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In today’s episode, we’re talking about how to market your newsletter so that you can build sales for an online conference. This is the second in the Marketing Your Online Conference series.
The three main takeaways from the last episode were as follows:
- The original sales sequence for my online event, the Digital Dust Safety Conference, had low conversions
- The newsletter was our best source of traffic
- The overall traffic to the event page was not high enough to sustain the sales that we wanted
The newsletter was our best source of traffic but not converting, so in this episode, I discuss the following:
- Why it’s important to focus on your newsletter
- The best approach for selling your event through your newsletter
- How to create your newsletter marketing plan and campaigns
- What to do if you don’t have a newsletter
Why Is It Important To Focus On Your Newsletter?
The number one reason is that you should be collecting email addresses as part of your online business and content creation efforts. This is your most important asset. I’m willing to say that at least 80% of the 150 people who have bought conference tickets subscribe to our newsletter. We have built up trust with them every week for three years now.
Communicate often will be the next step. You can do this if you pick a specific framework. For DustSafetyScience, this is a news-based reporting. We have content machines that we’re using to constantly generate content relevant for our audience and get it in front of them.
You want people to get used to you providing value to them and get them taking action. We’ve been sending out great information for such a long time that they don’t hesitate to click through when we’re talking about the great event that we’re running.
What Is The Best Approach For Selling An Event Through Your Newsletter?
There are two kinds of strategies here: passive and active. We started with a passive strategy, where we were putting an ad or an image from the conference in our regular newsletter and mentioning it every once in a while.
A lot of people were clicking through every week to our event sales pages, but they weren’t buying. So, in early 2020, we said, “Okay, we’re going to come up with a specific strategy for marketing to our newsletter.”
I came up with a six-step process for our newsletter marketing plan.
Step One: Commit To An Active Strategy
Don’t think that you’re going to be able to put a little thing in your normal weekly newsletter and get the results you want. There’s a lot more that you can do.
I thought, “I’m going to be sending another email every week to my audience and it’s going to tick them off, and it’s going to take a whole ton of work to do and I haven’t done it before.”
Then I realized that if we’re doing this for eight weeks, it’s eight emails. I could probably do it in an afternoon and have everything ready to go. I thought it would be this big scary thing, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t that much work to put together.
Since we put it in place, it’s fundamentally changed the conference. We went from having 60 to 70 people involved to now almost 150.
Step Two: Make Sure You Have Checkpoints
Since it’s only eight weeks, we only have a couple of checkpoints, but one is the early bird registration. We also had a checkpoint for distributing the program. You want to have these big milestones in your plan. If it’s eight weeks or 12 weeks, you want to have the big milestones already identified. For example:
- When are the doors closing?
- When are you doing your early bird pricing?
- When will your program be finished?
Step Three: Have Your Audience Complete A Survey
This was something that we did, and I’m so happy that we did it because it’s helped us create our newsletters. We sent out what I call a ‘didn’t buy survey’ to anyone on our list who hadn’t bought a ticket yet.
We split them into two groups:
- People who had clicked on a link to the sales page and didn’t buy
- People who hadn’t clicked on a link to the sales page at all
For the first group, the subject line of the email was “Your Help Needed…” It said, “Hi, (name), we noticed that you visited the 2020 Digital Dust Safety Conference registration portal but did not register. Can you please press reply and let us know the reason? Your response will help us improve the conference overall and the registration process. Thank you in advance for your time. Chris.”
For the second group, the email stated “Subject: Your Help Needed… Hi, name, thank you for being an active member of the DustSafetyScience newsletter. Can you take this short survey to help us improve the upcoming 2020 Digital Dust Safety conference? Click a button to take the survey now. It will take less than three minutes and help us immeasurably. Thank you in advance for your time. Chris Cloney.”
The survey was simple: three questions. Question number one was, “Which of the following best describes your role?” Then we set up checkboxes for different types of roles and Other, where they could enter something not listed.
We also had “What should the presentations cover at the conference?” and “What questions do you have about the conference?” as open-ended questions. With the first question, we want to see what they’d want to get out of it if they were to attend the conference.
The answers to “What questions do you have?” were taken as objections. These are things that we need to overcome in order for them to register for the event. We had over 130 responses to our didn’t buy survey and then another 10 or so responses to the open-ended “Please let us know why you didn’t buy.”
Step Four: Organize Your Survey
I took all the responses, put them into a Google Sheet, and started to categorize. I moved the responses around until I came up with seven or eight different categories that covered all of them. I ranked the major things that we found.
What is the number one question or number one group of questions that people have? What’s the number two group of questions? These are the benefits that our conference will address.
I did the same thing for the objections. What are the questions that they have about the conference? What’s the number one objection?
The number one objection was actually “Didn’t understand.” There were two major objections. One, they didn’t understand the online format. We had questions like “Where is it?” and “When is it?” This told us that we needed to make this information clearer in our marketing. We also got a lot of questions like “What’s the program going to be? Who’s speaking?” This let us know that we needed to release a program as well.
How to Create Your Newsletter Marketing Plan and Campaigns
Now it’s time to create the newsletter plan. I selected a theme for each week.
- Week one was “Solve A Problem”. This was where I pulled up the biggest question from the survey and presented it as the biggest benefit.
- Week two was Social Proof. This is where we released a program and said, “These are the people involved. This is how great it’s going to be.”
- Week three was the Early Bird Last Chance. This was where we addressed the challenges and the objections that they presented in the email for not attending.
- Week four, which we haven’t sent out yet, is going to be showing off the platform: giving them an inside view of what they’re missing now that they’re not in there.
You need to select a headline for each newsletter, write the email copy, and send it out. That’s the last step to your marketing plan.
The headline for the first of the three emails was “You asked, we answered.” This was our ‘solve a problem’ email. I talked a little bit about the conference, but then I went into topics like “Do I have to do a dust hazard analysis? When is a DHA required? When do I have to comply with NFPA 652?
I highlighted the fact that the other speakers at the conference will be addressing these topics. This email performed very well. The whole point is to add value, answer the biggest and hardest question that they have right up front, and demonstrate how much you can help them and how much the speakers can help them at the conference.
The second email headline was “Program Announced for the 2020 Digital Dust Safety Conference!” I talked about all the different sessions. We included a link to a PDF of the program and talked about the amazing keynote speakers that we have lined up.
Number three was “Don’t Miss the Boat.” This was for the early bird. We said, “Still not sure if you want to attend? Here are the five most common questions people have about the conference to get you off the fence.” We pulled these directly out of the ‘didn’t buy’ survey.
These three emails resulted in an average 35% open rate, 5 to 15% click-through rate, 150 to 250 sales page views per email, and over 50 sales. The last email went out three days ago and we’ve had three more people purchase, so people are still opening those emails and buying and purchasing through them.
I hope that this gives you a good idea of how you might create a newsletter sequence for selling your own event or even for selling a product, course or anything else that you’re creating.
What If You Don’t Have A Newsletter?
There’s a saying that goes something like this: “The best time to do something was two years ago, but the second-best time is today.” If you don’t have a newsletter, start building one. Start collecting emails, even if you’re not sending anything yet. When you are ready, send your newsletter at a frequency where people are going to get used to hearing from you, get used to you providing value to them, see you as an authority, and see you as a friend and a helper in that space.
If you have any questions about the newsletter marketing process, you can reach out to me via email or leave a comment below. I hope you are finding these episodes and the GradBlogger podcast helpful in building your online business and blog and understanding how to do things like market and sell online, build a business, and market an online conference.
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