Starting an Email Newsletter in 2021: Q&A with ZeroBounce CEO Liviu Tanase
Starting an email newsletter in 2021 may seem daunting. ZeroBounce CEO Liviu Tanase explains why it shouldn’t – and how you can put together a solid strategy today.
In this in-depth interview, Liviu talks about:
- why it’s worth launching a newsletter and how you can make it effective
- how to grow your email list when you don’t have a large budget
- the biggest challenges email marketers are facing right now and how to overcome them
- ZeroBounce’s newsletter strategy – with tips you can steal and apply to your own business.
Is it worth starting an email newsletter in 2021 or is it too late?
It’s worth starting a newsletter anytime – and especially in 2021! Other than offline events, I can’t see a better way to connect with your audience.
Email has been at the core of business communication in the past year: it’s the primary channel brands have been using for updates. It also remains a vital marketing channel that facilitates fast mass communication and supports revenue.
What's the difference between an email newsletter and email marketing?
The purpose of an email newsletter is to nurture subscribers with helpful and entertaining content. As opposed to direct email marketing, your email newsletter should focus not on sales, but on educating your audience on whatever topic you’re an expert in.
Think about it as a way to get to know your audience – and allowing it to get to know you, too – before you lead people to the “Buy” button.
What tips do you have for companies thinking about launching a newsletter in 2021?
To stop thinking and start their newsletter this week. Take the first step today.
For instance, find a reliable email service provider. It should be one with a good sending reputation so you can get the highest deliverability.
When it comes to content strategy, ask yourself: what do I know that would be of help to my audience? Then share that with generosity. Give your best insights and advice. Invite other experts to join you and share their tips.
Avoid including any sales pitches in your newsletters – send separate emails to accomplish that goal.
Also, it’s vital to keep a neat list. Verify it regularly to make sure your contacts are valid and you’re reaching the inbox. Email lists deteriorate. As a rule of thumb, when your bounce rate exceeds 2%, you should clean your list.
Many business owners would like to start an email newsletter in 2021 but lack the resources. How do you grow your email list on a budget?
Growing your email list doesn’t necessarily require a big budget. Here are some free ways to entice people to subscribe.
Use more than one signup form.
Having several signup forms on your website is the first thing you can do – and it’s free. Pay attention to the copy in the form and make sure it:
- tells them what your emails are about,
- mentions how often people will get them, and
- gives them a good reason to subscribe.
Create a content offer.
Another tactic that continues to yield great results is having a gated content offer. This can be an e-book, a white paper, or an infographic where you share your best advice on a certain topic. The secret is to know what your audience needs and wants, so you can come up with the most exciting subject. Then, create a dedicated landing page and ask visitors to fill out a form to get access.
There’s a great advantage gated content offers: once you have it on your platform, it requires little effort on your part. It starts working for you right away and helps you expand your list on auto-pilot. Just remember to promote it consistently across all mediums available.
Invite your social media followers to subscribe.
Finally, a very easy (and free) tactic is to encourage people on social media to subscribe. If you’ve worked hard to build a social following, capitalize on that. A couple of days before sending out your email, post about it and let people know about the exclusive content they get if they subscribe. I guarantee this works – we’ve seen it grow our list consistently.
Verify your email contacts.
Finally, ensure you collect good, valid email addresses. It’s nice to have lots of subscribers, but if they’re not genuine, it’s like having tons of fake followers on Instagram.
Except for, when it comes to email, bad addresses mean a high bounce rate, spam complaints, and other issues that will cause you to land in spam. To communicate effectively, you need to be in the inbox, so while your list grows, make sure it also stays healthy.
If your list grows fast, an email validation API saves you time by checking every new address instantly, at the point of registration. Periodically, you can also run your entire list through a bulk email verifier.
However, if you’re not adding lots of contacts to your list every day, you can manually check new subscribers by using our free email verifier at ZeroBounce.
All tools to start an email newsletter in 2021
What would you say are the biggest challenges for companies starting an email newsletter in 2021?
For email marketers, the main challenge is being able to stand out from the crowd as the competition got tougher.
The question is: does your offer make a difference in people’s lives right now? How can you give something unique that will keep your brand top of mind? Now is the time for brands to be empathetic and generous, and show that they care. Not all have succeeded.
Apart from that, there’s the challenge of landing in people’s inboxes and getting your messages seen. Email lists have been declining in quality much faster in the past year, due to so many people losing their jobs. That causes bounces which can affect your sender reputation and inbox placement.
So, brands in the B2B sector have to stay on top of their email hygiene and scrub their email lists more frequently.
No matter how well-thought your marketing email may be, it won’t make an impact if nobody sees it. With the economy hurting right now, you can’t afford to have your emails land in spam and waste precious marketing budget.
So, keep an eye on your bounce rate and overall engagement. They’re important metrics that will dictate whether your message gets in front of people or lost on its way to the spam folder.
Does ZeroBounce send a newsletter?
As a company in the email industry, we’ve had a newsletter since day one. It’s always packed with relevant information for the people on our list: blog articles, stats, tips and tricks to help them be successful in their email communication.
Whenever we launch a new feature or we make updates to our service, we also announce them via newsletter. Interestingly enough, we usually get higher open rates on emails sharing company-related news. It’s probably because we make it special by not sending this type of content often.
How have your metrics evolved over the years?
We’ve been very content with our results. As we began to know our audience better, we were able to craft better emails and send people exactly what they were looking for. Our open rates have continued to increase and we often get replies from our subscribers thanking us for the content we send.
Newsletters are powerful. They’ve helped boost our brand awareness and establish stronger relationships with our customers and prospects.
Here’s a newsletter example from The Wall Street Journal: an email packed with useful, exciting information for their audience.
What type of content should companies include in their email newsletters?
This is up to each company’s strategy, but we’ve found that helpful and entertaining content performs best.
We target monthly campaigns to specific audiences (by splitting our lists) and strive to make them an irresistible offer every time.
Apart from that, we send out a weekly newsletter that focuses on educating, helping, and inspiring our subscribers. Sometimes, this email directs them to an article on our blog and other useful resources in different media outlets. Other times, the content is 100% unique and exclusive to the newsletter.
Ideally, your newsletter has content your audience can’t find anywhere else. If it’s unique, helpful, and entertaining, that’s a winning strategy to gain subscribers.
Is there an ideal sending frequency?
The number one reason people unsubscribe from emails is that they get too many, so you don’t want to be in their inbox too often.
On the other hand, emailing too seldom can cause people to forget they ever subscribed – and that can trigger spam complaints, a poor sender reputation, and low engagement.
Our sweet spot is one newsletter a week. Periodically, we send a marketing campaign that goes out to a specific segment of our list. When we’re running a campaign, we send up to four emails a week.
How often do you provide value versus sell?
We always provide value – there’s no other way to sell. Just because your email is trying to sell something doesn’t mean you can’t provide value. On the contrary.
Grab your readers by the lapels from the very first sentence. Address a pain point or a desire they may have, and show them how you can help. Tell a story, share testimonials, use humor if you can. Then end with a strong call-to-action.
Take a look at this marketing email from Neptune: it offers context, suggests a new perspective, and adds a human touch by including tips from the company’s team members. The final CTA is highlighted so you can’t miss it.
Does your email newsletter follow a content plan?
We do have a short-term plan, but we like to keep our emails fresh and not plan too much in advance. Some campaigns can take a few weeks to implement and activate, but otherwise, spontaneity is key.
How do B2B newsletters perform, as opposed to B2C emails?
All industry studies show that B2B email marketing (including newsletters) doesn’t perform as well as B2C emails. According to the DMA, the average B2B email open rate is 15.1%, while B2C emails get a bit more engagement: their open rate, on average, is 19.7%.
That shouldn’t discourage you from starting a newsletter in 2021 if you’re in the B2B space. Email is here to stay and there’s great value in building your email list early on.
What are some of the most important marketing lessons you learned since the start of the pandemic?
We’ve learned two important lessons since the pandemic started.
One is that you have to be prepared to switch to a different strategy overnight. I’m lucky to have an agile team that’s always alert to what’s going on in the world. So we were able to pivot quickly and adapt our communication to the current world status.
The second one is the importance of generosity – and more than that, expressing it repeatedly. Our customers know we’re here to guide them with their email marketing, and that we do it wholeheartedly. They know it because we’ve been repeating this message so often in our emails, social media posts, or chat support messaging.
Being generous and genuinely showing care for your customers is the one thing that helps your business stand out during a crisis. I’m glad we managed to reinforce this message during the pandemic as that has brought us new clients, as well as the loyalty of our existing customers.
We thank Liviu for sharing his insights into 2021 newsletter strategies. Liviu Tanase is a serial entrepreneur. He’s the founder of email validation and deliverability company ZeroBounce. In 2020, ZeroBounce took no. 40 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. In March 2021, ZeroBounce ranks no. 9 on the Inc. 5000 Regionals Florida list.