Not the sort that ends up in your spam box, but the physical stuff that we watched out parents throw out on a daily basis growing up, and then began to ourselves when we got our own places. Yet somehow, despite this learned tradition of tossing spammy mail, marketers still embrace email marketing that revolves around a similar mentality.
Nearly every brand has a newsletter, promotional cycle, or event calendar that it disseminates regularly, frequently winning nothing more than a moment’s visibility in a viewer’s inbox (or usually, straight to spam box). But whether through overreliance on hands-off automation or just generally irrelevant content, many marketers are opting for ease over efficacy. With consistently higher ROI than other platforms, it can be easy for marketers to be lazy about their strategy (like the 42 percent of marketers who don’t segment their audiences, despite using email to drive leads).
So what does a good email marketing strategy look like? Here’s a look at some of the most creative newsletters that actually keep readers coming back for more and that keep themselves far away from the junk pile.
Austin Kleon is a New York Times bestselling author who’s made a niche for himself writing about creativity, art, and business. With a portfolio of books, T-shirts, and other merchandise, you might expect his newsletter to be focused on updates surrounding his latest book or promotions on swag. But instead, Kleon has decided to use his newsletter as a way of sharing creative inspiration and news that he personally finds interesting. From articles to images and everything in between, Kleon’s newsletter does little to no work trying to convert or sell—rather, it simply provides a creative output that readers look forward to receiving in their inboxes, while also creating a sense of his personal taste and brand. The result is a consistently excited audience of readers, regardless of Kleon’s publishing pace.
Where Kleon’s list is unique in its careful curation and sense of style, executive search firm BSG Team Ventures takes a very different, but similarly effective approach to its regular mailings.
Any brand responsible for consulting or advising services knows that thought leadership is crucial for both brand visibility and trust. After all, when hiring someone to improve yourself or your team, you’ll naturally prefer experts who know what is actively happening in your industry. To accomplish this, every month BSG acts as an aggregate of research going on in its industry. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill newsletter with a list of three to five blog posts. No, BSG’s “EdBurst” emails direct readers to an exhaustive monthly collection of high-quality research and news coming out of its industry. With comparatively less effort than custom content creation, BSG is able to regularly establish trust and offer useful content to its readers.
Digital marketing firms are no strangers to white papers, but often the result of this focus can produce weak content. As important as it is for brands to tell their story through consistent series of content, there are few things more damaging to a brand than making a promise to their audience and then not fulfilling it. And how unfulfilling is it to go through a landing page in hopes of finding a big study, only to be emailed a PowerPoint presentation of five very meager slides?
Ascend2 has responded to this issue in two ways: transparent consistency, and high-quality content. While some brands scramble to pump out as much white paper material as they can to appear on top of their industry, Ascend2 takes the time to release one, high-quality research study every month. No more, but certainly no less. This results in improved audience trust but also a sense of expectancy that keeps readers regularly returning to the brand.
Like many other brands, the Content Standard had to do a lot of learning in the email marketing space to turn its regular newsletter into a platform for storytelling. To do this, the brand has worked to not only curate and serve the best content it can but has also worked to construct a means of measuring results to constantly improve email quality.
“Newsletters really are extensions of your publication—they’re another way to speak directly to your audience,” says Ted Karczewski, Managing Editor of the Content Standard. “So we implemented a new editorial process that required us to editorialize the emails around weekly themes, focus on personalization and delivery time, improve user experience and design, and finally send out community surveys to better understand what recipients liked about the newsletter.”
The result? The Content Standard’s Newsletter moved from something sent at recipients to content curated by and for recipients. In this way, readers are not only welcomed by the quality of content but also by the feeling that they get a say in what they’re receiving.
Crafting a strong newsletter or broader email marketing strategy for your brand is never quite so easy as it initially seems. Content and messaging frequency differs for every brand, and finding the right mix for your brand will certainly require time, effort, and testing. But by focusing on storytelling before CTAs, and by giving readers a reason to feel invested in your content either through consistency or feedback, marketers will find that a simple email automation can turn into recurring audience loyalty for their brands.