<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >We started a newsletter - did anyone read it?</span>
08/31/2020

We started a newsletter - did anyone read it?

One of our goals with Gradient Works is to be as transparent as we can when it comes to our sales, marketing and customer success efforts. What are we doing? How is it working? So let's talk about the performance of our first official marketing campaign - launching our Up and to the Right newsletter.

We announced the newsletter on Monday, 8/24 and sent the first edition on Thursday, 8/27, which gave us 72 hours of promotion time.

At announcement time on Monday, only a few people even knew our company existed; we actually announced the company and the newsletter at the same time. The announcement probably carried more weight because of that, and helped boost newsletter signup numbers. We depended entirely on our own personal networks for this promotion. If you signed up, thank you. We didn't boost any content with paid spend. Our company social presence was 0 when we started.

We had 115 email addresses on the list at the time of our send. Interestingly, our company LinkedIn page had seen more than 330 unique visitors at that time, so I'll have some work to do to figure out how to convert that other half to newsletter subscribers. (If you're one of those people who visited our page but didn't sign up, can you tell me why? I'm not mad, just disappointed. Ha, not really, but I would love to know what we can do to improve that.)

The results

So, how did we do? All 115 emails were successfully delivered. We had a 52.2% open rate.

Chart showing 52.2% email open rate

A "good" open rate for our industry is somewhere in the 20-25% range. Of course this first email should have higher open rates than an industry average. Everyone literally just signed up for it. Many of them are close friends and colleagues. So yeah, they better open that first email. And then it's up to us to keep them engaged in future emails.

So why wasn't the open rate 100%? Anecdotally, we know a lot of emails went to spam, so we'll be fighting that for a while. (Speaking of - if you signed up and didn't see the email yesterday, check your spam folder.) Maybe not everyone checks their email every day. Maybe some just signed up to be nice and really don't want to read it.

The newsletter content itself was pretty straightforward - an intro letter, a link to a YouTube video (more on that in a second), and a link to a survey. So, two distinct CTAs. How did they perform?

Chart showing 19.1% click rate

We had an overall click rate of 19.1%. That's the rate of clicks to sends, regardless of whether or not someone opened the email. Clickthrough rate was 36.7% (that is clicks to opens). Industry averages for those are 2-3% and 15-30%, respectively.

The first CTA was a link to a YouTube video. It was in the third sentence and again near the end of the email. We got 22 unique clicks on the video links. (According to YouTube, the video has 52 views as I'm writing this.)

Our survey was at the very end of the email, and asked for feedback on what to include in future issues. We got 6 clicks and 3 survey responses so far. That's pretty low, so we'll promote this more in future issues to see what our audience is interested in. More on the survey in a future post.

We've been assuming a lot of our content would be consumed on mobile. But I'm starting to wonder if that's a valid assumption given current conditions. Six months ago, I think that would have been true - people would read on their phones in between meetings, waiting for coffee, at lunch or on their way home. But since most of us are working from home, we're spending more time at our computers. 73% of our opens were desktop, 27% were mobile.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with these results. We wanted to get to 100 email addresses by the end of the week, which we hit. In terms of performance, I expected better-than-benchmark results, which we also got. Could these numbers have been higher? I think so, given the warmth of this list: recent subscriptions, friendly audience, plenty of social pressure.

What's next?

The first email is easy. It's emails 2 through 500 that are harder. I'll be thinking about a few things as we work on the emails to come.

  1. Work on our subject lines. How can we make the email more enticing to open?
  2. Improve inbox deliverability. What can we do to get future emails out of spam folders?
  3. Create relevant content. The first email was a little light on content; we just wanted to get out a quick introduction quickly to capitalize on our engaged audience while we had them. Future emails will need to include more compelling and useful content to keep our audience engaged in the weeks to come. We've got some great expert Q&As lined up, and are planning a robust content calendar.
  4. Test content formats. We included longer-form text and a video in the first newsletter. We plan to include video or audio every week. Video can be time consuming, so it'll be challenge to keep that going after the initial shine wears off. But what if this audience isn't actually engaging with the video? I don't want to just assume video will just work, so we'll try a lot of different things and see how things perform.
  5. Get a bigger list. Since we're still pre-product as a company, the newsletter is our product right now. We need a bigger audience. So while the dev team is working on the first software product, I will be working on the newsletter product. That means more promotion and more signups. We need to move beyond our personal networks.

I'll share more on other marketing efforts as we do them. I'd love to hear from you, too. 

Finally, if you haven't signed up for our newsletter about building subscription revenue organizations, you can subscribe here. Up and to the Right is published weekly, and features expert Q&As and all kinds of useful information about revenue organizations. Thank you for reading.

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