SUMMARY: If you'd like to use an email newsletter to market to CEOs or to financial investors, definitely check out this Case Study. It details how U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray's newsletters got started - and how they are working out.
We first received U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray's "The B-to-B Analyst" email newsletter in early Fall 2000. Since then we've been consistently impressed with its quality of information, plus the layout seems far more professional-looking than most corporate email newsletters these days. So, we contacted them to get the background details of this marketing communications campaign.
Midway through the summer of 2000, one of the younger analysts at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray realized the new marketplace he was covering -- business-to-business online exchanges -- was red hot. He already updated his section of Piper Jaffray's public Web site, GoToAnalysts.com, every month. However, he wanted to get much more aggressive with marketing communications.
So, the analyst started his own regular email newsletter, The B-to-B Analyst. At first he simply sent it out as a text-only email to his personal list, but its popularity grew so rapidly that VP Interactive Marketing Brent Otto stepped in to help maximize the newsletter's success, and to leverage the idea in other marketplaces.
Otto surmised that Piper Jaffray's target demographic of wealthy investors would appreciate a professionally laid-out HTML newsletter over plain text, especially for viewing charts and graphs. So he contracted with FloNetwork ™, one of the email delivery services that employs a "sniffer" to automatically deliver newsletters in the highest quality format (text, AOL-HTML, or regular HTML) that a recipient can view.
Predictably with the success of the first one, more of Piper Jaffray's analysts got the newsletter bug. Otto was careful to set forth guidelines to minimize the risk of any analyst starting something they couldn't keep up with and disappointing their audience. He explains, "We say if you start it, you have to commit to it and keep writing it."
Otto only allows analysts to start newsletters if they can confidently agree to the time it will take to write a new issue at least twice a month. He says, "You need to have a newsletter out at least biweekly. Market information does happen that fast. There should definitely be enough things in two weeks that they have something to write about." He encourages analysts to organize their workload so they're automatically collecting information every day as part of their "regular business," and setting it aside to write up in newsletter format later. If information is collected in this manner, it only takes analysts one-to-three hours at their editorial deadline to write an average issue.
Otto decided to keep the newsletters full-text so recipients can read an entire issue without clicking back to a Web site. He says, "We like to make it as simple as we can." Studies show that typical high-level personal investors tend to be older men who prefer to print out and read newsletters offline, so a letter forcing clicks back to a site to view articles wouldn't work as well with this demographic. However, each Piper Jaffray newsletter does include links for further research and information.
Opt-in subscriptions are driven by three, cost-efficient, tactics:
1. Easy subscription forms at Piper Jaffray's GoToAnalysts.com Web site.
2. An opt-in subscription offer included in each participating analyst's email signature (SIG), so everyone they email throughout the week sees it. Here's a sample SIG:
3. Registration links on partner sites with similar demographics. (For example, we first learned about The B-to-B Analyst letter from a link on related industry Web site, NetMarketMakers.com.)
While, as Otto notes, it's nearly impossible to assign exact sales growth figures as a result of the five email newsletters Piper Jaffray now publishes, he says, "We have gotten great feedback from very high net worth clients. They tell us the newsletters are very useful. It also shows prospects that we are on the cutting edge. I don't know too many other brokers that have five newsletters at this point and that are being this aggressive about it."
Otto says he's also discovered that a lot of CEOs in the industries the analysts cover sign up for these letters. "The feedback is very positive, they like the information. The analysts seem to be writing the right stuff." We think it's worth noting that this type of content seems to be far more popular with the target demographic than perhaps content written by a marketer or PR person would be.
Each topical newsletter's popularity is also a useful indicator to Piper Jaffray about what specific investment areas prospects are currently interested in. Otto has seen the B-to-B industry "cool off a little bit" while investor interest has grown in other technology areas. He says, "We know the dot-coms are going down. Now people want to know what's the next technology that will win? The search for information is increasing because the market is so unstable."
Does Otto fear the consequences of growing individual analysts' celebrity through their newsletters? He says not. "It's a challenge for every broker. As brokers we sell our people and what our people can do. You can't run from the fear of losing them. Actually we think of the newsletters as more of a recruiting tool, if someone knows Piper Jaffray takes these steps to market their people they might want to join us."
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