It's becoming a popular venue, and with good reason, said Julie M. Katz, an analyst at Forrester Research "Advertising in someone else's e-newsletter is an interesting lead generation tool because it exposes b-to-b marketers to audiences who are similar to their own audience but may not be customers or prospects already. It also helps increase subscriptions to their own newsletter if they are collecting e-mail addresses," she said. "It's a decent strategy to take."
E-newsletters garner the most trust out of all interactive advertising, Katz said. More than 22% of people trust an e-mail vehicle for which they have registered, compared with a mere 2% who new source of prospects and e-mail addresses for your own e-mail marketing program.
Here are some best practices suggested by industry experts to help you get the most out of an e-newsletter buy.
- Make sure you're hitting the right audience. Even though an e-newsletter might look like a good fit on the surface, it might not be worth the trouble and money to advertise in it, Katz said. "You have the right to ask what the demographics are so you know if a newsletter is appropriate," she said. "They might have a few different newsletters, and you might want to target your ad rather than blasting it out to everyone on a list."
Publishers may allow you to segment their list, sending specific content to certain groups. The more you can personalize, the better, Katz said.
Jason Ford, the director of interactive services with interactive agency Tocquigny, said this is one of the reasons his clients are looking at e-newsletters.
"There's so much data now on a list's users," he said. "We know what they've purchased in the past, their age and gender. You can really target a specific group. Many publishers let you buy placement for the 20% of the list that fits your demo and not have to buy the whole list."
You might pay more for each individual ad impression, he said but, in the long run, you'll be paying a lower cost-per-acquisition.
- Consider a package deal. The more places a prospect can see your ad, the better, Katz said. "If they see your ad in the e-newsletter and then go to the publisher's site and see a banner, that's a good thing."
Package buys might include, for instance, banner ad placement or—in the case of a traditional print publisher—placement in a print magazine or newspaper as well as the e-newsletter.
- Weigh sponsorships against in-newsletter ads. It might seem like a newsletter sponsorship would be the best way to go. Not necessarily so, Ford said. "You've got content that's highly aligned with a target audience and here you are, coming in and putting your name on that content," he said. "We tend to encourage this only if you're able to develop all the content for the newsletter. Otherwise, it's probably better to buy an ad placement within that newsletter."
- Think outside the banner. Of course, said Tara Lamberson, VP-marketing at interactive agency MindComet, an ad placement is going to be far better if you're the only advertiser—or at the very least, the only advertiser in your vertical—but even if you can't do this, there are still ways to own a niche in an e-newsletter, she said.
"If you can be the only advertiser, that's the ideal place to be," she said. "I'd start with sponsoring a section and asking if you can buy the creative, too. Ask to write a column or a story because you're going to get additional value out of that placement. Publishers are hungry for content, so it's really an easy conversation to have."
The pricing structure might not be in the publisher's rate kit, but it's definitely negotiable, she said.
- Be consistent. You want people to see and recognize your ads over time, said Brad Powers, CEO of Active Response Group, a provider of lead generation solutions. This is why a one-off e-newsletter purchase probably won't work as well as a recurring buy, he said. "We recommend that clients include ads in newsletters recurrently, and only in select newsletters that are issued regularly," he said. "You get less bang for your buck by placing your ad in a newsletter that only gets sent out once a month. Frequency counts, even in e-mail newsletters."
- Don't forget the mobile audience. Most marketers make sure their own e-newsletters are viewable on mobile devices such as a BlackBerry or Treo, but many often forget to make sure that their e-newsletter buys are just as viewable and readable, Ford said. "There was a Marketing Sherpa report in July that said 64% of b-to-b decision-makers are viewing their e-mails on BlackBerrry-type devices," he said. "That's something to consider when choosing which properties to work with. It's very easy to provide a link at the top to give readers a text-only version of the newsletter, and your ad should translate to a text-only version, too."
- Remember, creative matters. Lamberson suggested using a strong call to action, but keeping the actual copy brief. "Most people don't read e-newsletters in their entirety. Don't use more than five words in an ad, and if your brand is well-known, use your logo," she said. "Also, if you're sponsoring a section, use visual cues so people know you're the one who owns the space."
- Ask for metrics. Publishers know how many people are opening and reading their e-newsletters. They know their bounce and delivery rates. Make sure you're asking and tracking these metrics, and that the figures you're getting are valid, Lamberson said.
"If a publisher says a newsletter goes out to 1 million people and it has a 30% open rate, that open rate is based on the number that are delivered."
In other words, don't assume that your ad was viewed by 300,000 people. Ask for a breakdown so you know just what you're paying for, she said. "It's definitely important to look at bounce rates," she said.