Email Marketing May Not be Sexy But it Works: Ashley Guttuso


In some respects, newsletters are the Rodney Dangerfield of the digital marketing world; they get no respect.

They’re widely used by B2B companies to engage and convert customers but they’re not seen as sexy. 

To get some insight into the world of newsletters, I saw down with Ashley Guttuso, Director of Marketing at Simple Focus Software and the author of the Opt-in Weekly newsletter. 

We talked about:

- Best practices and mistakes to avoid

- HubSpot's acquisition of The Hustle

- How and when to use curated content within newsletters.

You're listening to marketing sparkpodcast that delivers insane tools and tips, markers otras in the trenches intwenty five minutes or less in some respects news letters are the RodneyDanger Field of the digital marketing world. They get no respect, they'rewidely used by BT companies to engage and convert customers they're not seenas sex. I gets some insight into the world of newsletters, I'm talking toAshley Atus, Director of marketing at simple focus software and the author ofthe often weekly news letter, welwets Pan, it's great to have you and we've beengoing back and forth on linked for a while and it's I've yet to actuallytalk to someone on my podcast about newsletters. So I'm really excitedabout the opportunity to get into incited to. I think this is a fun topic,because so many people like to proclaim that email is dead. Then they realizethat email is responsible for a high percentage of conversions and ofsomething that's almost more important is in nurturing relationships. So I'vehad a lot of interesting conversations in the past. Lo, six, eight months withdifferent news: Let er editors and a percentage of him are marketers whohave had a lot of success with their newsletters, but is because they aredoing it in a different way than like a lot of times. There's the best practiceright, send a weekly news letter or send a monthly newsletter, and thenthat best practice gets like twisted and soiled and like it turns intosomething less savory than it once was. So the newsletter actually takes onthis new definition and it's email asking someone to convert. So you dothe opposite of that with marketing spark, and I think that's how weconnected in the first place. But the marketers who are doing this well aretrading their newsletter like it is a an editorial stones letter which I love,because my background is in journalism and we've seen this shift or thebeginnings of a shift that will just become more prevalent from marketing teams like embracing contentmarketing, like making sure that you have content up there, that thatengages to rate engineering your mind set or your team's structure to performthe way of News, room or a media group performs, and so the focus then becomeson providing content, whether you're writing it or Cuati it that its soleintention is to support your audience and their success. So the marketers,who do this best, I think, are the ones who are putting informative educational content infront of their readership and then sprinkling and like almost like, an ittwenty or ninety ten percent ratio of...

...editorial to promotional. So that's thetrend that I'm seeing so now you're going to give me the opposite answer, but our newslettersunglamorous or are they? Are they simply understated or they are theymisunderstood? Because I think the reality is that newsletters have beenaround for a long time as marketers. We probably take them for granted becausethey're part of our arsenals, just like a blog or a website or social media.Maybe we start to dismiss the effectiveness of the news letter or thefact that newsletters can be sexy. They can be compelling in as they have this stigma. I suppose you could call it ofbeing kind of old hat, because they're not a new tactic, but if you thinkabout marketing and its primary goal is to createawareness and then take that awareness and form a relationship, a connectionbetween the brand and the consumer, then it's a wonderful vehicle todeliver that intimate message because email takes one to one come to you, I'msending this. Excuse me this email to you and scales it as a one to many aslong as you don't treat it like it's one to many, you kind of have to usethe content in a way where I'm sending this specifically to you my target IC.Yes, they don't seem to be as sexy, every five or ten years. They haveanother resurgence and they're the new great thing to do, and I think that youwould find that. That's why hub spot just bought the hustle or WI businessinsider thought morning. Brew was a great acquisition. Those newsletterstheir editors had created an audience and a relationship with that audiencethat they hope O to take advantage of glad. You mentioned that, because, whenhub spot bought the hustle, my first impression was that it was more likewhat like. Why would a software company by a popular newsletter, and I didn'treally see the connection between the two, because hops Bot is enterprisesoftware and the hustle is all over the place. Their content is compelling andengaging and really interesting. I mean in fact it's really good journalismwhen you think about it. So why do you think hub spot made the move and thenmore important? What does that suggest as a trend in terms of futureacquisitions or software companies, bt SOFTWARE COMPANIES BUYING NEWSLETTERS?Are We? Is this the tip of the iceberg? As far as your answer that theirapproach is the fast paced way to reach an audience that has already beennurtured into its existing state, their challenge will be to keep the contentthe same as it is, but to work the hub... brand into it right, because thatthe hustle has like a community. It's built around a mind set, and so it'swhat it's also doing is fueling a lot of business ideas and and keeping people tuned into the state of an industry. They're they're interested in so ho spotschallenge and any challenge to a marketing team that is trying to act like a mediacompany is to not twist what a media company does into Promo Promo Promo.They have to deliver information in the way that the audience wants to receive it.So you can do that from scratch or if you're funded, you can go by the exactnewsletter that has been growing for years and has the audiencedo you want to read, but the trick is not to like we one time we bought ahouse that was built in eighteen and twenty three and it had like a servant staircase off the kitchen. Thatwas a winder staircase and we wanted it on the national historic register right,but the second you go in. If you were contemplating like Hey, we should getrid of that staircase to make the kitchen bigger. you start to hurt thearchitectural integrity and then you are no longer eligible for the taxbenefits of being on the National Register, because you have now harmedthe architectural integrity. If you take that metaphor and you adapt it to editorial newsletter that assassCompany has acquired, that's their challenge is not to disrupt or harm theintegrity of the publication. I have two schools of thought when it comes tohouse, but one is that it's going to be very hard for Hupo to keep its handsoff the hustle, because you know that they're going to want to somehowimprint their brand and their brand message into that media entity. But inthe other hand, Hubbud has a reputation of creating reams of value addedinsightful content that they don't even expect a lot of the readers even buyHouse Pot going down the road. So the it's sort of the two headed beast whenyou think about how house but operates, but I think you're right, I think it'sgoing to be extremely tempting for hub spot to try to insert ourself into thehustle conversation. My advice to Hob spot would be to back off. Let thehustle stay. The Hustle use a really light touch as you go forward and thenyou'll be able to roof the benefits and then start to win over the community,because if they go too fast or they make two big moves, then the communitywill put that right. So the intention would be to serve the existing audience.Not Change things in a way that makes them no longer want to be in thataudience, because that's that's...

...newsletter subscriptions right. It HitsYour inbox too many times with messaging that you don't like. There'sthis natic unsubscribed and Poof, it's no longer part of your daily or weeklyreading session. So I liked that from the press release they expressed anintention to preserve that integrity and that delivery methodology. I am going to watch and see. I think weall are and see how they trath that and then there's can be lessons learned forthe rest of us. As we say as we watch things unfold right now. You mentioned something earlierabout email going and sort of waves, maybe every five years or every tenyears something gets new and interesting. So I'm interested givenwhat's happened with the Hustle and Hab spot and given what we seen last yearas far as sort of this new digital marketing landscape, the fact thatwe're not going to conferences what's the state of the of newsletters withinthis marketing landscape do see changes. Do you see trends happening? Do you seethe way that companies B B companies are using newsletters changes? Okay, soI want to bring up two things number one. I think a lot of marketing teamsare looking at their newsletter that they have just been a cycle of sendingbecause they've always sent and starting to think. Oh, how can Ioverhaul this to be more more user centric right like how canwhat I send really help the recipient and earn me that next contract or newal in the process likeso it becomes a part of a success strategy with especially with Sass, ifyou're subscribed to their news letter and your subscribe to their software?But then another thing that I have seen is independent in news. Letters likemorning grot like the Hustle, a lot of these smaller independent newslettersthat are really niched down to a topic or industry that a a company would be interested inadvertising to those newsletters are getting advertisements from bigcompanies. So it's a two sided play. I've seen H, trefts like advertising insmall, so nice newsletters, so there's kind of a myriad of opportunities, andI think we will see a lot of affiliate things going on and that we will seemarketing teams up grading their newsletter or rethinking the content strategy andtrying to figure out how to make it different. I think you- and I talkedabout a long time ago- and this is applicable probably with the hustle aswell as any other niche industry news letter- is that ifyour marketing team is...

...let's say you, you don't have the fanwith even to write a log a week or a blog a day about industry, bestpractices or trends or things that are going on in your ips world. But if youare daily in Mersin in that IPS world bycollecting links and reading the stories they should be reading, you aremore even if you don't publish that as a newsletter. You are more in tune withwho you are trying to sell to him. One of the things I want to talk to youabout is just a edit editorial approach to the editorial approach tonewsletters. So there are some news, letters that are opinion, pieces or insight, and there are others that are simply curate content. Do you have apreference? Is it depending on the audience? I'm just curious about howcompanies and individuals should will have be to be. Companies shouldapproach a newsletter, because you want to serve your audience. You want togive them relevant content, but you also want to engage attract convert. Sohow do you what's the balancing act in terms of the best editorial o? I thinkyou could be successful with many models right. You could have a purecuration model. You could have a pure. This is the message from the CEO once aweek once a month fortnight, Lee whatever or you could have a hybrid model that uses original content a lot of contextfor the links you're bringing in. I think, that's kind of what you do. Iwould call that a hybrid, but I guess I was wondering whether companies should simply provide insightand their own opinions and their own views of the world or whether theyshould also bring in curate content third party content that serves theneeds and interests of their customers. And then how do you? How do you fit inthat whole conversion exercise about? I think the mix is my favorite approach,but I think before I say, go do both. What I should really say is: goresearch, your IC p. What do they read? What did they like to read and thenfigure out how to not just copy cat that? Because if I already get a cratednewsletter about content strategy, or so I don't want five of those, and so Ifeel like it's appropriate right now to mention that I just finished Marcus Andrews, narrative design courseover on Product Marketing Alliance and it's phenomenal I'll give him that plug.But what the message that he drives home is that there's so much noise. There is so much noise in the world andyour Ip can only consume. So much so youl need to figure out how to...

...define what it means to win in theirindustry and then to give that game a name and then for that new game. That newplay book to be a part of your marketing, and I think it's a part ofyour newsletter right, and so I wrote just today or I published just todaythat, like you, can't be one of forty newsletters that is sending outthe same links and expect to win. You've got to carve out a spot foryourself and figure out like not just how to be like what they like, but howto deliver a way for them to win and give that parentheses or contexts orbook book ends like make own that and then bring that into your newsletter,so that it's not just another newsletter. That's like othernewsletters, but it is the one I can't live without because I depend on it towin in my my workplace or in my life like I can totally see where you'recoming from, because when I look at my own consumption of news letters andlike you, I subscribe to a lot of news letters morning: Brew Marketing, brewof the ones that I look forward to the click is another one that I really like.As a marketer. I want you to bring me unique, interesting, compelling contentthat I wouldn't find elsewhere and you bring it you bring it all to me andthat's what makes the value of a newsletter. So we've talked about good practices, Best Practices fornewsletters, but maybe we can flip things on their head and talk about themistakes that companies make with newsletters. Yes, you know, I wouldsuspect that the biggest comport is they try to be to conversion focused orproduct focus. So from your perspective- and you look at a lot of news lettersand talk to a lot of news letter creators, what are the big mistakesthat bt companies should have? We too much promotional content, not enougheditorial and the reason I say flip this and makethis like ninety ten or at the worst. A twenty is that you use the editorialcontent to earn the right to be promotional, and you are likely not just sending anewsletter. You might also be sending promotional, like only newsletter, Imean not newsletters, but emails right like so. You may have an a blast or aseries when you're launching a product or something that you're doing so, ifyou were doing that in addition to your newsletter, the news letter and it's on repeat,quality delivery of things they always want is the thing that will keep themless annoyed by the promotional blasts right whenyou start like launching, or you have a course orsomething and you're going to start the week before the course sending thosereminders to convert on the course like.

Maybe it's a minimal part of yournewsletter, but you've got a sales sequence right. We all do things likethis. It helps if, when I get those promotional emails and I'm not going toconvert it helps that I don't subscribe. Like the newsletter keeps me hanging onso maybe at some point of course I do convert on right, so you haven't lostme completely. Another worse practice that I see is assuming that theaudience cares a lot about your company and what's happening in your company,and so we just hired so and so here's his CVIlike now, maybe a Q, and I with this guy, like maybe like, if there's somereason, that his knowledge is going to help me win in life. Like maybe I wouldread a Q na, but I don't want, and then I don't want to have to feel guiltythat I don't want to read the Bio or the thing right so attempting topublish all their own content that that's not a hard thing for a largeteam, but small teams have trouble, and so they tend to reduce the number oftimes they send their news letter out based on the fact that they onlypublish four blogs a month or less than that, and so they want to have plentyof stuff to use in that newsletter and they're, not bringing in Third Partycurative links to supplement that. I think bringing in links is a great wayto test whether a topic resonate with your audience. Like Hey. Let's carrythis story about this see. If it gets any action, then we canknow if we might want to pursue that further from our own brand perspectivein the blog. So that's another thing is not having like a strong point of viewor perspective just being kind of like weird for everyone. We don't just like.We don't have a strong opinion about this, like a brand with a strongopinion is more memorable and relatable and then another practive that I kindof it just gives me like the chalk board,screech kind of sound. When I see it like I have that feeling is pine likewhen you see it is this super formal language email is like aletter like you sendin your friends, emails right, like I thought you wouldlike this, how you doing whatever it's somehow, especially if you're not sending itfrom a person you're sending it from a brand people like get in this weirdmindst, where they write like super corporate like dearest mark or you know,we hope you've been well or you know, to your valued customer and like SuperElevate and formalize the language right and once you tink Yah, you havekind of like what you have done is you have built distance between the brandand the recipient, so the closer you can get to them the better. So you usedyou right like you, talk like they...

...have a tone and a personality in thenewsletter. So so those are some of the big ones and then I think one reallyawful one is when people they forget that email is like a mobile ab and they write everything and designeverything to look great on desk top right, but not to be consumed in anemail on your phone. Excuse me and so like I know it's, it's kind of feelswrong and my co and I go back and forth on this because I told him like he dida link in post the other day, and I was like it's one paragraph like you got tobreak this thing up, and so he created a post that made fun of how wewrite four different channels or whatever, and you if your coffee blockis longer than the screen on the phone like you need tobreak that up like one and two cents. Paragraphs are okay in in emails thatthey're easier to digest in that way, and that kind of takes us back to astory brand mind set of how many reading calories. How many mentalcalories is my audience willing to burn when they get this like? What can I askfrom them and the easier it is and the better the formatting and then I thinkone last thing would be like not not testing deliver ability and not testinglike if it's clipped in g mail, because there's a lot of under the iceberg kindof stuff going on in some builders that you don't even realize or keepinggetting you clipped in g mail, which I never do by the way I never get clipped.What that does. Is that hides your UN subscribe? So you have now made itharder for people who, like there are people who don't understand how to seethe rest of your email they exist, and then they mark you as Pam, because theycannot figure out how to unsubscribed from it. It's a thing. I think thoseare some of the worst of the word. So one final question: where can peoplelearn more about you? You want to find me specifically go to Lincon er optonweekly. If you want to learn more about SIMPLICI software, the links to some ofthose brands are in my linkin bio. Well, thanks Ashley for all your in sightabout newsletters and email marketing. It's, as I said, doesn't probably get alot of attention as being sexy and glamors, but it is sort of one of thework courses of the digital marking and landscapes. So I really appreciate yourtips and your advice and, if anybody's looking for advice on how to write abetter newsletter subscribe to Upton weekly, well, thanks for listening toanother episode of market spark, if you enjoyed the conversation, leave areview and subscribe by Iton Potii or your favorite podcast APP for shownotes of today's conversation and information about Ashley VisitMarketing Spark do co spots block. If you like information about how I helpme to be SASS companies as a fractional... for cichican coach and an emailto mark at marketings park on, come I'll. Talk to you. I.

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