April Mullen of SparkPost says content distribution MUST be prioritized if you want your content strategy to be effective.
In this short clip from her Newsletter Fest 2021 Session, Marketing's Big Opportunity is the Publishing Model, this seasoned director of brand and content marketing established a strong case for brands to act more like media companies, especially when it comes to delivering content readers want.
Whether you’re an independent creator or a marketer, you know that publishing something on your website means pretty much nothing if you’re not able to get eyes on it. And the purpose of content is for it to be consumed. That’s why email newsletters sent to an audience that has opted in and expressed desire to hear from you should be a high priority in terms of making sure you optimize your newsletter to distribute the content they crave.
Watch this segment to learn why sending subscribers what they want (quality content) should be a top priority.
For some context, he and his business partner grew The New Paper to $1M in revenue in 2 years.
They started with ads and found that it took a ton of time and energy. Michael’s finding throughout the process was that direct to consumer brands were happy to test ads in The New Paper, but they were running conversion-based ads—“buy this thing now by clicking”—not brand ads—“we just want you to recognize our name and learn a little bit about us”—and saw diminishing returns when running multiple ads in issues of the same newsletter.
When Michael thinks you should sell ads:
For extra context, The New Paper switched to paid subscriptions and made that change part of its mission to be unbiased. They wanted to offer a user-first experience and decided to make the change a part of their value proposition: they promote their content as uninfluenced by sponsors.
When Michael thinks you should to choose paid subscriptions:
Brands should take notice and start running brand ads in newsletters with niche audiences. Imagine being able to teach thousands of people interested in a specific topic a little more about your product each week.
Also, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. I don’t believe all creators who sell sponsorships are influenced by the brands that sponsor them. I’m a fan of both models and I think they can even co-exist if the quality of your content and reader engagement support both.
I do like that he’s given us some thought paths to determine what’s best for your newsletter.
Leah Ryder, Trello brand lead & Write | Werk newsletter founder encourages marketers to hold themselves to high journalistic standards when they create content.
Listen to what she has to say in this short video clip from the Newsletter Fest 2021 panel where journalists and marketers discussed their similarities and differences.
Kirk Bentley thinks you should pick someone with experience.
As Business Development Director at WordFly, he has helped hundreds of theatres, museums and music venues around the world create innovative email marketing campaigns that power ticket sales, engage audiences, and drive membership.
In this industry, and others, he sees handing the job of creating emails (including newsletters) off to the most junior staff as a mistake.
Because email is a big revenue driver, and he thinks the person overseeing its execution should be adept at goal setting and have some marketing skills. You know, instead of hiring an intern and saying, “Go do the emails.”
This short video clip is from his Newsletter Fest 2021 session: Intermission: How Arts & Culture Venues Are Using Email To Stay Alive, where he walked us through the pandemic pivots several venues made to stay in touch with their audiences and drive revenue during the pandemic.
Check it out to get some ideas and be inspired by the power of email.
P.S. I really want to receive an email from a penguin one day (see Marketing below for why you might need a mascot to do your storytelling).
Sometimes your newsletter is just for one segment of your audience, but sometimes it makes sense to provide content that multiple segments will find interesting and let them choose their own adventure as they scan for what appeals most.
This can especially be true if you send the same information to people who subscribe to your free and paid services. It’s what we do here with Opt In Weekly. While the focus is content that helps newsletter creators in general, we have categories that will be more or less interesting to different types of creators. Plus, we run a Curated News section that is for product users or our product curious readers.
Megan Bowen of Refine Labs introduced some amazing ideas during her Newsletter Fest 2021 session, Leveraging Newsletters for Customer Success, Growth, and Advocacy.
In this short excerpt from her Q&A session, she brainstormed how a recurring section of your newsletter could be used to deliver links to a customer success guide or tutorial.
✍️🎥 Create long form help content they can use to get more out of the product
🗝️ Highlight a different key lesson in each issue as a quick tip
📚 Remind them that the tip is part of a more comprehensive guide and link to it, too
The Simple Focus Software team gave this a try today in our Pulse newsletter.
Thanks for the pointer and for the great session, Megan!
I’m trying something a little new with this Screen Share.
The concept is captured in this short video clip.
Let’s discuss what qualifies email newsletters as “need to have” vs “nice to have.”
Maybe something on this list?
Can you think of others?
Add them to the comments of this LinkedIn post or reply to this email.
What is placement strategy?
Creating content for (and getting recommended by) websites and communities who influence your niche audience. Anum uses this to get Below the Fold placed in front of those audiences by guest posting if the newsletter can be mentioned in the content.
Why does it work?
It sends inbound traffic from existing audiences (as opposed to creating your own blog and building up SEO, which she also encourages, but doesn’t prioritize as highly).
Watch the video to learn why Anum loves placement strategy and how she does it.
Psst! This is an excerpt from her Newsletter Fest 2021 Session How to Manage Your Newsletter Like a Product.
“As long or short as necessary to convey the message”—Stephen King, via Margo Aaron at Newsletter Fest 2021.
How to figure out a good length (all info is extracted from this 4-minute video clip of Margo’s brilliance):
🚥 Find the intersection between what you’re trying to say and who you’re saying it to.
Are you writing to someone who is checking email during a meeting and will likely skim?
Are you writing to someone who is a writer themselves and loves to get lost in a story?
Let the true behaviors (not the buzzwordy, made-up ones) of your target audience dictate the format they’ll be most likely to engage with.
🚦Identify the things you are good at (one-liners, visuals, storytelling), lean into those things, and “edit the cruft out of your piece.” (Cruft means “unnecessarily complicated,” in case you were about to look it up.)
People don’t say something “was long” because it was long. They say that if it’s boring. Trust me, I read Margo’s very long newsletter every week and I don’t think of it as long because it’s incredibly entertaining.
🛑 Avoid a self-important posture.
You and your brand are not the stars of your newsletter. The people reading it are.
What do THEY need to hear? What will get THEM to pay attention?
⚙️ Reverse engineer how you approach your market.
Thinking about what your audience needs to hear will answer your length question.
If it doesn’t, go with one word and a meme.
Psst! Margo wrote about this last week. You should check her article out.
Dan Oshinsky says yes, but they have really high expectations, so don’t send them junk.