Counting the impact of email newsletter #1

Eight thumbnails of my email enewsletter as it would render in common email clients or web-based mailIt didn’t take long to learn how many people opened my first email newsletter. Though much later than planned, I eventually sent out my first issue on 7 November. I really wanted to get issue one out to subscribers so they would get the notice about the Wellington NGO webmaster event before it happened.

I’m not sure how many of the subscribers attended the event (held last Tuesday), but I do know how many saw my words and notices.

50% of subscribers opened the email, of whom 19% clicked on a link. The most popular links were tied between the networking event sign-up page and blog posts on “An unplanned hiatus” and “Why I didn’t get an iPad”.

Looking at my blog analytics package I can see that all visitors arriving from links in the enewsletter came within 48 hours, and stayed on average for 2.37 minutes (which is longer than the average for all visitors).

While I have got some idea of the quantity of visits, I don’t have any qualitative feedback. Nobody sent me a message saying “wonderful” or “rubbish!!”

I’ve learned all this about the trajectory of the email newsletter without having to do anything special. All the data I’ve summaried is built into the email newsletter system I use.

The other things I looked for when choosing a specialist email list service were:

  • Flexible, low cost subscription plan
  • Ability to create and test HTML formatted newsletters
  • Both email version and online archive
  • Simple administration of list membership, including segmentation
  • Visible, full-proof and easy unsubscribe option for people who change their minds
  • Reputable supplier with longetivity
  • Ease of creating sign-up widgets for my blog.

In the absence of any email list suppliers in Aoteraoa, the only thing that bugs me is that my list is stored on servers hosted by a company from the United States. I’d much to prefer the records I’m keeping are on a computer in this country.

I didn’t undertake a thorough research exercise before choosing MailChimp. I could have as there are many excellent guides out there aimed at community and charitable organisations.

I commend MailChimp for making the way of creating enewsletters fairly easy. It is a bit fiddly, but I didn’t once need to call on the helpdesk or read a lengthy manual. Now that I’ve got a template, I’ll only have to do tweaking each time I send out a new (irregular) issue.

Before sending I paid an extra $3.00 to run an Inbox Inspection. This tested the draft newsletter in 29 email clients or web-based mail using a service from Litmus. I also tested samples myself, including a plain text version.

Now that I’m up and running, my aim is to increase numbers signing up, and tyring to get people engaging with the ideas I’m sharing. For me, that’s not just encouraging people to visit my blog, but to also comment on things I’ve written and/ or join in events I’m running.

It takes more than just firing out a newsletter to actually engage people. Having got as far as sending out issue # 1, I shouldn’t dose off. I need to use stats and other feedback to improve my newsletters. There’s a lot to learn so that I can increase the number of subscriptions and improve my open rate. I’m going to work through a list of 14 ways to increase opening rate from Brent at NTEN. I’m also thinking about joining a webinar on “Nonprofit Newsletters That Engage” (free for NTEN members).

It’s seem fitting to end this post by plugging my (irregular) email newsletter. Sign-up here (or on the right somewhere if you’re reading this on my blog). And don’t forget to tell me what you think.

PS I do have a Privacy policy – as I hate having my own email address used by someone sending me things I don’t want, I’m very careful about respecting my subscribers privacy.

Resources

Still wondering about using Outlook or a email list service, see “Broadcast Email Tools VS. Microsoft Outlook”

The Basics of Email Metrics: Are Your Campaigns Working? by Idealware (October, 2008)

A Few Good Broadcast Email Tools, by Laura S. Quinn, Idealware (March 2010)

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3 thoughts on “Counting the impact of email newsletter #1

  1. Chris

    Great article Stephen.

    I use MailChimp and found that the system sometimes tags emails as “unopened” when I know for a fact that they have been opened.

    I was just wondering if you had encountered this?

    Reply
    1. Stephen Blyth Post author

      In this blog post I wrote about my first use of MailChimp, so I haven’t looked into issues that you raise.
      What my gut instinct tells me is that just website analytics, these types of statistics will never be 100% accurate for a number of reasons. Even the people that open a message may only scan it in 10 seconds, or do it by accident. As many email clients allow previews, perhaps emails are not opened but the contents are actually viewed.
      So, I’d treat stats as a useful guide, with a fairly wide margin of error. What I think becomes important over time is looking at patterns or trends. In Brent’s article about how to improve your open rate he mentions that new subscribers are more likely to open newsletters, etc. This leads to the conclusion keeping a list fresh is important.

      Reply
    2. Paul Bolger

      Mailchimp can only tell you have opened the message if your email client is set to automatically display images. If you aren’t certifiably mad you won’t have this enabled as it’s the way spammers verify that your address is valid – send a spam email and see if any images referenced are requested.

      Reply

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