made-to-measure software from Italy
We’re a custom software house with a team of 25 developers. During 2020 we’ve been experimenting with different B2B marketing techniques: one of these was an email newsletter, which we trialled at the beginning of September. Here’s how it went.
We went live with an overhaul of our website in July, and changed domain at the same time (our previous domain was .it and we wanted to go international). We needed ways to bring traffic to the website while we build up the authority of the new domain.
Secondly, and more importantly, we already had a database of people who had registered interest in our company and we were looking for a way to stay in touch and give them something useful at the same time.
We’re a lean organization and all our initiatives are strictly evaluated to maximize impact against time investment.
The newsletter fit all these objectives. We can reach a few hundred people with a few hours’ work per week. We build our reputation for keeping up with the latest technology developments, which is what our clients pay us for. Since the beginning of September the newsletter has contributed to a 40% increase in traffic to our website.
The first issue was a collection of links with a bit of blatant promotion in the form of a client success story. Our audience is developers, IT or R&D managers and startup leaders, so we scoured the web for the articles we thought would be most useful and relevant to those people and put them together into an email.
It was well received. Some people got in touch to say thanks. The open rate was just under 29%, above average for a software developer. (Benchmarks differ by industry). Open rates and click rates are easy stats to monitor but they’re also an important indicator of engagement - whether your subscribers appreciate what you’re sending. We’re more interested in engagement than total subscribers, because of the reasons I mentioned above.
However, there were a bunch of hard bounces so the next task was to clean up the CRM. We use Hubspot and they have a tool that automates that. We removed about thirty email addresses from the mailing list because they were incorrect or no longer in use.
Over the next 4-5 weeks, the open rate declined a little bit each week, to around 22%. We kind of expected this - new stuff is always more interesting, right? So at the 6 week mark, we reviewed the stats and decided to make some tweaks.
This is what the numbers told us:
1. We’d had a few new signups, but also a bunch of unsubscribes. Most of them said they were getting too many emails. The tweak: Decrease the frequency from weekly to bi-weekly
2. We’re based in Italy, and we started marketing internationally less than a year ago. So about 90% of our contacts are in Italy. We initially had a mix of Italian and English language content in the newsletter. We noticed that Italian contacts were not clicking on links to English-language content. And when international contacts opened the newsletter they usually didn’t click at all. The tweak: Split the database into two lists: Italy-based and international. We used dynamic lists so that they will automatically update when we add new contacts.
3. In week 4 we had included an excerpt of long-form writing from our blog. That week’s click rate was double the previous one. In week 5 (links only), open rate was up but click rate was down, and in week 6 both open rate and click rate went down again. The tweak: Include more long-form content. Producing quality content takes time, so reducing the frequency helped us here. The latest editions include a mix of our content and curated reading recommendations.
4. Emails with a custom subject line performed better than those with a generic subject line (like SPOT.letter). The tweak: Vary the subject line to reflect that edition’s content.
Open rates for the last few issues are between 30 and 40% and click rates have doubled to almost 6%. So for now we’re sticking with the changes we’ve made, but we’ll probably review again soon. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year, it’s that you have to keep moving.
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