy behind the content you should provide with each newsletter and that it will be valuable both to your customers, target audience/subscribers and to your business.
However, there are some questions you have about how to deliver the content:
- One or more topic per email?
If you are offering a curated list-type email (where the whole point of the email is to send a list of stuff) use ONE topic per email. This may mean that you will need to send more than one email per week.
- Include the full blog post or a link?
Generally, I prefer to include a summary or opening paragraph and a link; if people are reading on a mobile device, they can choose whether they want to read a long text or watch a video or not. You are also teaching the reader to click the links in your email if you ever plan to direct them to a sales page or a schedule now or buy now button down the road.
- When should I send my newsletter – what time of day and what day of the week?
This depends on your audience. Most business people check email during the day; moms and dads tend to check personal email before and after work; most people tend to do more online shopping on the weekends. We found that we got the best responses on Tuesday around 2:00 pm.
- What should my subject line say?
Shorter is better, and I strongly suggest that you have a goal to drive curiosity and do not be afraid to use emojis. The goal is to get the email opened, so do not be afraid to be creative and test things.
- Should I include images?
For me, the answer is normally NONE because I want my emails to be super easy to read. However, the auto industry has a visual element (car photos, service how to photos), I would include at least one mage with your text, and then linking to a blog post with more images. For video, I would include a transcript of the video with the video embedded into the e-newsletter and the thumbnail a clear image of the topic of the video. Keep in mind that Google doesn’t automatically load images in Gmail, so you need to include a short description of the image in the alt-text.
A few other things to consider with your newsletter
Newsletters don’t exist in a vacuum.
They are a critical aspect of the relationship you’re building with a potential customer and growing with your existing customers.
Therefore, it’s critical to think about how consumers find you, what motivates them to subscribe to your list, and how you introduce yourself.
- You need to take a look at your analytics and see if you can tell where most people sign up for your list — on your home page? In the middle or at the bottom of a blog post? On your about page? In a HelloBar? Understanding when and where people decide to join your email list can give you information about the expectations they have of the benefit they will receive from your newsletter.
- What happens when they sign up? Do you send them to a thank you page? What does the page say? What can you change or add to the page to give them a great brand experience right from the start? Will a funny gif or video work? A personal message from you? A bonus free resource they can download? A coupon offer? A free service for signing up?
- What is the email sequence they receive right after they sign up? Do you introduce yourself or just add them to your newsletter list? What do they want or need from you immediately?
- Are the expectations clear about your newsletter when they sign up? Can you fulfill the expectations right away? Can you be useful, helpful, inspiring, educational, or entertaining from the first moment they sign up with you?
- When do you make an ASK (if ever)? Is it at an appropriate time? If you’ve already got an ask in your email sequences, how well does it convert?
- How clear and easy is it for them to unsubscribe or change their preferences? Are you upfront about what they will receive and how often they can expect to hear from you? Do you explicitly ask them to whitelist your emails, so they don’t go to spam?
Thinking about these sorts of things can make your weekly newsletters that much more effective at helping you create lasting relationships and happy customers.