Who Deserves Your Time? A Lesson In Managing Your Newsletter Strategy

A great discussion ensued in my Social Media Club Facebook group last week thanks to Debi Auger.

It came down to “Who Deserves My Time?” because let’s face it we’re all either on too many lists, or have been at some point.

Debi noted “What I’m finding is that whose lists I’m on isn’t the problem… they’re valuable to me and do deserve my time; the issue seems to be frequency.” 

Her post got me thinking I should write about this, as I often get asked by coaching clients about what is the best newsletter strategy and how should they handle their email lists.

What I liked about this discussion was that we looked at it both from our perspective of creating and managing our newsletter and email lists, as well as from an angle of receiving and consuming them.

So let’s focus on answering Debi’s question and then look at tips for email strategy:

“So, I’m curious… How often do you feel is too often? I think emailing me every day or every other day is WAY too much. What do you think? Would that irritate you too? I’m faced with putting some high quality peeps on a “check in manually” list, but hesitating because in all likelihood I won’t end up checking in because I’m always so busy.” 

With permission from my SMC members I’ve posted their responses:

Luz Garcia-Pennock I like the approach of weekly aligned with another email as it resonates or even more organic. Daily is too much for me…I do get Danielle Laporte’s daily at times and it is short and inspiring so I love it as it does not feel like a project to read….it tickles my soul.

Erica Lee Garcia With you, Debi. I would de-follow the list if they wrote more than 2 x week. The only exception would be if I asked for more.

Mureen Pitterman ?@Erica, I hear you. I have one individual that I like, but the four to five post daily is driving me crazy. I am tempted to de-follow.

Jen Brown Weekly is ideal. Any more often and I’d probably de-follow unless it had value or was very special (like Danielle La Porte’s truthbombs or Simon Sinek’s one liners)

Angela Horn Weekly at the very most…but I’d prefer something juicy once a month :-)

There you have it. Newsletter readers’ opinions on what constitutes an acceptable email practice.

As you can see it depends on the:

  • Quality of the content
  • Value to the reader
  • Credibility and likeability of the sender

My response was this:

I think weekly is more than enough and with the caveat that you can send special announcements on non newsletter days for launches, surveys, special requests. I know of people who also email their blog posts when they go live. That’s acceptable if you’re subscribed via RSS,  but let’s expand on this.

Key Tips For Your Email Management

Frequency:

If you’re sending  newsletter, in my opinion this should be no more than once a week, on a regular day and time.

As per my response above, you can choose when to send an extra email depending on the purpose. If it’s a launch and you have not built a separate opt-in list for people explicitly interested in what you’re launching, then be mindful that suddenly sending 3 in one week could cause you to lose subscribers.

The other reason for sending more than one email a week is if you are sending your latest blog posts by email to RSS subscribers directly through your email client.

Here’s an example of one I get from Matt Cheuvront whenever he posts a new blog article:

Life without pants rss email In terms of when to send Tuesdays – Thursday has been proven to be best for open rates. Monday is a big no-no (you already have enough email to get through after the weekend).

Weekends can work depending on your audience. For example travel, lifestyle, leisure, music – this a good time for people to digest your content

You should send at least one a month if you want people to actually remember who you are and not unsubscribe because they wonder who you are and what you’re doing in their inbox. If you can’t manage that then I’d question why you have a list.

You can always ask subscribers at the time they optin what they want. As you can see from the comments above Danielle LaPorte has a few options of daily, weekly and monthly updates – your choice. This is great for catering to your audience.

Content Strategy

Depending on the purpose of your newsletter, the world is really your oyster here. I’ve seen all sorts of varieties of newsletters work for different people.

The most important thing is to know what the purpose of your newsletter is. Is it to drive people to your blog, website, Facebook page, forum , sales page, video or podcast? Once you know that you will focus what you include to ensure you get the right outcome from your readers.

In general though I’d suggest:

Shorter is better – either post tips, quotes, short paragraph updates and condensed intros to blog posts in your newsletter with the aim of making people click to be sent off to consume this on your website or blog

Keep the number of items in your newsletter to a minimum so that people don’t have to read a book (unless of course yours is a monthly digest people look forward to reading)

More links in an email are proven to make your email more clickable – as in one call to action is less favoured over several. The more things there are to click, the more likely people are to finally click on something of interest

That’s why you see in emails for a product or service launch, people often repeat the same link 2-3 times at different points throughout their copy to ensure people will take action. This is smart but it’s also human nature. You may not be convinced the first time, but second or third time around you’re more likely to take action.

Newsletter Design:

Much like the principles of great website design, you want to make sure there’s lots of white space to not overwhelm the reader, and focus them in on the content.

A header that relates to branding and is consistent with our online presence is a great idea. Here is a great example from Nathalie Lussier:

Nathalie Lussier email example

 

Call to action buttons, to connect on social media, are also easy to embed and include if that’s your business strategy. Even having `Like’ buttons and `Tweetables’ within your newsletter make good business sense as people understand how to share your content using these tools.

A sidebar is good for being able to present offers, ads (either for your own or sponsors), blog posts, visuals and links to content that’s important but not as important as your main message).

Keep the sidebar consistent so people know what to look for but change it with new visuals and links to keep it fresh. For example latest blog posts, media shout-outs, links to upcoming events.

Break up your content with headlines (title font) so people can jump to sections that interest them most.

Start with a personal intro – even if it’s just one sentence from your or your company to make it resonate more. Here’s Natalie MacNeil’s monthly newsletter intro.

She Takes On The World Newsletter

Have a clear description at the bottom of the email in the footer as to why someone is subscribed to your list (or how they got there)

Have a clear way to unsubscribe from your newsletter or update your profile. Christopher Penn puts his right at the top and makes it super obvious and funny – plus he changes it every time. Here’s an example:

Christopher Penn Almost Timely Newsletter

Managing Your Newsletter Subscriptions 

I just want to focus on this topic now as it’s just as important. If you are undertaking email campaigns yourself, it’s imperative that you read and monitor other peoples’ to learn what’s working, what’s not, how you differ, what you can do better and much more.

I like to look at design, style of writing, headlines that make me open them, use of visuals, calls to action and value they’re providing.

Here’s a strategy from one SMC member on how she manages her subscriptions:

Tam Le I’m trying the system of having it all go directly into a folder and each week I set time aside to go in and read it. It’s actually goes pretty quickly. But I break it down too. So eg. On Monday I dedicate a half hour to say reading x and x newsletters and at the same time if there is something I like and I want to share, I schedule it to post on on my social network.

Tuesday dedicate half hour to a different newsletter. Etc Etc. So basically I check in every week or two weeks to each one and I have fodder to post on my social networks. So far its hit and miss.

Tips on email management:

Unsubscribe

Just before I left to Africa I had a mass unsubscribe session and it felt so good. I started with newsletters that I was receiving having never signed up. These are usually email lists that have been bought by the company who just start sending you their crap.

I continue to do this weekly when one pops into my inbox – or get your VA to do it for you. It takes less than a few seconds. On days I feel particularly moved I will leave a message as to my reason for unsubscribing and tell them it’s bad practice to auto opt someone in to an email they never signed up for. It’s also bad for business as I’ll likely never use that company cos they pissed me off.

Filter

For the emails that made my shortlist I have created a filter, like Tam Le, where they get diverted to instantly thanks to Gmail filter settings. If you use Gmail, next time you’re in an email click on.

More > Filter Messages Like These

Then pick your filter terms –is it the subject line, who it’s from or something else?

Then create that filter. Gmail asks you if you want to skip the inbox and mark it as read. I usually do.

Then commit to visiting this new folder once a day or every few days (I call mine `To Read). If you don’t this system won’t work. What it does teach you though is if you don’t miss it, and you never visit the folder then you should unsubscribe permanently right?

Action

For those newsletters you do keep subscribed to, make sure you read them. Not necessarily straight away when they come in, but make time to click on the links, share them, thank the sender, check out their offers, read their blog posts.

I find so many people despair about email but really aren’t willing to solve the problem. At the end of the day it’s entirely in your control as to what content you consume and subscribe to (aside from those nasty people who buy lists).

So make sure it works for you and who you hear from deserves your time.

You should check out How to Organize Your Inbox In 15 Minutes A Day Or Less and 7 Secrets To Making Your Email Inbox Your New Best Friend.

How do you manage your newsletter and subscriptions? Got tips, then leave them below.

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome post Nat, and such an important topic. As you know I’ve struggled with the frequency issue and not wanting to email people very much :) I love all your examples and thank you for including me!

  2. says

    Oh you’re so welcome. I especially liked your latest newsletter – the personal heartfelt example tied into the Olympics seemed such a no brainer to me in terms of content and value.

  3. says

    Wonderful post Natalie! The title of my project for dealing with this situation and setting up my system actually was ‘Who Deserves My Time’…. funny coincidence. I love how in your post and our SMC discussions we’ve been looking at it from both perspectives… as the writer/sender and as the reader/recipient. It’s such a delicate balance. Thank you for the great tips on how to make sure we get it right :)

  4. DaisyHdez says

    Loved this post Natalie! Every morning I open my inbox and there’s a massive load of unread newsletter messages that I simply tick off to delete, I will be doing an unsubscribe clean up soon.

    I usually send one email a month to my short list of subscribers but have wondered about doing twice a month, is that be too random? I would love to shoot them an email once a week but my content is so limited right now, don’t want to scare them away :)

  5. says

    Twice a month is no problem Daisy. At the end of the day you set your readers up to know how often to hear from you and you can announce this, make it obvious on your website or blog and get them used to it by just doing. Those who don’t like it will unsubscribe.

  6. Cathy Goddard says

    This is awesome information Natalie. About a month ago, I opened another Gmail account and now use that for my newsletter ‘subscribes’ – except for special ones like yours that I want to see immediately ;) That Gmail doesn’t automatically go into my email editor so I actually have to go into that email address to see what’s there. I go in about once or twice a week and it’s perfect. I get to stay on top of stuff without feeling overwhelmed.

  7. says

    I love this topic… this has been the million dollar question for us and one of the biggest things we’ve taken into consideration was not only how often is too often for our subscribers, but also how often do we have really useful things to share as the last thing we want to do is send an average quality newsletter just for the sake of it!

    We now do a regular monthly newsletter and send other emails through the month if there’s something going on that we want to share in the interim and that seems to work well.. but perhaps we should be more regular? Like others who’ve commented here, I really struggle to keep up with many weekly newsletters that I’ve subscribed too even though I am interested and know I could learn a lot from the writer… so that’s been part of our decision to go back to monthly.
    Interesting to hear other perspectives on this one! Thanks NAt

  8. says

    You know I think it got easier when I started doing weekly newsletters. It becomes even more routine. You get in a flow. You think through your content in advance. You break down bigger chunks into smaller ones and that becomes more logical.

  9. says

    Dear Natalie I really love this one posting of yours so I wanted to share it on twitter BUT your fancy buttons just donot work on my Galaxy Tab p1000 just to let you know and maybe greetings from Innsbruck :-)

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