The Money Is(n't always) In the Email List

mikey3times

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I am writing this post instead of writing my twice-monthly email newsletter.

I have a list of around 2,000 people on my main website that costs me around $33 per month. I send an email with industry news to that list every 2 weeks. I also promote my own articles in that newsletter and will get 30-40 visits from those links. I do sell a couple of digital products, but have never had luck selling them to the list because they are "extras" and not the main focus of the website. The site makes most of the money from display advertising.

I feel like I'm wasting 2-4 hours each month writing a newsletter that sends people to other websites when I could be writing another article that makes money from ads. Needless to say, it is a struggle to sit down and write the newsletter. I'm thinking about shutting down the list, but I haven't been able to pull the trigger since everyone says, "The money is in the list."

Anyone else try, but eventually give up on their email lists?
 

CCarter

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WTF. Why are you sending your list to other people's websites?

Also, it could be that you just aren't good at the email copy or convincing people. As with anything marketing it's an art, but you are pretty much doing a very bland scenario. Here is the thing - you have Display ADs as your main revenue source so the email list should be going to your money maker - which are content pieces on your site.

Your KPI (Key Performance Indicator) should really be open rates and click-thrus since the main focus on your site is to get eyeballs on the pages with display ADs. Your KPI should not be revenue from the list itself, unless you had a service or product.

Take my case: my KPI for my newsletter is to inform my audience of the latest features to keep them happy and onboard. Also informing users how to use different features with different ideas. I am not really trying to drive in new revenue since 100% of the newsletter are people that signed up for the software at some level - free or paid.

You are in a situation where you haven't defined a real goal for the newsletter. If it was revenue you would be creating email content pieces that click-bait them back to your site. However you are sending them to other people's websites - that's insane.

Also have you tried hiring a copywriter to write up your emails to the newsletter? Try 10 different Fiverr gigs and see who fits. It might be that since you detest doing the email copy that it shows through to the end user. You can tell when someone is really excited about something versus bored - even in text.

I think you should sit down and figure out "what do I want out of this?" first, then make an action plan. It sort of feels like you are doing things like a lot of businesses do with their social media - just go with the flow and post stuff that "sounds" interesting but in the end gets very little engagement or likes.

Also - 90% of the impact is going to be in the subject line, you need to flare it up or get them interested in something solid.

It's a huge potential revenue source but HOW the users got on your list is important. For example if you incentivized them to join to download a free eBook or whatever, that's a weak list. If people signed up naturally cause at the end of each amazing article you wrote you told them to sign up - that's a volunteer list with no incentive so THAT list is gold.

How did users get on your list?

Edit: Also, FEInternational has a great newsletter I open every single time since it summarizes what's going on within the technology industry. FEInternational is keeping their brand in the minds of their potential customers as buyers or sellers since when the time comes to buy or sell a website/business the constant emails would have paid off. So their KPI might simply be Open Rates.
 

mikey3times

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My newsletter approach has been a lot like the FEI approach, which is to share industry news as a way of keeping my brand in people's minds (and I link to news articles since I don't write that kind of content). It was also an outlet for sharing personal thoughts I have...the kinds of things that don't have a good place on a reference website.

I originally started my list the way all the make-money-blogging people tell you to: with a "free" digital download. However, I recently took that away and have signups at the bottom of my articles. There really isn't a funnel to build beyond the initial few automated emails that share the various resources available on the website.

You are right, @CCarter (thank you) - I'm looking at this the wrong way since I don't see the email turning into dollars directly. This is probably why I hate writing them...I can't see how the work translates into $$ and it feels pointless. Obviously, this falls into Brand Awareness, which is extremely hard to track, but ultimately worth the effort.

Aside from the KPIs of open rate and click throughs, how do people keep track of whether Brand Awareness efforts are working? How do I know if it is worth continuing?
 

CCarter

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How do I know if it is worth continuing?
It really depends on what you define as success. For example if FEInternational sends out an email to 100k people weekly and only 1 person sells a website that week as a result of Brand Awareness indirectly due to the newsletter that might turn into a $30K commission for them. Is that worth it? Yes. What if it was only 1 website sale a month resulting, still worth it? Yes. A year? Probably still worth it since 52 weeks of emails have extremely lost cost to produce and at $30k a year profit would cover it.

Obviously they would need other revenue streams to survive.

Here is the thing with the internet that is mystifying- with Radio and TV is was nearly impossible to get actual metrics, it was all nelson stuff and estimates at best. Even with mailers or other forms, people only knew if they did a TV spot in Los Angeles the phones rang for order from LA. They still invested.

But Brand Awareness was nearly impossible to measure with surveys and stuff. I don’t know how many times I saw that “Century Village” commercial as a kid, i never paid attention, at least that is what I thought. Then I drove by Century Village 20 years later and was like “Hey! i know that place!”

How do you quantify 20 years later of indoctrination cause of repetition? Century Village was definitely not trying to do that they wanted seniors right then and there. But still to this day people come to their offices stating “I remember your commercials as a kid, here are my parents, bye.”

But with the internet since you can get granular information everyone wants immediately results when there is always a long game with Brand Awareness. You can use Google Alerts, Mention, or SERPWoo Monitoring :wink:, to keep an eye out when you brand is mentioned online, but you won’t be able to know the offline impact.

The analytics environment of the internet allows one to see directly how many people got your message and followed through immediately. There isn’t a way to measure the Century Village phenomenon years from now.

Also sit down and ask yourself if you have a brand that is memorable. Do you have a brand like TheWireCutter who’s name has the ability to be recognizable. Cause some people have crazy website domains like ThisTelevisionSalesTeam.com and ain’t no one remembering that in 20 years.

Also what is your end game plan/goal? That is why you need to sit down and plan, cause if you plan on exiting for some multiples some years from now having your audience in a growing mailing list with 20% open rates (industry average) since you emailed them weekly give you more leverage in your exit. The buyers might be better at converting the traffic into sales or have a longer term goal of absorbing your audience into their brand.

So again it all depends on what you want out of this project.

Example if you suck at twitter, just because you see everyone else in your industry tweeting, all the loathing you have already for it simply will not magically make you better. There is already a bias there.

If you don’t want to do it then don’t do it. Put your energy towards things that generate revenue with your skills. Outsource the newsletter if possible is my advice. But understand there are people making money from mailing lists, twitter, instagram, and even linkedin now. And now TikTok. Guys, if you are just getting to email now you are pretty late, it’s been here for like 25+ years, 20% open rate is average. Watch how many emails you get daily from Amazon and Walmart - Amazon will send up-to 3 times a day.

But if you are approaching it like an old man, “get off my lawn, back in my day we used phonebooks to look things up” then yeah you are dead like a dinosaur. I know a lot of people hate the future, cause they don’t understand it- it was like that for older generations when the internet came along, there were people that refused to “get on that computer thing.” As you grow older you want nostalgia to a time when things were easy for you. You have to approach everything with a child like mind set for exploring, others - dinosaur.

You don’t want to be the guy stating to your staff “okay I think we should join MySpace now.”

The internet moves fast, but email and now mobile numbers are one of the few ways to directly talk to your audience for nearly zero costs. Imagine if Coca-Cola had a newsletter list growing and engaging for the last 20 years, they could launch any product and see if it will sink or swim.

Also have you thought of renting your list or cross-pollination with others in your industry? You could make some money from advertisers wanting a small spot in your newsletter - even $50 a send then makes it directly profitable for you and give value to advertisers too. Profit problem solved!
 

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I am writing this post instead of writing my twice-monthly email newsletter.

I have a list of around 2,000 people on my main website that costs me around $33 per month. I send an email with industry news to that list every 2 weeks. I also promote my own articles in that newsletter and will get 30-40 visits from those links. I do sell a couple of digital products, but have never had luck selling them to the list because they are "extras" and not the main focus of the website. The site makes most of the money from display advertising.

I feel like I'm wasting 2-4 hours each month writing a newsletter that sends people to other websites when I could be writing another article that makes money from ads. Needless to say, it is a struggle to sit down and write the newsletter. I'm thinking about shutting down the list, but I haven't been able to pull the trigger since everyone says, "The money is in the list."

Anyone else try, but eventually give up on their email lists?
Your list isn't large enough to track brand awareness and the like. Especially since your revenue is from display ads. Get it to a size where it will matter.

Have a template where you can plug in your site's best articles from the past two weeks. Don't go overboard - set it and forget it. That way, you can keep sending the newsletter, but with much less effort.

Check your competitors. Find out how they monetize. Add the additional streams to your website also.

Next, create content with an objective to maximize revenue (from display ads and from the new streams) and to get more people to your list. Promote like you've been doing.

Then, focus on growing your list by an order of magnitude. 10K. 50K. 100K. Once that growth starts happening, start optimizing your emails.

Assumptions:
I am assuming you are already tracking the open rates and click through rates. If not, you should get the basics done first.