This post contains excerpts of our recently published ebook: “ROI or RIP: the lean content marketing handbook for SMBs” that you can download for free here.
According to research performed earlier in 2014 by Gigaom and reported by eMarketer, email marketing is still the most commonly used method of digital marketing, with a whopping 86% of respondents claiming to use it. If that’s not enough, though, over half (59%) of B2B marketers surveyed by HubSpot say that email marketing is the most effective channel for generating revenue.
Email marketing needs content and content marketing needs email
Why are email marketing and content marketing such a great match?
Because email marketing ends up being spammy if it’s entirely self-promotional. Nobody likes to read about your 15% end-of-month discount endlessly. Content that answers your audience’s question – aka content marketing – is not spam nor advertising: it becomes something your audience will be eager to find in their inbox. How does content perform vs promotion in email marketing? Here’s the data from 2 years of experimentations that we published the results of last year on our blog:
Because content requires distribution before it can generate some. “Write it and they will come” doesn’t work: you need some initial spark to ignite your content marketing – as Mark Schaefer puts it – and email is perfect for that as your email subscribers are your most loyal readers and the more likely to share your content to their own social networks. Sending them your content will amplify your own distribution through social networks.
In short, email needs content and content needs email.
The 3 minimum things you should put in place to combine email and content marketing?
An email platform to manage your mailing list and distribute your email content newsletters: if you don’t have any, MailChimp is your best bet (we like Constant Contact too but MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers which is hard to beat).
Subscription forms: make it easy for people to sign up for content updates from your company. On your blog, landing pages, gated content, etc… (again, MailChimp’s got you covered with embeddable code that’s easy to configure)
A CMS-Newsletter integration: that’s the important part that will save you time and which is critical to understand. Creating newsletters from scratch every week is too much a pain: use software likeScoop.it Content Director to automatically generate templated newsletters from your created or curated content. Cut down the process to a simple review, minor edits and send!
How to optimize your content email newsletters?
There are many ways to experiment with email newsletters (MailChimp even includes A/B testing features) and we ran a lot of experiments ourselves (again, see that post for complete results).
But a key takeaway from our experiments and from discussing with hundreds of our clients about this is that
the more you can send newsletters the higher the engagement…
… up to the point where you degrade your content quality and become spammy.
For instance in our own case, we moved from 2 newsletters per month to 4 newsletters per month while maintaining strict quality criteria on our content and this is what happened:
We reached 2.5x more people while maintaining our open rate (which means our quality didn’t lower).
This means you should find the sweet spot in the following diagram:
How do you do that?
Scaling your content publishing without overinvesting nor compromising your brand with poor quality content is precisely what lean content is all about and what we’ve covered in the Lean Content Marketing Handbook for SMBs.