A Doz Email Marketing Case Study

A regular newsletter is one of the most effective means for reaching out to clients – existing and potential – and demonstrating the value of your brand.

Value is the key word here. Not sales, not conversions, and not revenue. Value.

A weekly or monthly newsletter allows your business or brand to reach out and give something away to people who have already connected with you.

You can offer them information, you can offer them practical advice, you can offer them products that they’ll want to use, or links to the products of others that will complement your own offer.

Approached in this way, the possibilities for long-term conversion, sales, and revenue should be clear. While it seems a little unintuitive, by not focusing on converting a customer and pushing them into a sales funnel, the sales will eventually come.

So why doesn’t everyone have an email newsletter?

Well… They do.

Most every business engaged in a sustained digital marketing effort has a newsletter. The signup forms are ubiquitous on websites across all industries and often acts as a gatekeeper to the content that people arrive on a site seeking.

But then why isn’t everyone singing the praises of their newsletter for driving awareness of the value of their brand?

The reason is because most of them don’t succeed.

They end up in spam folders, go unread, or are deleted on arrival in inboxes.

The list of subscribers doesn’t grow, and the newsletter becomes a chore instead of an outreach and branding tool. Eventually the newsletter becomes more of a drain than anything else and you quit – and your subscribers barely notice you’re gone.

To get the most out of your email newsletter you need your list to grow and your audience to expand. You need new readers, motivated readers, and for your own motivation you need to see those subscriber numbers ticking up each week.

I’ll explain exactly how you can do this in just  a sec…

But first, let me tell you how I learned this strategy.

 

In the last 13 weeks I’ve taken our small scale email newsletter here at DOZ to new heights. Since the beginning of 2016 our audience has exploded four times over and we’re on track to meet our mid-year goal of 10x growth.

In other words, we’re not just another marketing company ‘talking the talk’ – we’ve ‘walked the walk’, done the hard yards, and have a proven strategy for blowing up an email list fast.

Our strategy is composed of four different elements and each one has played a part in helping us grow our reach and take our brand to more people.

I’m convinced that if you follow our process you’ll experience the same sort of growth we have and, yes, see the sorts of medium and longer-term benefits that we are starting to experience even just three months in.

Here’s how to do it.

 Tackling a New Market

About ten months ago DOZ launched a new email newsletter we called Marketing Monday.

It was to be a weekly digest of the best in marketing from around the web and a way for our marketing team to share their favorite tips, tricks, and sites with an audience that wanted regular, fresh content.

DOZ already had a regular monthly newsletter for the thousands of experts who work in our marketing ecosystem, and a second newsletter for the people who were generally interested in the company, our work, our trajectory, and our growth.

This newsletter, though, was positioned to be something different.

It wasn’t aimed at people interested in DOZ, but at people interested in marketing. We were proud of our knowledge, proud of the content we curated internally for our marketing team, and we believed we could add value to the wider digital marketing community with a newsletter tailored to their needs.

The very first edition of our new newsletter was sent on 27 July 2015 and looked like this:

Weekly Digest Email Example

Original Weekly Digest Email

It went out to a relatively small number of early subscribers but we got great results with a 63% open rate and an 18% click-through rate.

Our audience might have been small but they were interested – now we just had to find more of them…

Over the next few weeks we built on the success of the first newsletter and managed to double our small audience by the time we sent out newsletter #6.

Our open rate remained high (+50%) and our click rate, too. We were adding value, we were reaching more people, and the newsletter was getting read.

And by the end of 2015, we had sent out 23 newsletters and doubled our subscriber list.

We were happy with the open and click rates that remained high and well ahead of the industry average, and we were happy to have doubled our list twice in around five months.

But we were also at a turning point…

 

An Editorial Change

At the end of 2015 the team member who had been building this newsletter left DOZ and the newsletter was passed on to me. I was set the seemingly unachievable task of growing the audience for the newsletter 10 times by the middle of 2016.

The boss here at DOZ loves a big, hairy, audacious goal and growing a subscriber list 10x in just 26 weeks was the sort of challenge he liked to challenge his team members with.

And so I took over the newsletter and set out to build the sort of list that the boss had asked for – and I did.

Here’s the steps I took…

 

Step One: Refresh

The first thing I decided to do was to change up the layout of the newsletter to make it more engaging. We are in the marketing business, after all, and words aren’t always enough to attract and keep eyeballs.

Here’s what the final email of 2015 looked like:

 

Weekly Digest Email Marketing Example 2

Weekly Digest Email format hasn’t changed in 23 weeks.

 

Not a lot of change between that and the first email we sent and no way to tell that this week’s email is different to the one the week before.

It’s text heavy and while the header image is something I liked and aligns nicely with DOZ’s branding overall, the newsletter wasn’t immediately engaging for readers.

So, I thought it was time for a refresh, the addition of some images, and something to catch the eye of the reader. Adding elements like this is easy with Mailchimp, our preferred email platform, and our newsletter quickly transformed to something more visually appealing:

 

Weekly Digest Email Marketing Example Long Form

Improved Format

 

Note the changes:

  • An image has been added to draw attention to the ‘lead’ link in the newsletter. There’s another one further down the newsletter for another link (more about this in a bit).
  • The ‘Read More’ prompt has been retained but it has moved to the right-hand side of the text. This is easier for readers to identify and encourages clicking.

The newsletter is now more visually appealing and a nicer reading experience for the subscribers.

 

Step 2: Ask for Help

One other thing that the screenshots above demonstrate is that between the standard header image and the first of the links in the newsletter is a short introduction.

This was important in getting our audience to spread our newsletter for us and help us build our subscriber base. Something as simple as:

  • A welcome that puts the email in context (“…it’s the 36th edition of…”)
  • An explanation of what the newsletter is about (for anyone who has not subscribed before
  • A request to pass the email newsletter on to others who might be interested

Every week our newsletter gets forwarded to new readers and some of those new readers sign on as subscribers. Sometimes just giving permission to your audience to share encourages them to do just that.

Step 3: Link Premium Content to the Newsletter

We produce a lot of premium content over at DOZ…

We have eBooks, white papers, slide decks, checklists and more, and our audience loves to read them. It’s a type of content that we love to publish because it is incredibly effective at helping our customers market themselves better andn the past, we had produced the content and made it available for download to the benefit of the audience, but, in reality, little immediate benefit to us.

Now, with an newsletter audience to build, I chose to install a plugin and start exchanging the premium content for an email address.

As we hadn’t done this before I was a little nervous that we might find some push-back from the audience.

After all, if we used to give something away for free and now we’re asking for an email address there’s bound to be some in our audience who might not like the new deal. So I was a little worried but, as it turned out, I didn’t need to be.

We didn’t see any appreciable decrease in downloads and while we did have some people sign on to the list, download an eBook, and then unsubscribe from the list, such occasions were rare. The bump in subscriptions when we rolled this out for our January convinced us to go back and add a similar ssign-upform to our previously published and evergreen premium content.

 

Step 4: Pop Ups and Drop Downs

Like any business that relies on content marketing, you hope that the content published is of the quality required to attract eyeballs and, eventually, customers.

You plan, draft, edit, then publish and – if it’s good enough – it gets some early reads, gets some shares, and then attracts a larger audience.

There will be social media shares, there will be comments on the article, and some people will even drop the author a short email with a word of thanks – really, it happens!

Some of these readers, though, won’t find their way back to your site the next time they are looking for information. You need to give them a reason to come back and inform them about your new content, and what better way to do that then your newsletter?

We’ve already used different pop ups and drop downs to gather email addresses for our general email lists but, beginning in January, we decided to adapt those pop ups and drop downs on the company blog to collect email addresses for the weekly newsletter.

 

It was just a small change, but it helped connect us to the readers and kept them reading our content.

 

Step 5: Social Outreach

The most successful of the major social networks for us has been Twitter. Beginning in January, we committed to making better use of Twitter to support the email newsletter and try and drive deeper engagement.

What we did was rather simple:

  • Every Monday in the hours before the newsletter was sent we’d tweet a reminder that there was still time to get on the distribution list.
  • In the hour after the email went out we would tweet to any company or individual influencer mentioned in that week’s newsletter to let them know that we had featured them.

Usually this would result in a couple of new subscribers on the basis of the reminder tweet. When it came to the tweets we sent to featured authors, we would almost always get some engagement in terms of likes or retweets, and we’d also pick up some additional subscribers through the increased engagement, too.

It’s simple but just telling people we had a newsletter and that we liked their content enough to include them in it proved effective in helping us build our list.

 

The Results

So how has this affected our growth?

Subscribers Growth Graph

In short: our email list has exploded in the best possible sense.

As the chart above demonstrates, we experienced steady growth in our mailing list from the launch of the newsletter right through to the end of 2015.

By the time we sent the last email of the year (Edition 23) we had doubled, and then doubled again the size of our mailing list.

But the special steps that we’ve explained in this post had a marked and almost immediate effect on the growth of the subscriber list.

Within two weeks our mailing list was spiking and we doubled our 2015 list in five weeks, tripled it in another five weeks, and quadrupled it by the end of March.

By the end of April, we fully expect that our list will be five times bigger than it was on the first day of the year.

And what’s more, the boss’s 10x mid-year target is not only in sight but the marketing team is quietly confident we’ll hit and surpass it with a couple of weeks to spare.

 

Final Thoughts

At DOZ, we’ve made some specific strategic changes in the last three months to ensure our slowly-growing newsletter audience would grow – and fast.

Nothing we’ve done is all that difficult and nothing we’ve implemented is out of the reach of most businesses and brands. Yet implemented in combination, the steps in our strategy have helped double, triple, then quadruple our email list in just a few weeks, and we’re on track to increase the size of our list 10x by the end of June.