SUMMARY: Is your email newsletter packed with tips, articles and info? Please check out this brief Case Study for an idea on how you might be able to improve your response rates -- by slashing your content and maybe increasing frequency.
Since 1999, business coach Maria Marsala has sent out a monthly email newsletter hoping to generate new consulting clients.
In the beginning it worked fairly well, "I was attracting at least one-two clients per month who would be with me at least three months or so."
She also saw good response to lower-commitment offers such as $30 teleseminars and ebooks, whose happy buyers were often then amenable to being upsold to consulting.
Encouraged Marsala optimized her site for high rankings in search engines (she's generally in the top 10 for the term "business coach" in Google) and added a newsletter sign-up box prominently on her home page. Plus, she joined bartered co-registration programs where a group of small business sites all put a pop-up offering each other's newsletters on their sites.
Her list quickly grew from the few hundred people who'd signed up at in-person seminars Marsala taught, to more than 3,000 names.
Only problem, the number of consulting clients the newsletter generated was slowing badly. The last six months of 2002 were a total bust. Instead of six-12 new clients from the newsletter, she got zero. Something had to be done.
Marsala suspected she had two different problems with the newsletter, both of which are fairly typical for consultant newsletters:
Problem #1: Too many articles and tips per issue
Each one of Marsala's monthly issues was packed with goodies - including at least four tips, useful links, and articles, as well as two sales offers.
She kept the articles short and the typeface extra-big so it was easy to read -- but still an average issue printed out to about six pages. Now she wondered if prospects simply didn't have the attention-span for so many different items jammed into one issue.
Problem #2: Worthless readers
As her list grew from various barter deals, Marsala noticed an nflux of notes complaining about the newsletter's small ads. These new people wanted the content without the ads. Marsala figured if they didn't value her advice enough to "pay" for it by putting up with a few innocuous ads, they weren't likely to ever pay for actual consulting services.
Plus, as fewer and fewer new clients came in each quarter, she began to wonder if the rest of the list that didnít complain would ever convert at all. All names are not of equal value, and maybe these were worthless.
Solution: Relaunch as single-item newsletters to new list
Marsala ripped apart her single monthly newsletter into three new newsletters. This time, each had a specific focused topic:
a. Monthly tip: A single detailed advice article b. Monthly special: An offer for one specific ebook or teleseminar c. Monthly success story + teleseminar calendar: A Case Study written interview Q&A style, and a brief listing of upcoming teleseminars
All three newsletters featured the same lay-out and color scheme plus similar navigation links to Marsala's site; plus, all three started with a brief inspirational quote. They were clearly related as a family of newsletters, despite their disparate focus.
Because the frequency and content was changing, Marsala felt it was inappropriate just switch her list to the new format without again requesting permission. So, she sent her list a few sample issues, along with several emailed notes letting them know that they had to sign up for the new version or they would not get any newsletters from her again.
By June 2003, the changeover was complete.
About 17% of Marsala's old list chose to sign up for the new format. That's a decrease from about 3,000 names to just 500. However, Marsala is happy about this because results are already much stronger than before now that she's cleared "dead wood." "The quantity went down but the quality went up."
She says, "What I've noticed:
1) I recognize the email addresses of the folks who quickly moved over to the new list.
2) I'm getting [positive] unsolicited feedback from the readers now.
3) I'm getting more solicited feedback.
4) Some readers join and after an ad or two they leave. No problem there, they aren't my ideal clients anyway. My ideal clients are business owners who know that we all deserve to be paid for our services.
5) I received a few notes from long time readers, who said that I was a leader, showing them how to do it right!"
Best of all, she's also started to get new consulting clients and more single item sales as a result of the revamped newsletter. "To me, the most important rates to watch are sales. I'm back on the right track again."
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