Sure, sending newsletters is a great way to send information to your customers, but what information are you getting back? You might think collecting information at subscription is the only way to get data out of your newsletter, but there are several other ways you can get your company newsletter to deliver valuable customer insights.
Use Every Newsletter as a Test
If you’re sending the exact same newsletter to your entire contact list, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to test various parts of your campaign. By segregating two recipient groups and sending slightly different newsletters to each, you can read differences in reception to determine the most effective techniques. Use your newsletter to test various subject lines, article titles, and images. You can also run tests by segregating customers and non-customers to see which of the groups has a higher read rate. Just remember not to change too many things between the different newsletters since you might not be able to tell which of the changes caused a higher read rate.
You can also test to determine what days and times of the week have the highest read rate (I suggest this be one of your first tests). Newsletters sent on Tuesdays and Thursdays typically have the highest read rate, but it could be different depending on your customer base. Test your newsletter on various days of the week to determine what works best with your target customer.
Do you allow customers to reply to your newsletter email? If responses get sent to a no-reply or some auto-response mailbox, then your valuable customer input is falling on deaf ears. Maybe customers are having problems viewing the email, or have suggestions for improvement, or just want to say something nice. Make sure that recipients can respond to your newsletter via email, and that those responses are sent to someone on your marketing team.
Use Unique URLs to Track Links in Your Newsletter
If you have links in your newsletter that direct the reader to your website, you want to make sure you know if they are coming from the newsletter or somewhere else. If you use Google Analytics (if not you should be), you can track all of the sources by which users are navigating to your site. To figure out what percentage of your traffic is from newsletters, populate your newsletter with uniquely generated links that will let you know that person came from the newsletter. For detailed instruction, read the Google Analytics URL Builder Help. Unless you use unique URLs, people clicking on those links in the newsletter will show up as direct visitors in Google Analytics.
Include Surveys to Boost Participation
Maybe you’ve sent surveys or put them on your website to learn more about people interested in your product or service. To maximize data volume, include surveys in your newsletters as well. There’s no need to dream up a new survey every newsletter (that will probably just annoy readers), but linking to a survey via your newsletter every now and again is a great way to draw more participants and get more data.
Use a Marketing Application
Doing all of the previously stated can be made worlds easier if you use a marketing application to manage your newsletters. Services like Constant Contact, Vertical Response, and Mail Chimp will not only help you with testing and formatting, many of them automatically generate data for your campaign.
So remember the next time you send out a newsletter, it isn’t just to send information, it has a lot of potential for collecting information too – valuable insights that can help you learn more about your customer, and build a better business.
Check out Pinpointe for email marketing: no contracts required and great customer service!
These are some great ideas, Prasad. I had never thought to do split testing on email newsletters. Sounds obvious, but there you go. I use the Google Analytics URL Builder tool – that is great for creating those unique URLs. Recently discovered using Notes on my FB page to supplement my links back to my blog too. Although this has really nothing to do with newsletters, it is a newsletter of a sort. I put a teaser article on my notes page and then linked it back to my site.
Prasad, great suggestion about using unique urls and tracking with GA. Thanks!
Are click-throughs the best way to measure success of one newsletter trial vs. another? And how do you know if you’ve got a good CTR?
How large would you recommend a list be before implementing testing?
Prasad, do you think that CTR is the best way to measure the performance of one newsletter version vs another? Or is there a different metric that you use?
Yes, CTR or Click-through rate is the key metric to measure the performance of a newsletter. In addition, Constant Contact (others may be as well) gives you industry data showing how your CTR rate compares to the CTR within your industry.
Another great email marketing service is Campaigner. I like Prasad’s idea about unique URLs to track effectiveness of a campaign. In a similar way, Wendy Lowe at Campaigner notes that you can set up individual phone extensions to track results of a campaign, assuming you have a virtual phone service like my1voice with unlimited extension numbers.
Hi Prasad, can u suggest an interesting method to get replies/feedback from customer? Cheers.
Hi Robert Brady,
For the test to be statistically significant, each sample set should be at least 300 in size. That means, you would need to have a list of 600 people to run a A/B test. You can still run a test with a small number but you will not be able to say with confidence the results are accurate.
The 300 emails is for the minimum sample size to determine if the resultant CTR is worth taking seriously. Say you have newsletter A and B and you sent A to 300 people and B to 300. If CTR for A is 40% and CTR for B is 60%, then newsletter B has done better than A. If CTR is + or – 5% of each other, say 40% and 45%, you cannot conclude with significant confidence that one is better than the other. In that case, I would recommend a coin toss :-).
Yes, the Click through rates or CTR are the best way to determine if one newsletter is better than the other.
Great stuff, especially about the unique URL’s through Analytics, an often unknown and unused feature. Data doesn’t lie, and using it to improve a campaign/newsletter is critical.
Do you have suggestions on newsletter programs? I am thinking of testing out MailChimp to start with.
Hi Martin Lindeskog,
In addition to MailChimp, there are other email marketing providers such as ConstantContact, VerticalResponse and more.
Most of these providers have the features most businesses need. We at OfficeDrop, use ConstantContact. We have also used VerticalResponse. We are happy with both. It may be come down to price or that one feature you really need when you are deciding on which one to go with.
Thanks for the information. I have heard about ConstantContant on Small Business Trends Radio and participated in webinars sponsored by VerticalResponse.
Great advice and very useful for us. We’ll be making improvements to our customer newsletter. I’ll be researching how we can leverage the Google Analytics UTM tags and how that can benefit us for insights on the performance later on.
One good point that I want to emphasize in this post is the allowing of replies. Sure a business owner might receive the OOTO messages, but they also receive the quality replies from what people think. This is useful, simple and shouldn’t be neglected for its value in the newsletter.
Email marketing and Newsletters not only allow us to gain good customer insights but staff insights too if used for internal comms.
Here are the most important newsletter marketing practices:
1. Build Opt-in Subscriber Database
Building opt-in subscriber database is one of the most important newsletter marketing practices. You can build your subscriber database from leads on your website, blog, social media profiles, events, personal meetings, and other lead generation sources. You must also remember to honour the ‘unsubscribe’ requests with any delays.
2. Segment customers
If you provide multiple products or services then it will make sense to segment your subscriber data into logical groups. Segmentation is handy and useful and one should try and do it if multiple types of audience that you are catering to.
If you don’t segment then it is likely that whatever content is shared will not be of relevance to some of your subscribers and it drives unsubscribes.
3. Create relevant content
The content is actually the most important part of the newsletter, and not the design. So make it relevant! Create content keeping in mind the kind of content your target audience would find interesting.
Case Studies, Customer Reviews
Third party content with due credit to them
Education: Free test series/assessments; Tips to prepare for an exam; Job Interview related Content
Travel: Destination guides; When to books tickets; Best offers
Real Estate: Property price trends; new project launches; How to read property related papers
Financial Services: How to buy and compare loans/insurance products; Rate different loan/insurance providers
Software, IT Services: ebooks; Whitepapers; Technology changes
Business Services: Trends, Impact of changes in the law/tax structure
4. Work on your design
The best design practices for newsletters would be similar to email campaigns. They include the following:
Be consistent with fonts, colour themes and layout.
The design should ensure the email is readable (fewer italics).
Try to cover fewer topics (two to three).
Use attractive images/visuals; put Alt Text on images.
Include social share links.
CAN Spam compliance.
Personalize the message body.
Follow subject line best practices.
The frequency of your newsletters depends on two factors-
Ability to put together the content – If you think it takes too much effort to do it every week then don’t send newsletters every week. Send it every fifteen days or once a month.
Interest of your subscribers in receiving your content – If you’re subscribers find it painful to read newsletters every week then avoid it. You will be able to find out this information through your weekly subscriber frequency. If the unsubscribes go up, then you would know that it isn’t working. In some case, your good customers will call you and tell you if your newsletters are too frequent.
6. Ensure Deliverability
Pick a reputed email service provider.
Avoid words that tantamount to SPAM in subject and body.
Some designs are prone to land in junk/spam – test our design.
Always provide unsubscribe/opt-out link.
Remove email addresses that are invalid or contain profane words.
Maintain a Suppression List Sender Email Address.
Reply-to address should be from valid domain.