Catch e-newsletter non-openers with this technique

Do you feel disappointed when some of your e-newsletter subscribers fail to open your newsletters? It happens to everybody. The average “open” rate for financial e-newsletters is about 18%, according to Constant Contact.

I’ve learned a technique that has boosted my open rates significantly in two tests. First, I increased the open rate on one of my monthly e-newsletters from 20.4% to 29.1%. Second, I increased the open rate on one of my Weekly Tips from 20.7% to 27.2%. Since then, I’ve achieved open rates greater than 30% on some newsletters.

The secret of my higher open rates

I achieved this improvement by re-sending those emails to people who hadn’t opened them within about a week following their original sending. It’s big win to boost the open rate this easily.

How did I do it? I had my virtual assistant use the QuickSend feature in Constant Contact. I imagine that other forms of e-newsletter software offer similar features. For example, Mailchimp has an option to resend an unopened campaign.

I use QuickSend on every issue of my monthly newsletter. I use it on just one of my Weekly Tips because I don’t want to overwhelm my subscribers’ email in-boxes. I time the Weekly Tip re-send so it doesn’t overlap with the re-send of my monthly newsletter.

How about YOUR newsletters?

Look at your newsletters. Think about how you can use this feature. If your newsletter is monthly, it’s a no-brainer to use this QuickSend approach. If you publish more frequently, be careful that you don’t overwhelm your readers’ in-boxes.

Please tell me if it boosts your open rate and, more importantly, if it helps you to improve your relationships with clients and prospects.

Another tip for your e-newsletter

In addition to using QuickSend, I have another tip for boosting the open rate for your monthly newsletter.

Don’t wait until your regular monthly date to send a newsletter to a new subscriber. I try to send weekly to new subscribers. I hope to attract more attention by contacting them while they still remember signing up for my newsletter.

Keep on clicking links, or make unhappy discoveries later

Do you ever get tired of clicking links in your online and emailed publications to make sure they go to the right place? I do.

It’s frustrating to click, click, click because 999 times out of 1,000 the link goes to the right place, and I see what I expect to see there. But what about the 1,000th time?

My shock from clicking a link

As I worked with my virtual assistant on my marketing emails for my upcoming investment commentary webinar, I thought, “I don’t need to continue clicking links to my registration page on EventBrite. We’ve used these emails and links forever. What could go wrong?”

After all, my assistants and I have used EventBrite since 2012. Over the years, each assistant has quickly gotten the hang of updating the dates and fees on the registration page, while repeating the same formatting.

I clicked anyhow, expecting to see the usual formatting with my logo at the top. Instead, I saw something similar (I didn’t think to save a screen shot) to the following:

My surprising result from clicking lniks

My logo and some of the usual text had been stripped out of my event registration page, apparently due to an “upgrade” in EventBrite’s software.

I tweeted to EventBrite to learn about the changes, and emailed my VA for help. Luckily, both responded quickly. Now I have a new registration page with my logo and some color, as you’ll see below.

new webinar registration page

 

What a difference clicking links makes! As a result of clicking the links, I found a problem that would have embarrassed me if I’d waited for my readers to discover it.

Clicking links lesson for you

What’s the lesson for you? Keep on clicking links to check that they meet your expectations.

After this experience, I think I’ll check more links than I used to. I must resist the urge to assume that everything is OK.

To learn more about my investment commentary webinar

Want to learn more about writing investment commentary? You’ll find the details of my webinar on my website and you can register for the webinar.

Not sure if you’ll be available at the time of the webinar? Don’t worry, you can watch a recording.

Print newsletter vs. e-newsletter for financial marketers

Should you send a print newsletter or an e-newsletter? I’m asking this question because I just added a 28-page paper newsletter to my “to read” pile. This newsletter wouldn’t have commanded my attention if it had come via email. While newsletters printed on paper and sent via the postal service are becoming dinosaurs, you may find them worthwhile.

The case for a print newsletter

The big reason to send a print newsletter is to break through the clutter encountered by e-newsletters. I have e-mail inbox rules that move most e-newsletters into a folder called “newsletter.” I rarely read them. I even skip newsletters that would interest or help me because there are too many of them.

Marketing via mail generally achieves higher response rates. According to “2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%“:

Direct mail achieves a 3.7% response rate with a house list, and a 1.0% response rate with a prospect list. All digital channels combined only achieve a 0.62% response rate (Mobile 0.2%; Email 0.1% for a Prospect list and 0.1% for House/Total list; Social Media 0.1%; Paid Search 0.1%; Display Advertising 0.02%).

Direct mail’s 3.7% and 1.0% response rates for house lists and prospect lists respectively look attractive compared with the 0.1% response rates for email. Of course, your experience may differ from the DMA’s results.

Another plus of print is your control of what readers see in front of their eyes. This contrasts with e-newsletters, where readers’ email programs or browsers may distort your layout or blank out images.

The case against a print newsletter

stamps for print newsletter

Stamps on the envelope of the 28-page newsletter that inspired this post

I see three main drawbacks to print newsletters: cost, timeliness, and lack of analytics.

It’s relatively expensive to send a print newsletter via the U.S. mail. A $1.57 worth of stamps adorned the newsletter I just opened. Other costs may include envelopes, paper (fancy stock is pricey), ink, and design work. Only design work might apply to an e-newsletter, though you may also need to pay for an e-mail marketing provider, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp.

Taking a contrary view on cost, “2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%” argues that direct mail’s costs are competitive with other media, perhaps partly because of print’s higher response rates. Here’s the article’s take on costs:

Cost-per-acquisition for direct mail is very competitive. Direct mail stands at $19, which fares favorably with Mobile and Social Media (both at $16-18), Paid Search ($21-30), Internet Display ($41-50) and even email ($11-15).

Print newsletters take longer than e-newsletters to reach your readers. That’s partly a function of the creation process, especially if an outside designer or printer is involved. Plus, you must give your newsletters to the post office and wait for their delivery.

Unlike e-newsletters, print newsletters don’t give you detailed analytics. You can’t see who opened your newsletter or which content attracted the most attention.

Use both instead of only a print newsletter

Enjoy some of the benefits of both printed and electronic communications by using both formats, if your budget permits.

For example, like the person who sent me the 28-page newsletter, you can email your list about with teaser copy about your printed newsletter. You can also include a link to an online version of your paper newsletter.

Another possibility: use print for your regular newsletters and use e-newsletters for more time-sensitive communications.

What are your results?

If you’ve used both a print newsletter and an e-newsletter, how do your results compare? Would you recommend one over the other? I enjoy learning from you.

 

Dinosaur image courtesy of Geerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Financial e-newsletters, kill your annoying, weak clickbait!

Some financial e-newsletters drive me crazy. I click to open them and find nothing there. Well, not nothing, but just enough to annoy the heck out of me.

If you’re doing what these newsletters do, please stop.

The most annoying habit of financial e-newsletters that I actually open

If I actually open a financial e-newsletter, I expect it to have some content. The body of the newsletter shouldn’t simply consists of links leading elsewhere.

Below is an example of a newsletter that failed the test. The first two blacked-out lines are the title of a blog post formatted as a clickable link. I’m concealing the firm’s identity because I assume this is an innocent mistake on their part. It’s the kind of thing that happens when non-professional writers create content.

annoying financial e-newsletters: an example

This is the only text that appeared in the main body of a financial e-newsletter that I received.

 

I think that the e-newsletter senders hoped that their links would serve as clickbait—provocative content that drives readers to a web page. However, the title of a blog post written by financial professional rarely has the flair to do that.

The senders could have achieved better results by adding a brief summary or introduction to their article on MarketWatch. That would have let me assess whether their topic interested me.

I understand that the authors probably are limited in how much they can copy from their MarketWatch article. However, that shouldn’t prevent them from writing teaser copy or saying “If you’re a ___ type of investor, this article can help you to ____.”

The second offense by this financial e-newsletter

clickbaitWhen I clicked on the two blacked-out lines, which are clearly meant to be clickable links, they took me to a post on the company’s blog. The content on the page? Exactly what you see in the image above.

Oops! I had to click again to reach the article on MarketWatch. What casual reader is going to take all of these steps with so little indication in the e-newsletter of what benefit they’ll gain from their clicks?

I understand that people want to drive traffic to their websites. But balance that against the risk that along the way you’ll annoy and lose readers for your financial e-newsletters.

I think the newsletter senders in this case should have linked directly to their post on MarketWatch. They would have avoided annoying me by sending me to their blog post that didn’t add anything new. Also, even without the link to their website, they would have learned whether their title was strong enough to interest me. Most newsletter programs allow you to measure your readers’ click. Although their measurements aren’t 100 percent accurate, they’ll tell you if one title attracts more readers than another.

Mistakes by other financial e-newsletters

What else do financial e-newsletters do to annoy or drive away readers? They:

  1. Add people to their newsletter distribution lists without asking permission, as I’ve discussed in “no, No, NO: My business card shouldn’t add me to your e-newsletter list” and “Our LinkedIn connection isn’t an invitation to spam.”
  2. Use weak subject lines in their emails. For an analysis of a weak title and how to spice it up, read “Stop! Get a better title, or forget winning readers.”
  3. Send newsletters that aren’t mobile-friendly. Today people are often read emails on their phones and other mobile devices that fail to display traditional e-newsletter formats effectively. For tips on how to be mobile-friendly, see “3 ways to make your emails mobile-friendly.”

They may also suffer from “4 reasons your emails don’t get results.”

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reader question: How do we get people to read to the end?

“How do we get people to read to the end of our newsletter articles and blog posts?” This question came up in one of my writing workshops.

I share some ideas in this article. I also suggest that you complement this goal by asking “How can we ensure that people who don’t read to the end—or who don’t read every paragraph—still grasp our main points?”

1. Write in a reader-friendly way

To attract and retain your readers throughout your articles, write in a reader-friendly way.

This starts with clearly identifying your topic and how it’ll help your reader. Do this in your introduction to snare readers.

Next, write headings that guide your reader through your article. These should show how your article will deliver on the promises made in your introduction.

Observe other good writing practices, such as strong topic sentences and clear, concise writing. Clunky writing discourages readers.

2. Use “gold coins”

Readers tend to bail out of reading online after less than two minutes. That’s the point where Poynter’s Eyetrack research suggests “establishing a ‘gold coin’ like a simple pullout quote or visual element that keeps the reader engaged about halfway through a long story.” This could be a provocative quote, graph, or photograph. Or it could be “a telling detail, a bit of description, an apt phrase, a moving anecdote,” as Dr. Ink says in “Dr. Ink Discovers the Sixth ‘W’.” As Dr. Ink says, “If these are spaced strategically in the story, the logic goes, the reader will have incentive to move down the path. As soon as the gold coins run out, the reader leaves the forest.”

Bonus: Capture readers who skim

It’s not realistic to get every reader to finish each of your articles. However, if you observe the tips listed above, you’ll get more mileage out of your articles. This is because you’ll communicate well with those who only skim. They can still grasp the gist of your articles.

Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My big newsletter mistake’s lesson for you

When’s the best day and time to send your e-newsletters? My January mistake upset my beliefs about this topic.

My usual routine and its rationale

I usually send out my monthly newsletter around 8:15 a.m. on the first non-holiday Tuesday of the month. I send it early in the day because my Constant Contact statistics indicate that many people open it before 9 a.m. I figure they get to work early. I’m happy to make it easy for them to read before they’re distracted by work.

I picked Tuesday because I’ve read that people are distracted on Mondays and Fridays as they start and end their workweeks.

I publish on a consistent schedule because I’ve read that your audience values consistency. They want to rely on receiving your content regularly.

However, I skip holiday Tuesdays because I figure my audience reads me at work. I hope you’re not checking email on holidays.

My mistake: Sunday delivery

I made my mistake in haste after proofreading my letter the Sunday before my usual Tuesday in January 2013. I forgot to schedule my newsletter instead of letting it default to sending immediately.

Oh horror! I imagined my newsletter languishing unopened in hundreds of email inboxes. I was extra mad at myself because this newsletter was most of my subscribers’ last reminder about registering for my blogging class. I probably cursed out loud that afternoon.

The surprising results

But lo and behold! Over the following days, my newsletter hit its usual level of subscribers opening it. I didn’t suffer at all for sending it at the “wrong” time.

What a relief! I don’t need to freak out the next time my newsletter deviates from its usual schedule. However, I plan to return to my usual schedule because it’s good discipline for me.

What’s the point?

My experience convinced me that Scott Stratten, who tweets as @unmarketing, was right when he said in “The best time never to send email” that “The best time to never send email is when someone else told you to” because what matters is what recipients do when they receive your emails.

On the other hand, Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development may be right that there are bad times, but no best times to send your emails, as he suggested in “Why Today is a Bad Day to Publish Your Newsletter.”

What works for you?

I’m curious about your results from sending e-newsletters at different times. Do some times work better than others for you?

Newsletters: Can you offer too much good stuff?

A newsletter can work with as little as one good article. While more articles may boost the number of clicks, my experience suggests that most people only sample longer newsletters. The bottom line? Don’t feel you need to push out a multi-article newsletter.

Highest ROI for one-article newsletters

You get the biggest bang for your buck by simply sending some sort of newsletter, even something with just a few lines of text. Why? Because the mere act of appearing in your subscribers’ inboxes is a powerful reminder of your existence.

The longer your newsletter, the more readership drops toward the bottom of the page

I find that the first article in my monthly newsletter typically gets the most clicks. Clicks drop dramatically as readers scan down the page. Still, overall, my newsletter has received way more clicks than average, even after I introduced a streamlined format in May.

What’s YOUR newsletter strategy?

I’m curious to learn about what number of newsletter articles works best for you. Please comment.

Should you go bold?

Bold type, which is thicker than regular type, can make it easier for readers to grasp your meaning. This happens only if you bold wisely. Go overboard with bold, and you may lose readers.

When to bold

Here are three ways I’d use bold in a blog post:

1.  Bold your headings or the first part of your numbered lists. I’m a big fan of headings as visual indicators of your main points as well as your shifts from one point to another. This goes for bolding new points on your list, but only when the bolded text is followed by plain text. A whole block of bold text is hard to read.

2.  Bold the key sentence in one or more paragraphs. Michael Katz of Blue Penguin does this well in his newsletter.

3.  Use bold for one key sentence. It could be the eye-catching content that draws readers to your blog post. Or the “call to action” that invites your readers to contact you.

Bold vs. heading format

Your choice of how to highlight your text may affect how well it is picked up by online search engines.

Some folks have told me that any bolded words are given more weight by search engines. On the other hand, Beth Graddon-Hodgson of WriteSourcing told me this only applies to text that is emphasized by a heading tag, so the text is treated as a title. However, this “subject is highly debated,” said Graddon-Hodgson. “Some people believe that ANY changes to text make a difference with SEO since they incorporate different coding.” Check with your SEO expert for the latest opinions on this debate.

Used wisely, bold can boost the impact of your writing. Give it a try!

Poll: Which high-impact prospecting technique works best for you?

Some marketing techniques work better than others for financial advisors.

The five most effective techniques for freelancers (who share key characteristics with financial advisors) include the following, as described in The Wealthy Freelancer:

 

  1. Tapping your network
  2. Getting more out of existing clients
  3. Investing in smart local networking
  4. Leveraging social media as a networking tool
  5. Employing direct mail

My network has always worked best for me, but the other four techniques help, too.

My referrals come mostly from current and past clients, many of whom subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter, another big contributor to my marketing successes. Although my clients typically work for large companies that aren’t big on social media, they seem impressed by my social media visibility. Social media has expanded my network to include some great professional colleagues, referral sources, and an occasional client.

Smart local networking inspired me to launch my business. Many Bostonians have been generous with their time, advice, and connections. The Boston Security Analysts Society became one of my first clients and its timely presentations have provided the topics for many of my blog posts.

Direct mail has been the least effective technique for me. But I probably haven’t given the U.S. mail a fair chance because I’ve been so lucky with referrals from my network.

Thank you, all of my colleagues and referral sources, who have encouraged me! Every little bit helps.

What works best for you? Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of this blog. Feel free to leave a comment, too. I’ll report on the results in my January 2011 e-newsletter.

Guest post: “What’s a tomato got to do with getting your fund discovered?”

Mutual fund marketing is the focus of this week’s guest post by Dan Sondhelm. His post originally appeared on SunStar Strategic’s FundFactor blog.

What’s a tomato got to do with getting your fund discovered?

by Dan Sondhelm

Have you ever grown a tomato? If so, you know it’s not as simple as just putting a seed in the ground. In fact, passionate tomato farmers often start their seedlings indoors several weeks before planting season. Once outside, they need a good dose of sunshine and the right amount of water, not to mention great soil, shelter from chill winds and a strong trellis. You get the idea.
Growing a fund requires similar specialized knowledge and attention. According to Morningstar, in the open-end mutual fund industry of over $7 trillion assets, the top 10 fund firms hold 58%. That’s one big tomato! The next 40 hold 28%, while you and the remaining 600 plus firms compete for the remaining 14%. And, fund flows follow a similar pattern.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been privileged to speak on panels addressing distribution for smaller funds. I’ve met dozens of smaller fund managers there. Some are managers with unique investment processes. Others are experts in their asset classes, still others have amazing performance. Yet, they’re frustrated by lack of fund flows, anxious about mounting expenses and hungry for ideas about how to get the recognition they deserve in this crowded market place. So, how do you differentiate your fund from the others and get discovered?

Like growing tomatoes, gaining visibility – and resultant sales – requires commitment. As a small firm, you’re competing for attention with firms who spend significant dollars on their marketing activities, both in the advisor market and at the retail level. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for TV commercials, glossy magazine style annual reports and sponsorships with major distribution platforms and public venues.

Making the Commitment to Grow.
Distribution is at the heart of the potential for success. But just getting on platforms is the equivalent of tossing your tomato seed in the dirt and hoping for the best. Successful distribution lies in nurturing the effort. Like adding water and light, protecting from the frost and spraying for bugs, growing your fund requires consistent attention. You have to ensure you’re in the right channels, and that advisors and investors know you, know your people and know your products.

We understand smaller firms are often made up of a handful of people. Not all firms can afford a wholesaling staff or have resources to sustain a significant marketing presence. So, how do you make it work?

Design a Distribution Strategy.
Write it down. Make someone accountable for each step. We all know that what gets measured gets done. Traditional marketing wisdom says you must address the four P’s: Product, Price, Place (Platforms), Promotion. This applies to fund distribution, too. But what about a fifth P, Performance? It’s true, not many investors will flock to a poor performing fund, but relying solely on performance is risky business. While performance may get you your 15 minutes of fame, performance chasers will drop your fund for the next hot item if they don’t really understand your investment philosophy and process or know the fund manager well.

Cover all the bases
Product

• Build a story around your investment process that highlights the opportunities of your asset class and process and differentiates you from your competition.
• Add personality by discussing your current sector strategy and top investment selections. Let investors know about the good decisions you’ve made in the past and the fund’s current positioning.
• And of course, commit to excellent performance.
Price
• Set competitive pricing – You’ll notice I didn’t say lower than average. Many managers think this is important, but many funds with lower-than-average expenses don’t sell. What does matter is how your fund compares overall to other funds that are selling.
• Set your share classes so that you are priced appropriately for the advisor types you are targeting. The preponderance of flows are going to no-load and load-waived shares. For smaller firms without existing relationships or sales teams, no load may be the way to go.
Place (Platforms)
• Select the distribution channels and share classes that make sense for your fund.
• Get on Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Pershing – these are the most appropriate for smaller firms with limited distribution. Then, establish a relationship with your account manager, who can guide you through the maze of opportunities available to reach platform advisors.
• Be realistic in your expectations. If you have no prior relationships with wirehouse firms, you are too small to meet their criteria and/or there is no demand from their representatives, it’s unlikely they will add you to their platform in the short term.
Promotion
• Establish relationships with advisor firm research teams to get and stay on their radar. Where applicable, find out and work toward meeting criteria to be placed on preferred/recommended lists.
• Take advantage of marketing opportunities offered by some platforms. Develop a strong relationship with your account manager so you are alerted to and aware of opportunities for proprietary mailings or sponsorship opportunities at local and national events.
• Consider Virtual Wholesaling – use third party endorsements and technology to communicate with advisors in a structured and timely way to attract and retain investors, while building your brand.
o Proactively engage the media. Let the financial press sell you; third-party endorsed news coverage in national and local business publications adds credibility.
o Leverage third-party endorsed reprints in your other sales and marketing efforts, in print, through social networks and on your website.
o Keep your website up to date with timely commentary and news coverage. Regularly post themes about your fund and the good decisions you made. If your site doesn’t allow you to add timely information, upgrade it. Advisors won’t come back if there is nothing new.
o Communicate. Regular communication with advisors is critical in order to keep your story top of mind. Consistently offering useful, meaningful information will position you in their minds as the expert on certain topics.
o Use monthly email newsletters to drive advisors to new content and fresh ideas on your website such as recent commentaries, Webinar promotions and media coverage.
o Host Webinars or conference calls for advisors on a quarterly basis.
o Take advantage of platform outreach programs to stay in front of their advisors; many of these are free.
o Develop a social media strategy to distribute timely information in the networks investors frequent. Social media allows you to listen to shareholder concerns and become part of the conversation.
Growth will happen if you take the right steps. Like a tomato, the more care and attention you provide, the greater the likelihood for success. Healthy growth depends a great deal on creating relationships. With today’s email, internet and social media opportunities, expanding your reach is easier than ever before. Make a commitment to building strong relationships where advisors and investors can learn to trust and respect your firm and its expertise.
Dan Sondhelm provides personalized services to money management firms and service providers, REITs, public companies and pre-IPO companies seeking to attract and retain investors. Dan is also the executive editor of the company’s online blog, Fund Factor.