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Are quarterly newsletters still useful?

This blog post was inspired by “Has the quarterly client newsletter become old news?” (free registration required) in InvestmentNews. Advisors’ opinions are mixed, says the article. So are mine. Quarterly newsletters are good for some people, but not for others.

Drawbacks of quarterly newsletters

  1. Quarterly newsletters can feel like a burden on the firm. If the employee writing it isn’t a professional writer, and has many other quarterly responsibilities, it’s hard for that person to make time to write a newsletter. The newsletter will feel like a drain. Also, if the writer isn’t enthusiastic or isn’t a good writer, the quality of the newsletter will suffer. Bad writing does not help to attract or retain clients. And overloading your financial professionals by adding writing duties may hurt your business.
  2. Canned or poorly written newsletters aren’t compelling. As the InvestmentNews article explained, in an opinion attributed to Josh Brown of Ritholz Investment Management, “newsletters often amount to more noise in a world where investors are already trying to navigate information overload.” This is especially likely for newsletters that are “canned,” meaning purchased from third-party providers and used as is. It’s also true of poorly written content, which is more likely to be written internally.

Pluses of quarterly newsletters

  1. It’s another way to “touch” your audience. Marketers say that it takes many “touches”—meetings, phone calls, and written and other communications—to make a sale. A newsletter is an easy way to touch many people at once. If your list consists of individuals who have opted in to your list, they’ve self-selected as prospects or users of your services.
  2. It allows you to express your personality and opinions. Your newsletter can stand out from the crowd when it shows off your personality or—at a larger firm—the culture of your firm. I’ve written about this in a two-part article called “How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing” and in an infographic.

Your opinions also matter. Your clients want to know how you think as you help them with financial decisions. You can also express opinions by reacting and commenting on the opinions of others. Lisa Kirschenbauer says in the InvestmentNews article, “there’s a lot of information out there, but [clients] don’t even know where to start, so we help them understand what information they should trust.” I’ve described how to do this in “Financial blogging tip: opinion + summary.”

  1. You can offload some of the work without sacrificing your originality or quality. Instead of buying generic third-party content, or sharing inexpertly content written in-house, you can get the best of both worlds. The least expensive way is to draft your newsletter yourself, and then have a professional editor clean it up. Another option is to have a professional writer interview you and then create your newsletter.

What’s YOUR approach?

Please answer my two-question survey about whether you send a quarterly newsletter. I’ll report back later.

4 e-newsletter landing page tips from “Epic Content Marketing”

“10 Ways to optimize your e-newsletter landing page” is one tiny but useful section of Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing. It’s important to craft your landing page—the newsletter’s signup page—effectively because, as Pulizzi writes, “your email database is a significant business asset.” Your email list is valuable because you control it in a way you can’t control social media connections.

Here are some tips from Pulizzi that will help you attract more people to your e-newsletter list because you convey the benefits of your content and make your signup easy to navigate.

Tip 1. Describe newsletter benefits

Explain how your prospect will benefit from subscribing to your newsletter, as Pulizzi suggests. For example, say how it’ll help them achieve financial peace of mind or otherwise improve their lives.

The benefits needn’t be limited to how your newsletter articles help readers. You can also offer a special report as an enticement for readers. That’s what I do with Investment Writing Top Tips.

Sharing testimonials or awards for your newsletter, another Pulizzi tip, also reinforces your newsletter’s benefits for the reader.

Tip 2. Make your landing page layout effective

Make it easy for readers to find your signup form on the page. This is why it’s important to “bring the signup above the fold,” as Pulizzi suggests, so it is visible without the reader scrolling down the page. You can view my newsletter signup page for an example of positioning.

Pulizzi also suggests that your signup should “include a button that says ‘subscribe’ or ‘sign up’ (not submit),” taking advantage of words with positive connotations.

Put less important information farther down the page. This includes a privacy statement, which is still essential. Pulizzi also suggests that you tell subscribers “what you will and won’t do with their information. This can go bottom of your page,” says Pulizzi.

Another design tip is to rid your newsletter page of anything that might distract the reader from signing up, says Pulizzi.

Tip 3. Show readers what they’ll getNov 2013 newsletter page 1

Pulizzi suggests that you show readers a picture of your newsletter. I think he means a small image of your newsletter’s first page (see example of my newsletter on the right) or maybe just a table of contents.

Also, link to a sample newsletter. Until recently, I’ve handled this by providing an archive of my monthly newsletters, instead of one sample that I’d need to update periodically.

Tip 4. Limit your newsletter sign-up form’s fields

Limit the number of fields in your newsletter sign-up form. As Pulizzi says, “ the fewer fields, the more likely prospects will be to sign up.”

When I started my newsletter I required only two fields, first name and email address. Now that I’m more confident of my newsletter’s appeal, I request, but don’t require, last names and company names.

Pulizzi’s book as a content marketing resource

If you’re new to content marketing, Epic Content Marketing offers a great overview of content marketing’s many components. It suggests steps that the reader can take to launch their content marketing strategy and manage their content process. There’s information for more experienced marketers too. I noticed some items for action, such as checking out the persona creation tool at upcloseandpersona.com. I’d also like to take a more analytical look at my content strategy.

As a writer, I noticed that some of the writing isn’t as tight as I’d like. For example, information that’s presented as a series of nine bullets screams for a rewrite. Too many bullet points exhaust the reader.

On balance, I enjoyed the book because it made me think.

Disclosures: I received a free copy of this book from McGraw Hill in return for agreeing to mention it in my blog. If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Two quick ways to boost your e-newsletter’s reach

Getting more from your existing e-newsletter is a winning tactic. A friend’s e-newsletter made me think of two simple steps you should take, if you haven’t already acted.

1. Make your e-newsletter viewable as a web page

You want your readers to see your newsletter at its best. But that doesn’t happen when they view email in a text-only format or with images blocked. Here’s what an excerpt of my my newsletter looks like in text format:

sept newsletter text

 

It looks much better with HTML enabled or in webpage format:

sept newsletter in html

 

Constant Contact makes it easy to add a link that folks to click to read your newsletter online. Other e-newsletter programs should offer something similar. You’ll end up with a link that looks something like the image below.

 

“Click to read online” link and social sharing icons

“Click to read online” link and social sharing icons

 

2. Add social sharing buttons

It’s important to make your content easy to share on social media. Why? Because many people prefer to discover content via social media instead of e-newsletter subscriptions. Personally, I’ve cut way back on subscriptions, but I check social media daily.

Your e-newsletter program should make it possible for you to add social sharing buttons to your newsletters. Your readers can simply click to share in their preferred medium.

On a related note, your e-newsletter program should also automate the push of your newsletters to social media. I try to go an extra step by customizing the content of the automated status updates generated by Constant Contact. The words that work as a newsletter title make not make the most compelling status update. Also, Constant Contact automatically inserts the hashtag #constantcontact into tweets, which I find annoying.

Your tips?

If you have easy tips for boosting your e-newsletter’s power, please share them. I always enjoy learning from you.