Some people think newsletters don’t work. Often, they’re right. In a world where most newsletters don’t work, it is common to be confused about how to define newsletter success.
What’s it good for?
Over the past ten years, I have paid attention to newsletters. I can tell you why most don’t work. It starts with confusion about what newsletters are good for. Confusion about how to monitor success comes from that.
How many next-day phone calls?
Many marketers expect a newsletter to generate results as soon as it arrives. Most newsletters do. However, when the results expected are new sales and referrals following each issue, most newsletter issuers eventually conclude that newsletters don’t work. By the way they gauge success, they’re right.
Check your perspective.
From a sales perspective, an ineffective newsletter should be canned. But first, consider other perspectives. For example, think from the perspective of the impression left on readers. What impression would it make on you to receive two or three newsletters, then none at all, from your accountant? your lawyer? your investment advisor?
What newsletters do
Because of mismatched expectations, many who issue newsletters conclude either that newsletter success is harder to achieve than they imagined, or that newsletters just don’t work. Yet, I see something in these situations that often escapes people struggling with an unsuccessful newsletter: A newsletter shapes people’s perceptions of you.
Four Brand Effects
It can do other things, such as announce news and complement advertising; still, every newsletter is a reputation-shaping instrument of brand management. Any newsletter will:
*leave a first impression, or
*mould an already-formative impression, or
*validate a formed impression, or
*confuse a formed impression.
A newsletter makes an impression.
How does this fit into a context where more sales and good referrals are wanted now? Consider the following example.
Maintain meaningful contact.
There are people who receive newsletters from their credit union who would never attend a competing bank’s grand opening in their own neighbourhood. They’re so loyal to the credit union that they don’t want the bank’s cupcakes or door prizes. The credit union’s newsletter refreshes their loyalty every three months. It maintains meaningful contact with them. It’s a tool of client retention.
Effective at what?
The problems solved by the credit union newsletter in the example include:
*competition of extrinsic incentives (e. g. “Free gift when you sign up!”).
*vulnerability to client attrition.
*the cost of acquiring new clients.
*the opportunity cost of losing profitable clients’ future business.
Watch the numbers.
Watch-the-books managers should direct attention to:
*business per client – segmented by profitability per client.
*referrals per client – with a profile of clients providing referrals.
*client attrition – with a profile of clients lost and why.
*net increase in clientele (including clients gained and lost by all means).
Monitor over time.
Review these metrics on a quarterly basis and compare each quarter. Use this review to set newsletter performance goals in tandem with business performance goals (even if your newsletter is not a quarterly). Why not measure newsletter success this way?
Steady, no spikes.
A good newsletter might not cause a spike in sales. It can prevent losing a client who is being wooed by competitors, though. What business problems do you want to solve? Is it reasonable to expect a newsletter to help solve them?
Client relations success
Newsletters shape market perception, first and foremost, and can help to maintain hundreds of business relationships with meaningful engagement. Those who accept this and apply it wisely can find great success with newsletters. Those who expect each issue to boost sales or to bring new customers are wise to consider other methods. A good newsletter as a client-relations tool improves business measurably over time.
Glenn Harrington is Principal Consultant of the Harrington Newsletter Company in Victoria, BC Canada.