One of my goals for this year was to launch a newsletter. Consistently, I had heard from marketers I trust that they were seeing great traction from their newsletters. Then Chris Brogan said that the engagement level he was seeing from his newsletter was far better than what he was seeing on his blog.
That clinched it for me, and I launched the Think Like a Rock Star newsletter in February. The goal was simple, I wanted to leverage the newsletter as a way to get new work leads. My plan was to publish the newsletter once a week, all original content. The format was that I would create original content for the newsletter, focused on how companies can better create and cultivate fans. And I would end each newsletter issue with a reminder of one or two relevant ways that subscribers can work with me. My thinking was that I would give subscribers valuable and original content, and then a sales pitch at the end.
The results? They stink. So far after 10 months I have gotten a grand total of zero dollars of business from my newsletter.
What’s worse, both the open rates and click rates for the newsletter have consistently fallen. After the first few weeks the open rate was 50%. Then it fell to 40%, then over the next few months down to 35%, 30%, 25% and lately it’s been barely above 20%. The click rate was even worse, rarely getting above 3%.
After 10 months, the newsletter was averaging a 24% click rate, and a 1.9% click rate. Honestly over the last few weeks I’ve seriously considered pulling the plug on the newsletter. I’m putting 5-10 hours a month into it and literally getting nothing from it. No emails, no contact, no clicks, nothing.
I was ready to say ‘I Quit’.
But…it kept nagging at me that I must be doing something wrong. The newsletter is a tool that’s proven to work for others. So far my newsletter was a failure, but I wasn’t ready to quit on it.
So I decided to re-evaluate everything about the newsletter. I started subscribing to the newsletters of marketers that were seeing success with their newsletters. I immediately noticed that their format was different from mine. They weren’t publishing original content with their newsletter, in fact they typically were using their newsletter as a tool to drive subscribers back to their blog. Often they would give a short summary of their latest post, then a link.
So on Monday I sent out my latest issue of my newsletter and tried a different approach. I gave subscribers a recap of the recent changes that Facebook had made to its News Feed algorithm, and how it was likely impacting the reach of its brand page. After telling subscribers what was happening, I added that if they wanted to see my two suggestions for handling this change, that they should click over to my blog to read my thoughts.
So my goal for this particular issue was two-fold:
1 – I wanted to see if I could significantly increase the open rate. I wrote what I thought was a pretty good headline for the email: “The One Change Facebook Made That Could Kill Your Brand Page”
2 – I wanted to see if giving subscribers a lead-in to the post, then asking them to click here to read ‘the rest of the story’ would significantly increase the click rate.
The list’s average open rate is 24%, after two days the open rate for this issue is at 30%. That’s a 25% increase over the list average.
The list’s average open rate is 1.9%, after two days the click rate for this issue is at 12.4%. That’s an increase of over 500% above the list average.
There’s a couple of lessons here:
1 – Quitting is worse than failure. When you fail you can still learn how to improve, but you can only realize that potential improvement if you keep trying to get better.
2 – It’s ok to change your path if you are lost. I started out with a set of goals for my newsletter and certain tactics I was using to try to reach those goals. After 10 months, it clearly wasn’t working, so I decided to try something new.
Now to clarify, simply getting people to click over to my site/content still isn’t the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to get actual work from the newsletter. But at least now, I have something I can tinker with. Before, I wasn’t getting emails from subscribers, I wasn’t getting clicks, and the open rate was falling like a rock. Now at least I have a way to generate more clicks, so that’s something. I’ll still need to keep tweaking the format and content in order to see those clicks convert into leads, but today I feel much better about the newsletter than I did just a week ago.
The point is to keep trying. It’s the same with your blogging strategy, your mobile strategy, etc. It really does pay to experiment sometimes, for example, the headline to this post is an experiment. I wanted to see if a very short and provocative headline would draw interest in the post. Maybe it will, or maybe it won’t.
But if it fails, I’ll try something else. I won’t quit.