In early March, Google announced that a new, clearly marked "unsubscribe" link would appear at the top of the header field in marketers' emails. The feature will be made available for most promotional messages with unsubscribe options. This is just another step—following the addition of the separate promotional tab—making it easy for Gmail users to remove irrelevant marketing messages from the inbox. Now more than ever, email marketers must be sure they are delivering relevant newsletter content for their readers, or emails will never hit the inbox at all, let alone be opened.
According to IMN's "Second Annual Content Marketing Survey," more than two-thirds of marketers state that monthly newsletters are an effective content marketing tactic to engage with customers and prospects. Relevant content not only strengthens relationships with the recipients, but also provides an opportunity for follow-up, which can turn casual newsletter readers into purchasers, no matter where they fall in the sales cycle. Before relevant content can be crafted, organizations need to align content to the goal. For example, if customer and prospect engagement is a top goal, thinking about the top five questions a prospect might ask and delivering that content would be a sound strategy.
Establishing a content strategy begins with asking basic questions such as:
- Which customers are you trying to reach?
- What are your content marketing goals? Is it retention? Upselling to current clients? Or is it just awareness of your brand?
Once those basic questions have been answered, there are several core best practices to keep in mind in order to effectively leverage content as a tool for improving customer engagement and loyalty.
Here are some best practices that marketers should follow to craft email newsletter content that is compelling, personalized and engaging for readers—content that they will not only continue wanting to receive, but will look forward to reading.
- Authenticity—Content must be authentic; it can't focus just on the sale. Consumers don't want to be part of a community just to be the target of veiled advertising. If the content isn't informative, engaging or entertaining, then consumers will view the communication as an annoying disruption that negatively impacts their dialogue with the brand.
- Frequency and Variety—To create a solid pipeline of fresh, engaging content, a mix of content types can be an effective approach—combining text, images and videos across topics including new product reviews, lifestyle tips, localized content, quizzes or open questions and trend articles. As long as there is tangential relevance to the brand, the diversity of content keeps consumers clicking.
- Relevance—Social media, email, mobile or a website are all effective tools to heighten interaction with customers. Who are your customers and what are they interested in? Content that speaks to them as individuals and relates to their everyday interests will keep them engaged and encourage them to participate in conversations.
- Transparency—While positive content and feedback is always welcome, negative comments are inevitable. Brands that seek to cover up or hide those unpleasant realities, in the end, only do themselves a disservice. Instead, remaining transparent and showing other consumers how your brand responds to negative feedback and experiences provides a way to actually increase loyalty and positive sentiments.
A comprehensive newsletter program will provide metrics on delivery statistics, open rates, when content items were read and by whom and the return path readers took to a website. Knowing what content was read will help tailor future offers to specific customers and prospects, but also tailor the newsletter content for future campaigns.
Additionally, marketers should consider that the content that engages customers and prospects at each stage in the typical sales funnel (awareness, consideration, decision and purchase) is often very different. Relevant, timely, meaningful content is what's going to get your emails opened. It's true on the Web, and it's true in email marketing. Your messages don't have a chance if they're not meaningful to the people you hope will open them. "What's in it for me?" is a question every one of your subscribers is asking, and it's something you should be aggressively answering with every communication.