Newsletters are usually aimed right at the middle of your audience. Typically, they’re written to include something for everyone. To each of your readers, that means there’s some content that’s not a direct hit. But many of your readers will still find what’s relevant, and look forward to the next one.
What happens when your list grows? Previously aiming at the middle made sense, since the population of subscribers outside of the middle was too small for a dedicated content channel. Take a look at the size of your list over the past few years. Are the edges still small enough to roll into the mainstream? Or do you have large enough (or strategically important enough) sub-groups to create a new and narrower newsletter?
I love the newsletter for the same reason many of our clients do – it’s the easiest way to push all of our top stories out to our entire subscriber base all at once. What newsletters lack in targeting they make up for in anticipation – because they’re formulaic, it’s easy to keep them on schedule. Subscribers expect them, open them, read them.
But your newsletter strategy doesn’t have to be targeting deficient. I like the newsletter so much that I think many organizations should launch more of them – smaller in scale, narrow in content focus, and aimed at a strategically important subset of your subscriber list. Your list won’t have the same heft, but the more relevant content can drive higher open rates and clicks, and do a better job engaging your subscribers with your organization.
If you’d like to get bigger results from your newsletter strategy, think smaller. Try these tips for launching a niche newsletter aimed at a subset of your subscriber base:
Measure the size of your niche by impact, not subscribers. What subset of your subscriber base should you target for a niche newsletter? It’s probably not the largest group. Chances are, they’re the ones most likely to be well-served by your existing newsletter. Look instead for the group that’s the most strategically important to you, whose engagement means the most to your organization. If you’re an association, maybe it’s the class of membership that sponsors your events. Or if you’re a publisher it might be your premium subscribers. Maybe it’s your social network fans and followers, who are best able to help you reach new prospects. Don’t worry if the initial list is small – the right content strategy will grow the list. If you’re putting new resources into it, better to grow the list with the strongest ROI.
Follow the path of least content resistance. Even with narrower content, your newsletter’s stock-in-trade is its predictability. It needs to show up on schedule, every time. For that reason, when you figure out what it’s on and who will write it and how it will be laid out, don’t pull out all the stops. Pull out only the stops you’ll be able to pull out consistently, every time the newsletter has to go out. There’s no point in building something that your audience craves weekly, only to find that you don’t have the resources to meet their expectations.
Be “uniquely qualified.” As your newsletter content gets narrower, it’s less about your organization and more about the intersection between your organization and the target group. Notice that I didn’t say it’s just about what your target group wants to know. There are lots of sources for that information – whatever it is. Your job with a niche newsletter is to include content that your organization is uniquely qualified to provide. It’s not enough to provide targeted content – you need to roll out what’s not available or not credible from other sources.
Sample with an Opt-In/Out Trial. To my experience, most email marketing databases are like the lane dividers on New York City avenues – they’re more a directional suggestion than a set of hard rules. It’s easy to cross over them, and often wise to ignore them. So when your niche newsletter is ready for launch, I recommend rolling out a trial to your entire subscriber database instead of just the people you think might be interested. Send it with a preface that describes its content and frequency, and tell your subscribers that you’re sending them the first one (or two or even three) as samples. They can subscribe at any time, or they can unsubscribe and not receive any future installments. If they do nothing, they’ll only get the trial subscription and nothing more. This way, you’re sampling, not selling. Subscribing to a known quantity is safer than a vague and invisible promise. And you also might bring in subscribers who are outside of the niche as you identify it, but who are nevertheless interested.
A niche newsletter is a lot of planning and a steady commitment. But if it’s executed well it allows your organization to deepen its relationship with the people who matter the most. Not all subscribers are equal to your company, and niche newsletters are a great way to cozy up to the people your company loves.