Email newsletters are so…
- WRONG! Email newsletters are terrible!
- RIGHT! Email newsletters are amazing!
- YOU FOOLS! It depends!
The answer is: it depends. (You are not a fool, so you knew that.)
The effectiveness of an email newsletter depends on who you ask. It also depends on a newsletter’s purpose, who is reading a newsletter, who isn’t reading it, and why.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of newsletters. Then we’ll examine how newsletters compare to a blog. Maybe you’ll choose to do both; maybe you’ll stop doing one or the other.
Newsletters: Highly Effective, But Not the Only Choice
Email newsletters are among the oldest tools of digital marketing. The advantages are many, and the rewards, well, legendary.
Email newsletters were game-changers. They provided massive conversion rates and cost virtually nothing. Newsletters began as novelty and grew into a necessity.
Let’s look at the advantages of email newsletters:
Email newsletters arrive in the (relative) privacy of an inbox.
Email inboxes exist in a curious space in the minds of prospects and clients. They are at once voluntary (that is, you actively subscribe to a newsletter), yet also highly personalized.
You, the prospect, have selected the sales and marketing messages tailored to your personal interests and needs. This is ultimate “opt-in”.
Regularly delivered email newsletters deliver value in two ways. First,
they deliver whatever educational or other relevant content your prospect wants. Secondly, repeated exposure to your business brand makes it feel more tangible and familiar.
Businesses with successful email newsletters boost credibility thanks to the above-mentioned familiarity.
This builds trust, and ultimately, that yields sales. Newsletters are a wonderful stage to move people from prospects to customers to raving fans.
Email newsletters are extremely inexpensive to produce when compared to other marketing techniques.
Many free options exist for two key parts of a newsletter: photos to illustrate it and a mailing service to distribute it. Additionally,
BONUS: Email newsletters can reinforce other sales and marketing efforts by functioning as a centralized hub.
Sales-ability and Platform-ability
Is “sales-ability” a word? Maybe not, but actual sales ability goes hand-in-hand with a related email newsletter benefit, too, which we’ll call “platform-ability”.
You see, the strongest sales position exists in a domain you control. A blog is a platform you control.
Other platforms are useful and profitable, such as social media, but these require you to pay. In contrast, you control all aspects of a blog.
BONUS: Marketers can measure every part of an email newsletter’s effectiveness in the sales process, from open rate to click-thru rates.
Shifting Role of Email Newsletters
Unfortunately, the tide has turned a bit on all of the aforementioned newsletter-specific advantages. Some view email newsletters as hopelessly outdated. Others view newsletters as an after-thought, or a stepping stone to large pursuits.
For example, the typical email newsletter supports a business. However, newsletters can evolve into businesses, too.
One example is The Hustle, a daily email newsletter which grew into a business. The Hustle leveraged loyal readers into in-person events and conferences.
There is an alternative: a blog.
Indeed, The Hustle doubles up email content as blog content. (Here’s an example. Notice “emailed on June 5th” above the headline.) You could choose to leverage both email newsletters and blogs, just as they have.
Five Blogging Benefits
Okay, but what about a blog?
First, let’s address the complainypants in the crowd.
Yes, blogging is a lot of work. If you don’t do the writing yourself, you’ll need to hire and coordinate writers and editors.
The biggest drawback of blogging in the short-term, then, are the opportunity costs. Developing and maintaining blog content takes time and money.
The costs associated with building and maintaining a professional blog pale when you evaluate its value over a long time horizon.
Blogging has many unique advantages. Even better, some blog benefits accrue and sweeten over time.
Blog-specific advantages include:
- Search Engine Ready 24/7/365
- Perfectly Suited for Social Media
- Content Curation, Commentary, and Remixing Opportunities
- Build and Strengthen Credentials
- Sales Lead Generator
Blogs are Search Engine Ready, 24/7/365
Newsletters are one-to-one; blog posts are one-to-many.
Public blog posts have the ability to generate traffic for years after publication. They can also reach audience that are seeking specific information.
By contrast, an email newsletter quickly “times out” and is forgotten. Email newsletters require ongoing production, whereas a blog post can generate interest multiple times after publication.
TIP: Nurture a blog by publishing regularly; each post makes the others more valuable.
Blogs are Perfectly Suited for Social Media
Blog posts provide excellent material for social media discussion, sharing and distribution.
For example, a blog post can easily highlight call-out quotes (also called pull quotes) suitable for social media discussion and promotion.
An example from this article:
“The costs associated with building and maintaining a professional blog pale when you evaluate its value over a long time horizon.” says @KatieMcCaskey of @OpenWater
Additionally, blog posts can feature social media sharing tools or facilitate guest blogging opportunities. Email newsletters can do this, too. The difference is that a blog post is public, and therefore has greater potential for exposure and discovery.
TIP: Make it easy for people to share the material on your blog. Add social media sharing capacity and consider publishing under a Creative Commons license.
Content Curation, Commentary, and Remixing Opportunities
A blog always needs new material. An easy solution is to follow the news curve. Create fresh material by curating the best materials on a particular topic and adding your own commentary.
Mixing one or more sources to create something new yields original content, an important factor in search engine ranking. If you release some or all of your content under a Creative Commons license your work can gain greater exposure.
Again, value is derived by producing this content on a channel you own and control (your blog) instead of distributing it through a third party site (such as social media). Now the material does double duty: as blog material and as social media fodder.
TIP: Plan your social media calendar and email newsletters around blog content publication.
Build and Strengthen Credentials
Online visibility and brand awareness are built with consistency.
A blog is the perfect medium for this consistency because you can reference back in time, to earlier posts. You can draw on earlier posts to explain new understanding, expand on past decisions, or demonstrate evolution of an approach or idea.
All of these work to strengthen trust in your credentials.
TIP: Link to earlier blog posts strategically to bring them to the forefront of your audience’s attention.
Sales Lead Generator
Blogs are also an excellent medium to shepard the sales process, too. A blog editor should plan to produce and publish content that supports the sales cycle, such as:
- Awareness – Posts that give relevant news and information about the problem your product/service solves.
- Consideration – Posts that support your company’s product/service solutions compared to other solutions.
- Decision – Posts that encourage decisive action, whether that is enrolling in a webinar or speaking to a sales representative.
Additionally, some blogs may produce a secondary level of income through affiliate sales partnerships. Care should be taken to ensure that affiliate marketing does not dilute the perceived value of the blog content or company reputation.
TIP: Resist the hard-sell on a blog. Instead, provide accurate information and allow readers to draw their own conclusions.
Final Thoughts About Business Blogs
Email newsletters are still an important tool in digital marketing. However, greater long-term rewards can be earned through blogging.
That’s because a blog can find its audience for years after publication and drive traffic to your site through search or social media on a platform you control. The management decision to invest in both forms of outreach (email newsletters and a professional blog) should do so by evaluating the strategic benefits of each.
About The Author
Katie McCaskey is Content Director of OpenWater, an awards management software platform. Visit the site to download many free resources to establish and grow an awards program.