Email marketing masterclass tips for publishers

Email is still an essential marketing channel for publishers, both for developing relationships through newsletters and  selling subscriptions and event tickets. But how are new factors like the growth of social media, priority scoring for webmail and mobile usage affecting this established channel? And how can publishers continue to improve relevance and deliverability and use automation to save time? I attended a series of round table discussions hosted by Adestra, providing some advanced tips:

1. Use social media to build email databases

Social media is taking more of readers’ time and attention, so most publishers have a presence and are assiduously building up contacts on Linked-in, facebook likes and followers on twitter.  One niche publisher I spoke to now gets 20% of his site traffic from facebook.  But, apart from the traffic benefit  how can publishers turn their social media followers into customers?

As social platforms are increasingly turning into walled gardens,  persuading customers to hand over their email address is crucial so they can be added to a publisher’s database.  Facebook allows a direct email sign-up tab, but for Linked-in and twitter a better approach is to trail content and drive traffic to the website, where a prominent sign-up offer can capture email addresses.

Twitter feeds and blogs make email newsletters feel more newsy, as a simple RSS feed can populate the email template with the latest snippets.  Also worth including links to social media channels in the body of the content of the email newsletter.

2. Segment and make content more relevant

New webmail priority scoring systems such as Google priority inbox means  subject lines and preview pane content must be relevant to the recipient, as if  emails are usually not opened, then further emails will sink to the bottom of the inbox.  Create a welcome programme explaining the content of the newsletter and how to find content on the website to increase the likelihood of opens and clicks.

At each touch point,  ask for preferences, and have a simple “preference centre” page on the website.  Simply changing the order of stories and the subject line, so content is the same, but the recipient sees the most relevant story in their preview pane, is an effective approach.   RSS feeds can  pull in relevant content from the site into the newsletter eg specific news categories.

3. Exploit the growth of mobile

Check your email newsletters render well on mobile devices; business and consumer users are more likely to browse newsletters during travel time, so ensure they are legible and  links to the site work on mobile devices.

Apple doesn’t share purchaser data for apps,  but publishers who have added an optional sign-up box have built good email databases.  BBC Focus got a 45% sign-up for their newsletter from their app and 2589 new email addresses.  The welcome letter they sent out had a 49% open rate.

4. Stay vigilant on deliverability

ESP systems  measure bounces but can’t always track which emails go into junk or bulk folders.  It’s a particular issue in large companies, where IT departments can impose draconian filters.  First line of defence is to keep your data clean, and suppress hard bounces after 2 or 3 bounces.  Filter out non-opens and move them to a reactivation programme.

Avoid punctuation in subject lines.  Segment lists and mail more personalised/ targeted content to build up open rates.  And avoid sending large volumes in one go; split into smaller segments over several days.  Watch spam rates in webmail accounts, and monitor unsubscribe rates.  Test new templates in multiple email clients and test  a range of email clients especially  outlook  within large companies to identify trigger content.

5. Build in automation

Automating content preferences or drawing in RSS feeds to templates makes e-newsletters more relevant without adding to marketing team workload.  Haymarket automated the web feeds for Autosport’s newsletter, cutting editorial time spent in creating it to half an hour rather than half a day  and they still get a 12% click through rate.

Thanks to the experts at Adestra for patiently answering my questions. If you have experiences to share in how you use email to promote your business, please comment below, or join the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in to swap ideas and network with over 600 other specialist media professionals.

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About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, who help specialist consumer and b2b publishers develop their digital media and marketing strategies.  She also runs the Specialist Media Show, and worked with Adestra as email marketing partner, running an email marketing campaign to over 10,000 contacts and over 200 individual campaigns.  If you’d like to discuss how you could upgrade your email newsletters and marketing, do get in touch for an initial discussion.