Do people read e-newsletters?

Do people read e-newslettersIn the last post we looked at how to ensure that your marketing is sustainable, and the issue of just keeping it going, never mind looking at whether it is doing any good! In talking to clients one issue they face is

“I am putting all this effort into producing great copy and sending out newsletters, but do people read e-newsletters?”

Sure, not everyone reads every e-newsletter but trust me, they do get read. We can see this from the stats we get back after sending an email. A key stat is the open rate. This tells us how many people have opened the email. In practice, there are technical reasons why this stat may understate the actual figure but it is a useful figure and certainly a good way to monitor trends. The open rate will vary depending on the content of your e-newsletter and, more importantly, how well targeted your list is. Our best ever open rate was 65%, but this was on a very targeted , bet specific email. More typically open rates are 15-25%. On the face of it this may seem low, but read on. This headline figure does not tell the whole story.

  1. Actual number of people seeing your message will be higher – The actual number of people seeing your message will typically be higher than the reported ‘opens’. An ‘open’ is typically registered when a reader downloads the images in the email (normally switched off by default in most mail clients meaning that users have to click a link to download the images). The reader my have seen and acknowledged your email without downloading the images.
  2. The 15-25% is not always the same 15-25% – When you send regular e-newsletters, although you may only see 15-25% opens on an individual e-newsletter, it is not always the same 15-25% every time! Research we have done on our own stats shows that over time the number of people who engage with your mails is much higher, and over a period of 6 months (assuming you are sending e-newsletters regularly) there could be more like 60% of your list seeing one or more of your messages.
  3. What is “an open” – In the statistics, an “open” is defined as someone who received your email & downloads the embedded images. Outside of these people, many others will register your message on a number of different levels. In particular, some will simply register the fact that they have received it, and from whom, and then simply delete it as they don’t have time or inclination to read this issue, or because the subject matter does not interest them.This interaction shouldn’t be ignored, and even has a name (the nudge effect). These people have seen your email and registered your name (hopefully positively!). This process has reinforced your brand and their recognition of your business. It has real value, even though these readers don’t register as an “open”.

Putting the definition of what is or isn’t an open to one side, there are other factors to consider. E-newsletters should not be seen in isolation. There should be just one part of a joined-up approach to marketing. On their own, they are unlikely to deliver optimal results, but they are a great platform for delivering your message to a targeted group of people as part of a wider marketing and business development process. E-newsletters perform a number of important roles:

  1. They develop & reinforce your brand identity
  2. They are a great platform for talking about other marketing initiatives like events, exhibitions, product launches, sponsorship etc.
  3. They raise the base line of your communications to a point where your name is sustainable regularly and getting in front of your target audience. If contacts see your name attached to interesting content on a regular basis, they are more likely to remember you when they have a need.

All in all, if your list is properly targeted, and the content is good, people will read it and over time, they will remember you.

SME Marketing Series – Sustainable Marketing, Keeping it Going

successIf you have been following our SME Marketing series over the past couple of months you should have a great framework for a joined-up approach to your marketing. However, the biggest battle is now to come. How do you keep the process moving so you have sustainable marketing activities that simply become a part of your ongoing business development process? In our experience, this is the most challenging part of the process, and is an area where clients find we add significant value. We can help to prioritise your marketing process and make sure that it “Just Happens”. But enough of the promotional spiel, what is the trick to keeping the process going? Here are my 5 tips for ensuring that your joined-up marketing is sustainable in the long term:

  1. Make a commitment to the process – Managing a business is all about prioritisation. You spend time on the things that that you consider important. You always pay the wages, you always deliver for your clients, you always do the accounts & pay the tax man because you believe that they are important. Your business would not be successful without doing these things, and you would be right in this. I suggest that having and sustaining a joined-up marketing process should be high up there in your priority list, because without it you will not be able to develop and grow your business.
  2. Have a plan – With a plan, you know what you are committing to. As a minimum, the plan should be detailed for the next 6 months & then outline for the following 6 months. This can then be reviewed developed on a regular basis (maybe every 3 months) so that you always know in detail what your marketing activities are going to be for at least 3-6 months in advance.
  3. Continually review and develop your plan – It’s no good writing a plan and then putting it on a shelf. It needs to be a living document that is continually reviewed and developed. See point 2 above.
  4. Develop a content radar – One of the big challenges in keeping a marketing process going is making sure you have interesting things to talk about. This is where the content radar comes in. By staying on the lookout for interesting, relevant subjects and issues that you can talk about, you can develop your position as an expert in your field.
  5. Be realistic – One of the most common reason we see good initiatives fizzle out is because people try to do too much with the resources available. “We’ve got loads to talk about; let’s do a weekly newsletter”. You may have lots to talk about now, but your subject matter may be quickly exhausted if you are putting out a newsletter every week. You shouldn’t underestimate the resources required to write good, engaging copy on a weekly basis. Instead, look at the resources you have and establish what you can commit to on an ongoing basis. Better to commit to a monthly or quarterly newsletter at first and keep it going than to do a few weekly newsletters & then give up due to not being able to sustain things. It’s a cliche, but remember this is a marathon not a sprint!

As a young salesman, one older & wiser colleague told me the story of the 2 bulls on a hill. Although his phrasing was slightly different, the story goes like this:

An old bull and a young bull are standing on a hill looking down below at a valley full of cows, all of which were just grazing away…as usual. 

Soon, unable to contain himself, the young bull blurts out, “Oh WOW, man! Look at all those hot, sexy cows down there! Let’s RUN down there and GET ONE!” 

The older bull pauses for a second, then looks casually over at the wide-eyed younger bull. 

Slowly and calmly he responds, “I’ve got a better idea. How about we WALK down there and get THEM ALL?” 

Joined-up Marketing Series: Staying Joined-up

Joined-up marketing - both on and off lineSo far in this series, we have focused on online marketing tools (Websites, email, Social etc). Perhaps this isn’t surprising ans online offers so many cost effective opportunities, but we must not forget off-line too. Our mantra has always been “Joined-up Marketing”, but to be truly “Joined-up” we need to include off-line as well. Although many traditional media have less relevance in the modern world (take yellow pages advertising as a great example) some are just as relevant as ever; especially in more traditional markets like Engineering and Manufacturing. Trade Journals, Exhibitions, Networking, Seminars/Events all still exist, and deliver some excellent marketing opportunities. By integrating these with on-line tools, marketing becomes truly joined-up and powerful. I can illustrate this with a couple of examples:

Using on-line content in off-line media

Generating content is expensive and time consuming. It’s a shame if you only use it once, instead, try to spread it as widely as possible. A good example of this is the BSA “Growth Matters” column in our local paper. About 6 months ago, we go the opportunity to write a business-focussed column in our local paper. The up side of this is that we get the company name in print every week, alongside a half page of editorial. The downside was that we have to produce 500-800 words of copy each week, every week. However, as we have been writing for the Marketing Matters blog, and already produce at least 6 articles per month for this, finding content to send to the paper is not too much of an issue. The additional resource required to take advantage of this opportunity is manageable. This concept can also be applied to trade press. You are already writing engaging copy for your website news pages, so why not build a database of trade press editorial contacts and send out the same copy as a press release. Again, extra exposure for your content for minimal extra work!

Networking to build email lists

Networking is a great tool for making new contacts, but what do you do with these contacts? Many of them will be relevant to your business, but may not have immediate requirements. It can feel a bit soul destroying when contacts made at networking meetings don’t immediately turn into new business. Adding newly made contacts to your email distribution list ensures that they are continually reminded of what you do until they have a requirement to talk about.

Integrating exhibitions with email, web and social media

Let’s not beat around the bush, exhibitions are expensive! It is important to be sure you squeeze every ounce of value out of them.Leading up to (and during) an exhibition, email and social media can be great tools to build anticipation and to promote what you will be focusing on during the event. At the exhibition itself, you are going to meet and talk with a lot people, only some of whom will have current opportunities for business. It is important not to forget the others. Like networking, exhibitions are a great source of contacts for your email lists. Add them to the list, and you will continue to communicate after the exhibition is long gone.

Joined-up = Consistent

As final word on joining up on-line & off-line marketing, joined-up marketing requires consistency, and consistency requires planning. To be joined-up, marketing activity needs to happen in the context of a sustainable strategy, targeting all activities at delivering a measured and appropriate objectives that move your business forward.