6 Steps to Engage Your Known Audience with Email

building a paywall that works

Engagement.

It’s not just a hot discussion topic in celebrity gossip magazines.

Engagement is on the minds of every digital marketer, and it’s an especially pressing issue for publishers. Today’s digital publishers must monetize content in an ever-changing industry. While publishing business models once subsisted on programmatic ad revenue and social media traffic, quality publishers are now finding that these ad-driven business models are no longer enough.

Instead of chasing scale to serve more ad impressions, publishers are shifting their focus to prioritize audience engagement. That’s one reason why the last few years have seen an increasing reliance on newsletters: email audiences are more engaged than audiences on other channels. Not only are newsletter subscribers more likely to click on your content, they’re also more likely to become paid subscribers.

But when so many publishers have built their audiences on social media platforms, how can they move these audiences to the inbox? And more importantly, once they grow that email audience, how can they more effectively engage them? Here’s a quick six-step guide to building connections, increasing engagement, and nurturing your audience in the inbox.

 

1. Establish the connection with effective email capture.

Once you’ve got the email address, you have a direct line of communication with your audience. That’s why you can hardly visit a publisher’s site without finding an email signup. But not all forms of capture are created alike. Are your existing capture practices leaving potential subscribers behind?

Inline capture and static forms might convert attentive or dedicated audiences committed to receiving your content, but they won’t catch everyone. When the email address is at the heart of audience relationships, extending an explicit invitation to receive a newsletter can help you nurture more of your casual visitors into dedicated audiences.

Contextual email capture increases conversions by making a relevant offer. Active capture widgets can be up to 500% more effective than static forms because they grab the reader’s attention with minimal intrusion. Plus, mobile-friendly widgets make sure you connect with your audience, no matter where they’re reading.

 

2. Take advantage of their attention with a strong welcome email

Why do welcome emails tend to get twice as many opens as other emails? Whether because they catch readers at the height of their interest or just because people like opening these emails to confirm their signup went through, that first message is a great opportunity to connect with your audience when their attention levels are highest.

If your business model is built around monetizing your audience directly, audience relationships are a must. A message from an editor or even just a friendly hello can help get that relationship off on the right foot by setting the tone, establishing expectations, and keeping them engaged. Include a CTA that gets your reader back to the site (while you’re still fresh in their mind), and you’ve got the foundation for lasting audience relationships.

 

3. Connect your email audience with relevant newsletter content

97% of publishers offer an email newsletter, and some of them offer two or three or even 50. With a broader library of available email newsletters, you can provide more targeted content to interested readers. Inviting newsletter subscribers to subscribe to the content most relevant to them increases the likelihood of keeping them engaged. And the more email newsletters a member of your audience subscribes to, the more chances you have to engage them.

You can increase total newsletter subscriptions per subscriber by cross-promoting your newsletters. Rare’s newsletter cross-promotion helped them to an email program where more than half of their email audience subscribes to more than one newsletter. Implementing a preference center can also encourage subscribers to sign up for additional newsletters, or it can help you hold onto potential unsubscribers by directing their attention to more relevant emails.

 

4. Improve the user experience for email subscribers.

Much of the focus on the newsletter subscriber’s experience is limited to what they see in the inbox. Odds are, you’re sending email newsletters to direct traffic back to your website, so why not also experiment with using data to improve the site experience for email subscribers?

Here’s the thing: visitors from Facebook tend to view a link and then return to the platform as quickly as they left. If the chances of extracting further engagement from these visitors is slim, it can pay off to hit these users with additional ad impressions and aggressive capture, but what about the audiences you’re trying to nurture? Improving the user experience for your dedicated email subscribers may help you keep these readers engaged and increase page depth.

For instance, if a visitor arrives from a specific newsletter, there’s no point in displaying lightboxes for the same newsletter. It’s wasted space, not to mention a little annoying. You can suppress that lightbox, or you can have a slider capture widget direct them to more of the same content with a different newsletter. Again, more newsletters, more chances for engagement.

 

5. Will personalized content work for you?

In addition to engagement, personalization is another hot publishing topic. Unfortunately, what gets discussed less than personalization is the fact that personalization only works if you have enough actionable data. Typically, publishers only have this with a fraction of their audience. Personalization might not be the silver bullet that some buzzword-spouters say it is, but it can deepen engagement with the audience you already know: your email audience.

PostUp’s Parse.ly integration brings personalized content recommendation to the inbox. Parse.ly allows PostUp users to increase page depth by replacing clickbait from existing recommendation engines with their own content. When demonstrating the value of your content is critical for converting paid subscribers, displaying your own (highly relevant) content is more lucrative than squeezing a little revenue from someone else’s commoditized content.

 

6. A/B test and repeat.

Finally, to ensure you’re earning maximum engagement from your email program, it’s important to conduct as much meaningful A/B testing as possible. Experimenting with creative, layout, subject lines, copy, and other aspects of your newsletters can drive people to engage with more of your content.

And you don’t have to stop at testing in the inbox. Performing A/B testing on your email capture widgets ensures you’re maximizing your email conversions without hurting the user experience. After all, people won’t engage with your email content at all if they don’t sign up in the first place.

With a continual process of testing and tweaking, you can rest easy knowing your email program is doing its best. That way, you can spend less time fretting about metrics and get back to reading your gossip magazine. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.