In the last few years, so many things have changed in internet marketing. Organic reach on social media has fallen to near zero. More than half of all Google searches end without a click.
But while there are a lot of changes, some things haven’t changed.
- Relevance – the key sauce to monetizing email newsletters
- 4 ways to monetize your newsletters
- How to improve your subscribers’ experience
Take email marketing, for example. Email is still one of the best ways to communicate with our audiences. It’s still getting the best return on investment of any other marketing channel.
And email marketing is still definitely not dead. In fact, it’s the first channel people check every day.
And it’s consumers’ preferred channel to hear from brands.
If you’ve been doing email marketing for a while, you may already know all this. You’ve found out for yourself how well it works, and you don’t need to be sold on doing it. (We’ll just keep quiet about this and let the social media marketers go spend all their money on advertising.)
But while email marketing works – and works really well – it does require some effort. Especially if you’re creating email newsletters. The best email marketers and publishers craft their newsletters carefully, designing them and writing them for optimal engagement rates. They value their readers’ experience. And you probably do, too.
So maybe when you’ve heard about monetizing an email newsletter in the past, you were a little leery. You didn’t want to spam your readers, or erode the value of your list.
That’s smart, but it doesn’t mean you can’t earn more money from your email newsletters. It is possible to get an even better return on investment from your email newsletters than you were getting before. And with less work than you might expect.
You just have to focus on one thing: Relevance.
Why Relevance is the Secret Sauce to Monetizing Email Newsletters
So let’s talk directly about this idea of your subscribers marking your emails as spam. What would actually cause them to do that? Because they didn’t like an article you wrote, or because your email wasn’t designed well enough?
It’s neither of those things.
- Because you emailed them too often
- They don’t remember subscribing
- You sent irrelevant content
The first two reasons are obvious triggers for marking messages as spam. But the third one is interesting. In certain content channels, we value information based on how aligned it is to a certain content interest.
An article about knitting, for instance, would really bother us if it was in a newsletter about accounting. It might be a very nice article about knitting, but that would barely matter. It’s irrelevant, and so we wouldn’t want it there.
This reveals an interesting idea about how consumers define spam: It’s irrelevant. We are much more likely to tolerate messages – even messages we didn’t opt into – if they are closely aligned with our interests.
Here’s what this means for you, and your email newsletters: So long as you monetize your email newsletters in a way that complements your readers’ interests and the topic of your email newsletter, you won’t have to worry about spiking unsubscribe rates anywhere near as much.
Relevant ads are okay. Done well, relevant ads can even complement your subscribers’ experience, rather than diminishing it.
Four ways to monetize an email newsletter and enhance your readers’ experience
If you can obey the law of relevancy, any one of these email monetization tactics may work.
#1. Offer carefully-selected products and services through affiliate or “partner” agreements.
The success here lies entirely in picking the right products and services. Don’t just look for what will make you the most money. Instead, seek out products and services you’ve used yourself and you love. Then go see if you can set up an affiliate partnership with them.
Of course, these affiliate offers have to be 100% aligned with what your audience cares about, too. If you can’t find something you think they’ll love, don’t pitch anything at all. And go light on the promotion… you may want to offer an affiliate deal in every other newsletter issue if that.
#2. Find a newsletter sponsor.
This is basically a long-term, exclusive advertising agreement. You might swap ad creative out now and then, but typically a newsletter only has one or two sponsors, and they’ll have them for at least a few months at a time. The primary benefit for the sponsor is they don’t have to compete with anyone else.
#3. Offer “solo emails.”
This is where you let another company send a full email to your list. This is not a part of your normal newsletter – it would be a totally separate email message.
Solo emails can work for the list owner and the advertiser. But they can also alienate subscribers. If you do offer solo emails to advertisers, tread carefully. You may not want to send one any more than once per quarter.
#4. Place relevant, dynamic native ads into your newsletter template.
You can sign up to an email advertising platform (like our own inboxAds), and then get relevant ads that fit within your newsletter template delivered automatically. These dynamic ads can be selected by you, or they can be automatically selected based on what you tell the platform your newsletter is about.
This can be helpful if you’re busy and you don’t want to shift through affiliate programs to find just the right one. Or if you don’t want to manage a sponsor relationship or solo ads.
Email newsletter advertising only requires a quick setup, and then the ads flow into your newsletter automatically. Often, you don’t even have to pay to use the platform. You just let the ads run in your newsletter and the platform sends you money.
A good programmatic ads platform can also track which ads your readers click on so it can serve up ads your readers are more likely to click. This, of course, means you’ll be showing ever more relevant ads to your readers.
Most email advertising platforms work with the major email service providers like Mailchimp, Sendlane, Mailjet, and others. Some also work via WordPress plugins if you send your emails out that way.
Monetize your email newsletters with an eye to improving your subscribers’ experience
Putting out a great email newsletter takes a lot of work. Hopefully, you’re already getting a good return from that work. If you’re not, or if you would like to bring in more, maybe it’s time to test one or more of these monetization strategies.
So long as you pick relevant offers for your subscribers and you don’t overwhelm them with ads, you should be able to increase your earnings over time – and maybe even improve your subscribers’ experience while you do it.