Transforming Your Email Newsletter into a Personalized Service (Not a Broadcast)

May 13, 2020
The terms “email broadcast” or “email blast” make me cringe. When was the last time you wanted to receive a blast of anything?  

By now we’ve all seen the good about email marketing….

  • Average ROI of 3,800 percent (Singlegrain),
  • The most likely news-related activity by executives is “Read an email newsletter” (Quartz)
  • 49% of customers said they would like to hear from their favorite brands on a weekly basis (Statista)

….and the bad

  • Nearly 300 billion emails are sent and received each day (Statista)
  • Over 20% of emails sent never make it to your contact’s inbox (optinmonster)
  • Managing CAN-SPAM, GDPR, CCPA, and other compliance requirements is an ever-changing effort

We know that being a resource to our community is important, but how can you best leverage your email newsletter to rise above the “noise”, make it into our subscribers’ inbox, and ensure a favorable experience by those who receive the message - all while maximizing value to your organization? Treat our newsletter campaign as a service rather than a broadcast. 

Shifting from broadcast to service-mentality

When you change how you perceive the purpose of your email messaging from a “blast-mentality” to a “service-mentality”, the way you evaluate each step of creating your campaign changes (yes, the below examples are at the extreme, but you’ll get the point). 

When should I send an email?

  • Broadcast-mentality: Whenever I have something I want to say.
  • Service-mentality:  On a consistent, weekly basis in order to become a trusted resource to my subscribers.

Who should I send my email to?

  • Broadcast-mentality: Any email address I can get my hands on. 
  • Service-mentality: Those who have seen the value and requested access to the information I share. 

What should I include in my email?

  • Broadcast-mentality: What I want them to read. Hard stop. 
  • Service-mentality: What they want to be reading, whether I wrote it or not, but only in the areas where I have expertise and perspective to surface the best insights. 

The ‘what’ is often the most complex. Like many organizations, our customers (and thus subscribers) are largely heterogeneous. Sure, you can create personas and work to customize the information shared within each campaign to those in each group, but that is often resource-intensive and you’d undoubtedly still come across as “generic” to those you clustered into personas that weren’t the perfect fit and, let’s be honest, the more effort required in completing the campaign, the less likely you’ll adhere to a disciplined weekly cadence. 

The debate between personalization and control

So, like many, we faced the debate between personalization and control. Personalization has consistently been shown to generate 50% higher open rates (Yes Lifecycle Marketing) and help to ensure the content delivered aligns with each subscriber’s interests. However, the ability to convey a custom perspective and easily control the population of articles is difficult, time-consuming, or simply not possible. This customization challenge is even more acute within organizations having compliance requirements or strict brand standards for content delivered under their purview. 

Alternatively, we could resign ourselves to the fact that we’d need to find the lowest-common-denominator between our subscribers’ interests and the content focus we felt our expertise could best provide. This would allow us to fully craft each campaign to our liking, but would remain more true to a broadcast in the sense that each subscriber would receive the same content. 

How we do it: rasa.io + UpContent + Sniply = Personalization + Control + Attribution

Like many things in life, stepping back from the challenge to assess the options, and asking around a bit, brought us to a clever solution, rasa.io. Their technology enables you to add RSS feeds from your favorite sources and will then customize the set of articles for each of your subscribers based upon their past interactions. You have solid design controls, the ability to insert visual conversion prompts, and can prioritize your original content (when it is available) to ensure maximum exposure. They also offer integrations with our current email partners Mailchimp and HubSpot, so we didn’t need to worry about managing our curated newsletter list separately from our main list. 

When used in conjunction with UpContent (by leveraging the RSS feed from one of our own collections of team-approved articles), we are able to fully control the articles made available to our subscribers, leverage the collective insights of the team in getting great content to our subscribers, and customize the summary text and thumbnail image shown with the article in the newsletter to fully showcase our brand character and insights. 

Further, by leveraging UpContent’s included Sniply integration, we can ensure that those stimulated by the articles we curate are prompted to navigate back to our website in order to continue their experience with us. This has increased traffic to owned resources and enabled proper attribution throughout the subscriber experience to track where value is being provided (see for yourself). 

Striking the balance

With 85% of executives likely to share a good piece of content when they come across it, 2x as likely to share articles than charts, data, or images, and 3x more likely than video (Quartz), the ability to properly balance personalization and control can be an important weapon in providing your subscribers a service without sacrificing value to your organization. 

Of course, the email newsletter is but one component of an effective marketing effort, but through supplementing our original content with curation, ensuring the summary insights and imagery in the newsletter match our perspective, enabling customization on a per-subscriber basis, and activating conversion prompts even on curated links, we can consistently produce a service-minded campaign that aligns with our company goals as well. 

Image Source: "2019/365/36 Lighting Up The Broadcast" by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0

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