Newsletters have become commonplace among tax and accounting professionals. However, the success rate of this marketing tactic varies greatly by firm. How do you make your newsletter exciting for clients, prospects and friends of the firm to read and share? As with any solid marketing strategy, it takes planning, adjustment and consistency.
When you aim to improve something you are already doing, it will take a little bit of trial and error. Think about the following 10 tips as you try to make your newsletter the envy of your competitors:
- Have a Goal. Why do you send a newsletter? Is it to keep your name in front of prospects, educate clients or help team members develop thought leadership within a specific area? A strong newsletter involves determining the type of content you share, and whom you want to share it with (your mailing list). It will also help you determine the success of your efforts – you have to have something to measure progress against.
- Know Your Audience. Who are you targeting with your newsletter? Business owners? Individual tax clients? Manufacturers? Each of these people would be looking for something different from you. Nothing will frustrate a manufacturer more than a newsletter full of articles on nonprofits; they will unsubscribe, or simply delete it. If you understand your audience, you can write to those people.
- Develop Custom Content. If you haven’t heard, content is king, as long as it’s quality content. Not all content is created equal, and it doesn’t always take the same format. Whether it’s an article, video, survey or infographic, focus on the issues and obstacles your audience faces. You’ll have a bigger impact whenever you share something you developed that no one else is using. And, if being found in search engines online is a top priority for you, posting this type of content on your site is an essential part of that strategy.
- Customize Purchased Content. Not all firms are able to write their own articles on a regular basis; that’s when purchased content comes into play. Check with your vendor to see if you can edit the content you buy, and only buy content that gives you this ability. You don’t have to rewrite the entire article. Perhaps, you rewrite the headline and introductory paragraph, or include an example of your own in the article. If you place this content on your website or blog, you’ll need to rewrite it by at least half, or else you may be penalized by search engines for having the same content as another website that made the same purchase.
- Share Content Others Write. Another way to supplement a limited amount of custom content, or customized content, you purchase is to share articles you’ve read that your audience will find interesting. In most cases, you are able to link to any other site online, but be careful that you aren’t sharing an article that you paid, or subscribed to, because others won’t be able to see it. This could be in a section called “Articles Worth Sharing,” “What We’re Reading” or something similar.
- Manage Your Mailing List. A mailing list is a living, breathing database. You don’t set it up once and then forget about it. Check for bad email address and update them often. Review email addresses that experience a hard bounce because a bad address may be to blame there, too. Be sure to add new people to the mailing list regularly. The best way to do this is to allow people to self-select to receive it. That can be done during your new client set-up process, or through a form on your website.
- Match Format to Audience. Is your newsletter short or long? Print or electronic? Video or reading material? The exact format will vary based on your audience. If people are hungry for information, they will want variety. Busy executives want short articles with solid headlines so they know what to read. Certain demographics of people may be more prone to print than electronic. The bottom line is that your format should match audience preferences.
- Ask for Feedback. When was the last time you asked your readers what they think of your newsletter? This can be accomplished with a short reader survey. Keep in mind you may not get a lot of responses, but you will hear from a small number of people who will share valuable information you can use to improve your newsletter. Ask about the content they want to read and the format they prefer so that you can better customize what, and how, you share.
- Propose Next Steps. After someone reads an article, what do you want them to do with that knowledge? Should they call you with questions? Read another article you wrote on the topic? Listen to a presentation you recorded? Too many articles are one and done, and if you hope to generate leads from your newsletter, you are missing the boat without proposing a call to action. Your newsletter format, as well as individual pieces of content, should contain next steps for your reader’s consideration.
- Check Your Stats. If you send a newsletter electronically, your newsletter service provider will share statistics on what people are reading. Many email systems won’t share when someone opens your email or clicks a link, so your readership is probably higher than what’s reported. Taking that into consideration, you should still strive for an open rate of 20 percent or higher. If you aren’t hitting that number, then you need to take a hard look at the value of the information you are sharing. Also, make sure your emails aren’t getting caught in spam filers because that will impact your reader stats. Even if you are above 20 percent, try different tactics to see if you can get that number higher.
There are many ways you can improve your newsletter; this list could have been much longer. However, if you start with these ideas, you will make sizeable improvements in your newsletter’s effectiveness. If you always keep your newsletter informational and limit any self promotion, your readers will come to rely on you as a valuable source of information.
Editor’s note: Want more practice management tips from Katie? Check out her articles “3 Ways to Gain High-Quality Clients” and “Embrace Your Clients Reviews to Improve Your Practice” on the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center.