Robert Tyson's Small Business Marketing Blog

Free marketing and sales ideas to grow your small business.

Ezine Marketing: How To Understand Your Niche

A serious mistake made by many in ezine marketing is the failure to really identify who they’re writing their ezine for. And yet the number one reason people unsubscribe from email marketing lists is: ‘The emails weren’t relevant to me’.

Trying to shoot for a wide audience is understandable, because we generally think it’s better to have more readers than less. But how much quality are you sacrificing for that quantity?

You need to give careful thought to the audience you want to attract for your ezine. And, more than that, you need to be sure that you’re gunning for a narrow enough audience and field of subject matter that your ezine will have that all-important relevance and value, and stand out in an overflowing inbox.

The web is awash with free ezines. No-one needs another – unless it provides them with really valuable content.

Taking the time to understand your desired audience is the key to producing the right content. So define your desired ezine subscriber profile in detail.

How to define your audience

In your mind’s eye, envisage the individual or types of individual you want your ezine to appeal to: who are they?

I don’t just mean are they male, female… though this is important too. I mean what goes on in their life? What drives them crazy? What do they REALLY want (whether they would admit to it or not)?

Try to get under their skin. I would recommend you spend at least an hour or two giving this some serious thought.

ALL ezine publishers should consider the following about their target audience:

Age?
Gender?
Location?
Occupation?
Income?
Social status?
Have family/children?
Educational background?
Political leanings?
Ethnicity?
Where do they live – what type of neighbourhood, houses?
Personality types – quiet, loud, sociable, introverted?
What do they desire?
What are their worries and frustrations, at home and work?
How do they want the world to see them?
What do they spend their time doing, day to day?
How do they relax?
How tech-savvy are they?
What do they want from a product or service like yours?
In addition, if you’re targeting a BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS audience, answer these questions about the companies of your IDEAL subscriber:

Products/services they offer?
Company revenues?
Profitability?
Number of staff?
Type of staff – senior, graduate, mix, high/low turnover?
New, established?
Traditional, innovative?
How they position and market themselves?
Reputation in industry?
State of industry they’re in/trends?
Use those insights to get very specific about the niche you want to target.

Technology has made it very easy to produce ezines and send commercial email these days. The downside for ezine marketers is that we have to compete with a hell of a lot of other stuff in our audience’s inbox.

You will fail if you try to please the whole world with your ezine. Don’t try! Invest the time it takes to understand and home in on your niche.

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The Difference Between Ezine Success and Failure? Why You Must Set SMART Objectives For Your Ezine

So, you’ve decided to launch an ezine, or you’re already running one. Congratulations on either count, because you’ve hit upon what can be perhaps THE most cost-effective marketing tool there is – if you get it right.

Because there’s one very important thing you must do next. Setting SMART business objectives for your ezine right now can make all the difference between a spectacularly successful marketing tool at the heart of your business and an unfocused, unproductive time-drain.

Enthusiasm for a new project is vital but make sure you channel it profitably by laying the right foundations.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

– Why are you running or considering running an ezine?
– What do you actually want it to DO for you?
– How will you know if it’s successful?

When considering your objectives, take care to make each one of them SMART:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Time-bound

SMART objectives for your ezine would not therefore include ‘win some more business’, ‘improve our profile’, or ‘get the name out there’.

You may do all of these things, but I would suggest you need clearer objectives. Why?

One, because your ezine can be a great service to your business over many years, and the guidance of solid objectives can keep you focused and on track.

Two, if you don’t know what your objectives are, how will you know if you’re succeeding or not, and if the time and effort you’re putting in is worthwhile?

So, rather than vague thoughts, your SMART objectives might look like these:

• I will sign up 1,000 new subscribers to my list within the next three months.
• By the end of June, each ezine I send will drive at least 20 people to my website and generate at least $1000 in sales.
• My ezine will generate 10 qualified meetings with prospects every quarter, as of 1 May.
• My ezine will generate 50 unique visits to my website every month.
• My ezine will result in two press inquiries per year.
• My ezine will generate 500 new customer accounts by the end of the financial year.

See how the SMART concept works?

It’s up to you now to apply it. But I guarantee you that if you take the time to do so, you’ll have a far clearer picture of where you’re going with your ezine, and a far better chance of success.

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Four Key Email Marketing Benchmarks You Should Know

No business in its right mind can afford to ignore doing proper email marketing. Email may not be in vogue just now, but it’s still BIG, BIG, BIG – in fact the biggest digital messaging medium there is – and the simple fact is that it is proven to be a hugely effective marketing channel (generating $43 for every $1 spent, on average, according to the DMA). I’d also argue that to make the most of social media, you need to be email marketing too, because it knits what can otherwise be some pretty diverse activity together extremely well.

But if you’ve not really done much email marketing – or even if you have – what kinds of results should you be expecting?

Accepting first of all that the response to any marketing you do is ALWAYS dictated by the interplay between three basic factors (your MESSAGE; where your product or service sits in the COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT (including your product offering and pricing); and the MEDIUM you use for promotion (in which I include the source and quality of the audience), there are certain industry benchmarks for email marketing that can give you a general impression of the kind of ballpark your own returns should be in.

And, based on huge studies on billions of commercial, bulk-sent email from all over the world sent in 2010, here are four key email marketing benchmarks you should know:

  1. Open rates
  2. Time of opens
  3. Clickthrough rates
  4. List attrition rates

Open rates

Email ‘open rates’ are a measure used my marketers to gauge what proportion of recipients ‘open’ or ‘view’ commercial email. (See my ebook for a full explanation of why open rates should be taken with a pinch of salt and as a relative, rather than absolute, measure).

Open rates are overall about 11% for mass email, but this varies from an average of 5% to 25% depending on the industry you’re in.

Unsurprisingly, the smaller the list, the better the rate of opens and clickthroughs, so if you’re just starting out with your list, you may see even higher rates.

Even the very best small list, however, will generally only get an open rate of 40%, so get used to the idea that even the very best email ezine or email promotion will not be read by the majority of its recipients every time.

How do you improve your open rates? The biggest factor you control after deliverability (which is heavily influenced by your choice of email marketing software) is subject line.

Time of opening

In general, about one-third of total opens of commercial happen within two hours of receipt, and 75% happen within 24 hours.

So within one day of sending an email, you can make a fairly clear judgment on its success, certainly in terms of clickthroughs and opens.

But don’t discount the ‘long tail’ of respondents who respond after 24 hours. Who knows when a latecomer could become your biggest client, or someone dig out an old email, or forward your email on? For this reason, you should always keep the links (and any images used in your email promotion) LIVE for a long time – certainly months, probably a year, and arguably longer.

Clickthrough rates

The clickthrough rate (CTR) of an email marketing campaign is calculated by dividing the total number of clicks on the email by the total number of emails sent out (multiplied by 100 to get a percentage).

Clickthrough rates vary by sector but 0.5% to 2.5% is a general ballpark figure for bulk email as a whole.

Bear in mind that this statistic includes standalone promotional email (a marketing method we’ll look at in detail next week), where we might expect higher clickthrough rates, since the entire purpose of the email is to generate clicks.

By contrast, ezines (otherwise known as email newsletters) often have more subtle purposes (like providing information, positioning a business or individual, building trust and so on) so immediate clicks are not always the be-all and end-all.

What can you do to improve your clickthrough rates? One very simply method is to include video in your email, which has been found to improve clickthrough rate by two to three times. Clickable screenshots, leading to a video on YouTube for example, are just as effective as embedding a video in your email.

List attrition

Annual list attrition – meaning the proportion of email addresses on a list that leave or become invalid – is typically 10% to 33%.

In other words, every year, you will 1 in 10 to 1 in 3 of your subscribers’ email addresses will leave your list or become inactive.

What does this mean for you? Well unfortunately, if your list appears to be standing still, you’re actually probably going backwards.

Solution? Produce valuable content that can’t be had anywhere else, like a great ezine, and market it. There is little you can do that is as valuable to you as actively building your list!

NB Please note that these four benchmarks are AVERAGES based on an extremely broad range of data – there is no such thing as a typical list or email promotion, so you must test and learn what works for you.

But they ARE useful benchmarks to keep in mind as you plan, test and refine your email marketing.

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