Over the past year, we’ve helped a ton of brands launch newsletters, and seen the ways in which they were successful. More importantly, we’ve helped them navigate the waters when the unexpected came up.
This post goes over some of the common pitfalls that you can anticipate before launching your email newsletter, and what you can do to combat them while keeping your newsletter alive and well.
There’s no avoiding it–the average email list churn rate is 25-30% every year. This is comprised of two types of churn: transparent and opaque.
Transparent churn consists of unsubscribes, hard bounces or spam complaints (also called ‘voluntary churn’). These are people you can no longer email.
Opaque churn consists of people who are still subscribed, but are no longer reading your emails (also called ‘involuntary churn’). The two main reasons for opaque churn are that the subscriber no longer uses the email address, or your messages are ending up in the spam folder.
Although churn is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing. You want to keep your highly engaged subscribers around by producing a newsletter that they love. And it’s ok for people who decide your newsletter isn’t for them to drop off.
Accepting churn is the first step in creating a newsletter strategy with tactics to continuously grow your list. Here are some basics that we recommend:
- High visibility signup field on website
- Popup form on website
- Permalink signup form in social bios
- Share links to subscribe on social channels
Landing in Inbox
When first launching an email newsletter, not everyone realizes that inbox placement isn’t guaranteed. There are some simple strategies you can implement from the get-go to set yourself up for great long-term deliverability.
A great way to get your subscribers to engage is to send a welcome series as soon as they subscribe. Include a link to confirm their subscription, above the fold. High opens and clicks on this first email is a great signal to ISPs (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) that subscribers want to receive your emails, and that they should get inbox placement moving forward.
Prioritize Email Engagement
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: the main goal of each email you send to your subscribers should be engagement in order to continuously land in the inbox. This means optimizing subject lines for opens and the content of your email for clicks.
To increase engagement, include snippets and a range of content types that subscribers will be interested in. Test different types of content to see what your audience is most interested in.
Send to Engaged Subscribers
Part of accepting list churn and focusing on engagement to land in inbox is weeding out unengaged subscribers as you start regularly sending your email newsletter. What’s considered un-engaged will depend on your newsletter, whether you send daily, weekly, or biweekly. We generally bucket subscribers that have received 10+ emails with no opens as unengaged.
How does only sending to engaged subscribers affect inbox placement? It’s all about the signals you’re sending to ISPs - by only sending to active subscribers who engage with your emails, you’re showing that you deserve to land in inbox. As soon as you start sending to subscribers that ISPs know aren’t engaging with you, they’re more likely to place you in spam–for unengaged subscribers, and even for some active subscribers.
Winning Back Subscribers
Now that we’ve covered inevitable list churn and how to think about inbox placement, it’s time to dive into re-engaging subscribers that have dropped off.
Though you can bet that many subscribers will drop off in activity, it is worth setting up a winback campaign to get them engaging again. After all, at one point, they did subscribe and want to receive your newsletter.
A winback can be sent as soon as subscribers pass 10+ emails with no opens. It can include straightforward copy (e.g. Do you still want to hear from us?) and a link to click to stay on your list. This is the best way to re-engage subscribers who dropped off unintentionally (maybe their inbox got overwhelming or they went on vacation). Though ISPs aren’t necessarily aware that your email is a winback campaign, an open and click signals to them that this subscriber wants to receive future emails from you in their inbox.
Launching an email newsletter can be a daunting task, but when done right, it’s a great way to keep subscribers up-to-date while building brand loyalty. Keep in mind some of these tidbits and best practices while creating your strategy, and you’ll be on the way to a successful newsletter!