Lessons Learned from the Newsletter Survey

by | Aug 12, 2010 | Building Relationships, Marketing & Selling

NOTE: This is a longer than usual post. So, I’ve bolded the “Take Away Lesson” for each of the three sections so you can skip to them if you prefer.

Over the last two months, I’ve been collecting responses to a survey about what people like or dislike about my monthly electronic newsletter, The H.E.A.R.T. of Business. And the results are quite interesting.

I thought I’d share them with you here so that maybe my results can help you make decisions about your electronic newsletter.

Newsletter Frequency

The first question I asked was “How often would you like to receive the newsletter?” I wanted to know if the monthly frequency I was currently publishing at was enough, or if people would prefer a shorter newsletter that came to their mailboxes more often. Here are the results:

frequency preference
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You’ll notice that once a month and twice a month are equally favored. So which did I choose?

Let me back up just a moment. Recently, I entered The H.E.A.R.T. of Business into Linda Claire Puig’s Next Top Newsletter contest, and even made it into the top 20 finalists. During the Aug. 2 call where the winners were announced, Linda discussed the latest research on email and newsletter marketing. One of the things she said was that sending out twice a month was usually optimal for a newsletter, monthly was the bare minimum.

So, given that data, and the data from my survey, I’m going to start publishing the newsletter twice a month starting in September.

Take a look at the chart above again. One way to look at it is that the same number of people want to receive the newsletter once a month as twice a month. But another way to look at is that 60% of those surveyed want to receive the newsletter more than once a month. That is one reason why I’m increasing the frequency. The other is to make the newsletter shorter and more consumable per issue.

Take Away Lesson:
What can you learn from my survey results? Well, if you cater to a similar audience … small business owners, women business owners, entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, coaches … then you can probably successfully publish your electronic newsletter twice a month. This gives you more opportunities to build that relationship and keep your business, products and services top of mind.

What Do People Want to Read?

The next two questions in my survey asked what their most and least favorite sections of the newsletter. Here are the results:

Section Like Dislike
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You’ll see from this chart that there is a very clear winner, which kind of surprised me. 60% of respondents loved the “Featured Article,” while no one wanted to get rid of it. The featured article of The H.E.A.R.T. of Business is a link to one of the articles I’ve written and posted on EzineArticles.com.

Only 45% of respondents like the “Featured Blog Posts,” while 12% disliked it.

The reason why I mention this is that there really is no difference in content. In fact, my EzineArticles.com articles are often just re-written blog posts.

So why the difference in perception? Here are my thoughts and I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this!

  • Posting on EzineArticles.com gives my writing an implied third-party endorsement. People think that my writing published there will automatically be better than what I publish to my blog.
  • Depending on which list someone subscribed to, they received a monthly or bi-monthly email with a listing of recently posted blog entries. Maybe they perceived this section as redundant. however, people only received blog posts from the blog they subscribed through, not the other and the “Featured Blog Post” section always included one post from both blogs.

So how will these results affect the newsletter? Here’s a summary and why I made these decisions.

More Likes than Dislikes

  • Featured Article: Obviously, I’m going to be keeping the clear winner. In fact, I might include it in both issues of the newsletter, which will give me incentive to keep up my article marketing production!
  • Tip of the Month: This is a link to a tip from the Entrepreneur Life Tips website. I was thinking of letting this one go, but given that so many people like it, I guess I’ll continue being the Life Tips Entrepreneur Guru.
  • Success Quote: I’ve always thought this was fun, so I’ll continue it.
  • Featured Blog Posts: I will continue this one, but I might tweak how I go about it. Given the data, I feel that I must not have been communicating the value of these posts and will remedy that in September.
  • Carma Recommends: This is the section where I highlight products and services available by others that I think will be of value to my readers. Yes, these are usually affiliate links … but why not? I make a point of not recommending crap. But, maybe I’ll offer an alternative, non-affiliate link for those who are offended by my potentially earning a few bucks for my recommendation. I’ll think on that one some more.
  • Good Reads: Given the luke-warm reception, and the time-consuming nature of finding a decent book and writing a recommendation for it, I’ll definitely be cutting back on this one. Either it will be a month feature, or be dropped back to a quarterly feature. Or, possibly I’ll mix it up and add some fun, non-business titles, as well. You know what all work and no play does, right?
  • Monthly Special: There are enough likes to keep this section to some degree. But, I think I’m going to drop it down to a quarterly special for a few reasons: 1. it will allow me to promote the same special in several issues, 2. it will give me a rest from always having to come up with a new special every month, and 3. only 30% of respondents found it of value in its current iteration.

More Dislikes than Likes

  • The P.I.B.E.cast: Lucky for me, I actually canceled this podcast because I’m moving to Los Angele and will no longer be the Phoenix Internet Business Examiner. That said, if I do a new business podcast in the future, I’ll have to re-think how to share it with my readers.
  • Mark Your Calendar: Despite the dissing this section took, I’m going to keep it. Why? Because I want my readers to know what I’m up to and what deadlines are coming up. By publishing it in the sidebar of my newsletter, I don’t have to send out as many individual emails about these things. Having a “Mark Your Calendar” section allows me to be more subtle in my self promotion, which makes me a lot more comfortable and probably pisses less readers off.

Take Away Lesson
How are you presenting the various sections in your newsletter? Is the value you are providing clear and apparent? I learned from this survey that I probably was not being clear in the value proposition I was offering. Maybe it’s the title of the section. Maybe it’s how the information in that section was presented. Survey your readers and look for trends in their answers. You might be surprised by what you discover!

What are your hot topics?

My final question was “What do you want to read about?” and I provided a list of my favorite topics to write about, as well as few related topics I have covered in the past. Here is a summary of the results:

top topics
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The top topics, coming in with 65% wanting to read about them, were article marketing, business/entrepreneur mindset and website/squeeze page design. Goodie for me! These are my best topics. In fact, I facilitate a quarterly Article Marketing Marathon, am very involved in mindset work with Marilyn Jenett, my prosperity mentor, and I specialize in helping creative professionals leverage their online presence to support their career and business goals. I even wrote a book on home page design for authors, speakers and coaches. I guess I’m attracting the right types of readers.

Blogging (60%), online/web presence (55%) and relationship/email marketing (55%) came in a close second with online marketing for local business (45%) coming in just under the half-way mark. Now, you may notice that these four topics are very closely related to the top three, in fact some are just a subset. So I’m still good.

The two laggards were online audio (30%) and online video (25%). Still respectable, so I’m glad I’ve covered them on my blog, but low enough that I don’t feel pressure to continue coming up with more ways to talk about them. Good thing, too. I’ve already pretty much covered what I know about these topics and they are my weakest areas of knowledge.

Take Away Lesson
I learned two main things from this part of the survey. One, I need to focus on those topics I’m most knowledgeable about. And Two, I’ve been attracting the right readers for my expertise. That is really heartening.

Take a look at what topics you are most passionate about and focus on the top three. You don’t have to everything to everyone. And, you’ll find that your best readers will most likely have come to you for those very topics!

Please Post a Comment Below
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What are your thoughts?

Given this data, would you come up with different conclusions? Do you agree with mine? Do you have additional data to share? Please leave your comment in the “Leave a Reply” box below.


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