Email marketing specialists DJ Waldow and Stephan Hovnanian dig into these topics and more in the first of a four-part web series called Get Smart About Email Marketing.

Do you struggle with finding content, frequency, low open rates, and even justifying the need to have an email newsletter for your business? Would it help to learn some tips and techniques to overcome these challenges and create awesome, engaging email newsletters that generate an amazing return on investment?

Email marketing specialists DJ Waldow and Stephan Hovnanian dig into these topics and more at the first of a four-part web series called Get Smart About Email Marketing.

Get all the series info here:

Watch the video

Watch the recap below (mm:ss references the time stamp in the video above).

3:57 – What are some tips and techniques a brand can use to have a human voice in their newsletter?

DJ said it best, “Think about the emails that you yourself get excited about opening!” Your subscribers are people just like you, so if you wouldn’t want to get the email you’re sending, why would they?

Have fun in various transactional emails to build brand loyalty, like does with their Moo Robot. And it worked, DJ was happy to fill out a survey at the end because he felt the brand connected with him.

Hey, if you’re reading this, has as a brand ever connected with you through their messaging and voice? Tell me about it in the comments!

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: Look around the office, how would you describe your culture? Casual? Fun? Snarky? Polished and Professional? Whatever it is, write that down, and when you create email messages to go out on behalf of your company, make sure it carries the same voice as you do.

7:35 – Setting expectations is imperative in email marketing. Are you providing value in their inbox?

I’m big on setting expectations, and you have plenty of places to do that in your email marketing program. First and foremost, on your dedicated subscription page, but also on the thank-you page, the confirmation emails, welcome emails, and even in the newsletters themselves.

When we talk about setting expectations and providing value, we are talking about expectations and value in your inbox. Remember, someone can follow along on social and doesn’t need to be a subscriber (you should pay attention to those big fans on social by the way, and reward your advocates whenever you can).

In fact, DJ used to have three items in his email newsletters, but realized nobody was clicking on the third one, so he dropped it, but told us as much with a line of text that said something like, “there used to be a third link here, but nobody was clicking on it!” That’s setting expectations!

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: Take something totally random to make people want to open your email, something that also aligns with your brand voice. Maybe it’s a video, or a quote you overheard (forget the inspirational stuff, everybody does that), but whatever it is, make it unique for your subscribers, something they can only get in the email.

10:46 – Where can a business find content for their newsletter?

One of the best ways to keep on top of business-related content is to sign up for competitor newsletters and share their content. Competitors, you say? Why would you want to do that? Because you’re still the closest link to that great content: you found it, and thought it was valuable enough to your subscribers to send it to them.

Speaking of competitors, one of our live viewers, Keith Bloemendaal, had a great comment: “They aren’t competitors, they’re colleagues” (and we couldn’t agree more). Also, don’t pay too close attention to what your competitors are doing, go be you and do what you’re best at. The right customers will find you and align with you.

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: Clip ideas and articles from around the web to Evernote, tag them or place them into a special notebook, and add a short 1-2 sentence reminder to the note as to why this will be interesting to your subscribers. I’d personally add a tag like “draft” to the article, which will make it easier to find when the time comes to write your newsletter. Then, delete the tag (or replace it with another one like “complete”) after the link has been used in your newsletter.

17:04 – How can you use your community to build your email list and strengthen subscriber relationships?

This was easily one of the best segments of the discussion. Lots of great tips on how to utilize user-generated content (UGC) and your community on social, your clients, and your subscribers to create value specific to your newsletter.

  • Answer questions and give shout-outs to new subscribers
  • Encourage replies
  • Pull a comment out of a longer thread and build around that
  • Showcase your social communities to your email list (and vice versa)
  • Post a call to action to social networks (“what questions can I answer?”) then do it in your emails
  • Reward subscribers for getting involved and taking action

“What makes a great newsletter? Provide valuable content that people want to keep coming back to.” – DJ

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: Make a list of the different ways you can utilize UGC and community content, based on where you interact online and with your customers. Take one or two real examples, and try to build them out into actionable ideas to use in your next email newsletter. If you need help with that, let’s talk.

25:30 – Question from Jelena Louie about mobile design and if we should focus on short & to the point.

Short answer: YES! But make sure that the links you’re pointing people to on the other end are delivering the same experience. If your mobile-friendly emails get people all excited to go to a web page, which is as far from mobile-friendly as you can get, your trust factor for delivering valuable content goes down in their eyes (even if the link isn’t to your site).

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: We are going to be talking about email design and testing in another episode of Get Smart About Email Marketing, sign up here to get updates!

27:30 – Question from Terry Grier is it better to have one topic or a variety of topics in your newsletter?

Another one of our live viewers, Terry Grier, had a great question about topics (and similarly, the number of links we should include in our emails). DJ’s advice was prudent and also chock-full of things you can test:

  • Have a central theme
  • Highlight the central, most important thing (list it first, give it a different font treatment, etc. ClickZ does a good job with this, sign up for one of their emails if you want an example of this in action).
  • Experiment with the “SportsCenter” approach (tell people what’s coming up)

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: By now you should be working on a publishing calendar for your newsletters, and be able to identify the amount of content you can feasibly share each time. With that in hand, determine the central topics for the next 3-4 newsletters, and make sure they all trace back to business goals of some kind. Remember, even though you are always striving to provide value to your subscribers, that value has to match up with the value you can provide them as a business.

32:30 – Automated RSS campaigns vs. Hand-crafted newsletters

emailsmarts-newsletters-rss-campaignMarketing automation is always a topic of conversation for people, and in email marketing it’s no different. In this segment, we talked about having an automated blog newsletter (usually through your website’s RSS feed) vs. a hand-crafted email.

DJ rightly pointed out (and this has been my experience as well) that the hand-crafted ones get the best response, however, automated emails can keep you top of mind. Plus, you can (and should) still keep the RSS campaign personalized and matched up with your brand voice. Here’s a screenshot of one of my automated blog newsletters, as you can see, I set up the text to encourage responses (which I get):

ACTION STEP FOR YOUR BUSINESS: If you have a publishing schedule for your blog or email newsletter, you’ll know when the automated campaigns will go out. Schedule a hand-crafted one in between at whatever interval you’ll be able to commit to (monthly at minimum).

Thanks for watching, reading, and participating!

A big thank-you to all our live viewers, and especially to the ones who left questions & comments: Keith, Jelena, Terry, Marilyn, Zara, Sheila, Mary, Rob, Roxanne, Lany, Bill, Andrew, and Heather!

What to do next?

1. Get help with your email marketing strategy: Shovi Websites creates marketing strategies that make businesses more connected to their customers in today’s attention economy. One of the ways we do this is by producing online education series productions (like this one). To learn more, contact Stephan at 781-538-5901.

2. Read/Watch the rest of the series:

3. Subscribe to Get Smart About Email Marketing. Even though the series is over, we have plenty of information planned that digs deeper into the topics discussed during our series, and will be very useful for companies who need to do a better job with their email marketing.

Stephan Hovnanian

Stephan Hovnanian runs the show here at Shovi, bringing over 15 years of email and web marketing experience to companies that need more from their digital marketing efforts.

Connect with Stephan here, on Twitter (@stephanhov), LinkedIn, or Google+.


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