How to turn your boring newsletter into a customer acquisition machine
Since newsletters are the oldest tactic in the playbook that everyone’s using, there’s no way to use them to win new customers, right? Wrong! A curated newsletter can be one of the strongest and most effective customer acquisition channels for your agency. Here’s how to transform your agency’s mediocre newsletter into a lead-generating machine using curated content.
Email still reigns supreme when it comes to marketing channels, with a spectacular return of $40 on every dollar invested.
But email isn’t an easy channel to own. It requires high-quality, high-cadence content that makes subscribers want to open and read your emails. If your agency doesn’t have a constant stream of great content for your newsletter, not only will you get a low open rate, but the mediocre quality will negatively impact your brand if the audience is perceiving your emails as spam. This is where a curated newsletter can help. By providing a collection of relevant and interesting information to your audience, you present yourself as a trusted thought leader in your field. The key is to avoid focusing your email broadcasts on what’s going on inside your organization and focus instead on curating a newsletter that lets you concentrate on the needs and wants of your customers, earning you a more engaged group of followers in the process. Curating the best content on the web will create newsletters your subscribers want to open and read. To get there, it’s not enough to throw together a few links and send them to your list. You need to understand who your readers are and what they care about so you can provide content that’s truly valuable to them.
Focus on Solving Your Readers’ Problems
When most agency executives think about email, it’s usually through the prism of using it as a sales tool — building lists of leads and nurturing them into customers. However, that approach rarely works as it doesn’t take into account the needs of your audience, who don’t want to listen to any company’s self-promotion. Indianapolis-based agency Well Done Marketing was struggling with their email newsletter for this very reason. They were using email as a sales tool, and the results were underwhelming. People hate to get sales pitches — i.e. spam — in their inboxes, and Well Done’s readers were no exception. According to associate creative director Matt Gonzales:
People can sniff out a sales stench. If what you write stinks of marketing, your audience stops reading.
To succeed with a newsletter, you have to start by focusing on your audience. To understand your readers and the ideal customers you want to attract, start with your existing customer relationships and look at the social media posts they’ve responded to or the comments that come through your customer support team. Find out what they care about and what they need help with — for example, Nick Frost from Mattermark asks his followers direct questions on Twitter and invites them to comment.
Treat your newsletter as a product created with the knowledge you’ve acquired about your customers. Your central purpose should be to help your audience overcome their challenges, sometimes even before they’ve had the chance to tell you what those challenges are. Newsletters that deliver results focus on helping readers overcome their challenges. Use this foundation to turn your newsletter into a lead-nurturing machine. When you know your readers well, you have the ability to provide value to them in the form of a great selection of resources, even if you haven’t produced that content in-house. This tactic can be especially useful to agencies that work with clients with long sales cycles, as it can help them build and keep strong relationships with such organizations. For example, if you’re selling to a large enterprise where multiple departments need to approve the deal, you can use your curated newsletter to provide information that proves to stakeholders from various parts of your target organizations that you understand the entire industry as well and how your services can help improve their bottom line.
Build Authority and Point Customers Towards Specific Ideas
To build authority with your readers, you have to start by getting to know them on a deep level, but that’s not going to be enough on its own. You need to immerse yourself in your chosen topic and understand the questions and challenges in the industry and all the perspectives on them. Since you’re already working in the space, you wouldn’t be starting from scratch — a newsletter will give you another opportunity to showcase your extensive knowledge. These efforts will be rewarded when people begin to recognize you as someone who is working on the leading edge in your speciality, and they’ll want your viewpoint.
From Hiten Shah’s Product Habits, that focuses on building and growing SaaS products, to Mattermark’s Daily newsletter with blog posts from investors and founders, there are many examples of brands and influencers using newsletters to establish their authority in a specific area. Hiten is already deeply immersed in SaaS, and curating a newsletter allows him to leverage this knowledge in the service of building a separate product and boosting his personal brand. For readers who already consider Hiten a thought leader in the industry, his weekly newsletter offers an opportunity to access content that he finds truly valuable.
Besides building up the reputation of your agency, you should use your curated newsletter to educate your audience and point them in the direction of new tactics they can try and services you can provide for them. For example, if you’re an agency helping small to medium-sized businesses with paid Google ads, you can include basic resources on how to get started with Facebook advertising in your newsletter. With this approach, you’re helping customers expand their horizons and potentially earning you another line of business — if your customers come to consider Facebook ads, your business will likely be the first place they look for help.
Drive Attention to Your Original Content
If you’re putting resources into producing original content but not sending it to your audience, you’re doing your agency a disservice. Because email is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to expand your footprint, it works as a force multiplier for your content. Much like a lever that lets you lift heavy objects with less effort, email can help get your content in front of more eyes without doing much more work.
By including links to your own articles in your curated newsletter, you’re associating yourself with the best content in your field. That allows you to elevate the status of your own content and give more authority to your brand. The work you do to find and curate the best content in the field will also help you identify questions your readers can’t find answers for. This will allow you to produce content on those topics that put you among the best in your niche. Use your newsletter to promote this content — as long as it’s relevant, it won’t look out of place. Hiten Shah often features his own posts in his curated newsletters. He’s already reviewing the best content on SaaS from around the web, so he wants his writing to stack up to — and even surpass — that of other people, making him the ultimate authority on the subject.
Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve with your newsletter, it’s time to develop an execution plan.
How to Create a Curated Newsletter
There’s a sea of opportunities when you get started with a curated newsletter. The following steps will help you stay on track and launch your newsletter successfully.
Step 1: Determine the scope
The most important thing to consider when launching your newsletter is the focus of its content. This should closely match both the interests of your audience and the area in which you want to establish your authority. You should also consider whether the content you include stands in the top, middle, or bottom of the marketing funnel so you can provide relevant resources to readers who are in different stages of the buyer’s journey. For example, an agency specializing in paid advertising for small and medium-sized businesses will be sharing top-of-the-funnel resources on how to get started with keyword research. Once they’ve moved those prospects to the stage where they’re considering working with an agency, they can send them content on why it’s better to outsource the management of paid campaigns and how to choose a good partner. This advice anticipates their needs and helps them move through the consideration stage and towards making a decision. Instead of spending hours researching industry trends, base your content on your experience with your past and current customers. This select group of consumers gives you an excellent testing ground for understanding what best resonates with your target audience. You can then use this insight to reach new prospects.
Step 2: Create a brand for your newsletter
Presenting your newsletter as a separate product that’s closely associated with your main brand–but is not identical to it–requires delicate balancing. Striking that balance allows you to cast a wide net and reach more people than a regular in-house newsletter. There are two important things you need to get right to achieve this. First, create a separate brand for your newsletter. This will help you distinguish it from generic email campaigns sent by other agencies to promote their services. Give your newsletter a name and a logo to make it more recognizable. Second, make it easy to sign up for the newsletter. Set up a landing page under your main website where people can sign up to receive this collection of thoughtfully chosen pieces. Make sure your branding and copy make a clear link between the curated content and your primary brand.
Step 3: Select quality material to share
Picking out the best content for curation means you’ll need to spend considerable time absorbing the material available in your chosen space. Feedly is a tool you’ll find invaluable for collecting and organizing your sources. But there are other, less effort-intensive, methods to source great content for your newsletter. Promoting resources produced by your customers — when that content is relevant — is an easy way to build even stronger relationships with them. Mattermark has made its process transparent by inviting the members of its community to submit article suggestions for its newsletter. No matter what sources you prefer for gathering links, remember that the content you share reflects on your brand. To quote Gary Vaynerchuk, “If you’re sharing it, you’re endorsing it.” Spend enough time to read through and validate the quality of every piece of content you consider adding to your newsletter.
Step 4: Send out your newsletter
Set a schedule for your newsletter that you can stick to, even if that means sending out an email once every two weeks or even less often. It is more important to be consistent with the quality and the schedule than sending an email blast every week. Pick an email marketing tool that will make your life easier. At a minimum, you want to be using a product that makes it easy to create a custom template that you can easily reuse for each issue of your newsletter with little to no effort. There are specialized tools for running curated newsletters like Revue, Curated, and TinyLetter. If you need more options to design your email campaigns, tools like Campaign Monitor can save you a lot of time.
Email Can Give Your Agency a Powerful Boost
Email is an effective channel for building relationships with current and prospective customers because it’s personal and doesn’t require enormous effort. However, that also means that the emails you’re sending should never be boring or formulaic. Becoming a “content DJ” allows you to send emails that readers can’t wait to open without having to spend hours producing original content. Make the most of your existing customer relationships — and your marketing budget — by offering collections of valuable material that directly meets the needs of your target market. A curated newsletter opens the door for your agency to create stronger relationships with existing clients, position itself as a thought leader, add new subscribers, and engage readers in a way that leads them to become paying clients.