Dynamic Newsletter – The Only Format That Makes Sense Today
Content marketers talk a lot about tailoring blog posts, social media activity and emails to the customer personas they’ve crafted, but when it’s time to use the same logic when developing a newsletter they seem to forget all about the diversity in their customer base and appear perfectly happy mass-emailing the same exact content to their entire email list.
That, obviously, makes no sense.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that if done right, newsletters can be a valuable marketing tool. But done right, in today’s terms, means one thing – creating a dynamic newsletter. Nothing else will do.
Topics covered in this post:
- Why create a newsletter at all?
- Why you shouldn’t create a newsletter
- Dynamic Newsletter – the only relevant newsletter format
- How to create a dynamic newsletter
Before we get to discussing the creation of a dynamic newsletter, let’s look at the broader questions:
Why create a newsletter at all?
Most company’s, large and small, when they come to map out their digital marketing plan, include the creation of a newsletter, why?
Here are a few reasons:
- Staying top of mind – popping up in your customers’ email from time to time with some engaging, valuable content might be just what’s needed to make sure that they remember you the next time they’re in the market for the product/service that you offer
- Brand building – by including content that conveys your brand’s values you allow your subscribers/customers a glimpse behind the product and into what your company’s all about. Potentially, if they like what they see, they might feel more connected to you and would be more likely to remain loyal for the long-run
- Shareability – creating a newsletter is relatively effortless, especially if you’ve already got the content ready in the form of blog or social media posts, and if it’s good, your customers might share it with their friends or colleagues, thus gaining you some more potential customers/subscribers
- Upselling – it’s much more effective to sell additonal products and services to people when it’s housed inside value-adding content such as a newsletter
Why you shouldn’t create a newsletter
After reading the above, it probably seems like a great idea to get to work and perfect a newsletter for your company too. Well… Not so fast, there are a few downsides:
- Potential reach – creating a newsletter is not terribly time-consuming, especially if you’re going to re-purpose content you’ve used before on your blog, however, it’s still worth noting that a 20% open rate for your newsletter is not a bad result, but is reaching 20% of your mailing list worth the effort..?
- Alternative cost – not to be confused we alternative facts, alternative costs are an actual thing, it’s the value or benefit you’re missing out on when you make one choice over another.
In this case, it means that if you have limited time to work on developing marketing material (and there’s always less hours in the day than you need), newsletter isn’t necessarily the most effective one to drive engagement, re-engagement or retention.
Developing your company’s social media presence, for example might be a much better use of your time. Read more about it at smartblogger
- Unsubscribers – by far the biggest downside is: If your customers don’t like your newsletter (and there are many reasons why they would – bad content, too much promotional material, boring, etc.) they will unsubscribe and you will never be able to reach them again.
You may very well lose them as a future returning customer simply because you annoyed them. What a waste that could be.
Dynamic Newsletter – the only relevant newsletter format
Let’s say you’ve weighed the pros vs cons and decided to go ahead and invest in creating a newsletter. That’s a fine decision if you have good, valuable, content to share with your customers and a well-defined distribution plan for it.
But don’t just throw together all the recent blog posts you’ve made on a nicely designed colorful template and beam it out to your customers.
Your customers are unique – you’ve probably already got an automated email marketing service set up that segments them into the channels from which they came (social, search, friend referral, affiliate, etc.) and the amount of time they’ve been your customer (one day, 30 days, 6 months, etc.) and sends each group a customized email message.
Why not do the same with the newsletter?
A dynamic newsletter does exactly that – tailor the content you have to your different customer segments.
In practice, this means more work on each weekly/monthly newsletter – you’ll need more content pieces.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it’s much easier to write good content and think of new topics to write about when you’re not trying to capture the interest of a huge, heterogeneous group (this would usually lead to more general writing that adds little value).
Not only that, writing personalized content is a much more effective route to reaching your goals.
What goals are these?
Well, you’re not spending your time on creating and distributing a newsletter for the purpose of creating and distributing a newsletter, are you?
You want the newsletter to influence its readers – get them to do something (buy, share, return to site, etc.), either now or in the future.
Devising a message that touches on who your customer is and on the thing that drives him/her to action is how you improve your chances of influencing behavior. You know this. You use this tactic in your direct response paid acquisition and retargeting activities as well as in your email campaigns, don’t you?
Time to implement it into your newsletter efforts as well, by developing a dynamic newsletter.
A dynamic newsletter, if it isn’t yet clear, is one in which different customers receive different content – the newsletter sections aren’t fixed but flexible and change according to the information you’ve got in your database about your customers.
For instance, if you know:
- which value propositions you offer where relevant to which customer segments (based on the channel and ad/post messaging they saw prior to signing up)
- the levels and types of interactions with your company and products/services (the number of logins/purchases and amount of time that has passed since they initially signed up)
- active time of day for customers (maybe because they live in different countries)
Why wouldn’t you use that knowledge to customize their newsletter experience and make sure it highlights the unique attributes that define your relationship with them?
How to create a dynamic newsletter
1.Dividing customers into segments
Take a look at the information you collect about your customers and based on it group your customers into segments of similar-enough individuals.
You will send every segment its unique version of the newsletter, so you’ll want to have those segments be as cohesive as possible in terms of content interests.
To start with, you might have 2-3 relatively broad customer segments to work with. Don’t worry, no need to go too granular yet, once you’ve started distributing your dynamic newsletter and analyzing its results, you might choose divide these groups into subsets. We’ll get to that.
2. Developing personalized content
Develop content unique to each of the segments you’ve created. Mind you, you don’t have to create 2-3 entirely different newsletters, you can very well have some pieces of content that appear in all newsletter versions, just make sure to have at least a couple of unique ones.
3.Creating separate email lists
After deciding on the segments and the content, you need an email service that enables you to target your emails (a newsletter is an email after all) to subsets of your entire email list, based on information you have collected about them.
Preferably, you’d have an email service that pulls info from your database and allows you to filter your email list based on it.
But if budgetary constraints force you to go for a free email service option that does not offer this, you’ll need to segment your customers into the different newsletter group and then upload a number of lists to the service.
4.Choosing your newsletter template
This stage is no different than with any other newsletter type – you’ll need to choose/develop a newsletter template. The template remains the same across versions, it encompasses the color scheme, section design, button integration and more.
5.Building a dynamic newsletter
Add your content onto the newsletter template, for each of your customer segments.
As with any newsletter, when adding links (whether to read more/ sign in / buy now, etc.), make sure to add tracking to them so that you know how many people clicked on each section link. Read more about it in my post about Conversion tracking with UTMs
You should now have 2-3 versions of the same newsletter (the amount depends on the amount of customer segments you’ve chosen), complete with both unique, segment-related content, and general content pieces as well.
Add in the relevant customer email list for each version and hit send.
6.Analyzing and optimizing
After you’ve sent out your dynamic newsletter you’ll start getting some data back.
You’ll know things like open rate per segment, and thanks to the adding of UTMs to all your newsletter links, you’ll also know click rate on links per segment, per newsletter section, as well as conversion rates to purchase or sign-in.
You could use these data to see which newsletter versions where, for instance, most/least effective in engaging the audience you chose to send them to and leading them to take action.
By extracting insight from your dynamic newsletter results you might come to a few conclusions – one of my newsletter segments is too broad, too diverse, and I should divide it into sub-segments if I want to increase my conversion rates.
You might also come to conclusions about the content itself – one piece of content really did not resonate with customer segment A, I might share less of this type of content with this segment in the future.
Whatever your insight may be, be careful not to jump to conclusions too soon. There are many reasons why a content section might have failed that has nothing to do with the quality of the content and its fit to the audience (for instance – the newsletter may have been too long and this piece of content, which is right at the end, was never reached by most readers).
Before thinking of expanding the number of customer segments or throwing out some content ideas, test and test again.
Have something to add or want to ask some questions about dynamic newsletter creation? Contact me here to continue the conversation
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