Tails, You Win
Like you, I’ve been toying lately with the idea of growing a
tail. Nothing too elaborate mind you, just something long
enough and furry enough that when I wag it, you can tell I’m
The truth is, I wish everybody had one.
Think about it. Never again would you have to sit and wonder
whether or not your husband really likes your family. If you
saw his tail wagging, you’d know. Granted, this kind of
evolutionary upgrade would require that most of us purchase an
entirely new set of pants, but on the whole, I think it would be
worth the adjustment.
The one place where what I’m suggesting would help the most of
course, is E-Newsletters. I say this because in our current,
tail-free business world, there’s no easy and obvious way to
directly measure how much readers like and appreciate what we’re
sending each month. Unlike its more trackable marketing cousins
— things like direct mail, Google ads or telemarketing — most
of what’s going on with your E-Newsletter occurs behind the
scenes, in the home, office and mind of your reader.
The fact is, to measure the effectiveness of your E-Newsletter,
you’ve got to look in a number of different places and, like
assembling a puzzle, it’s left to you to arrange the pieces into
With that in mind, and in descending order of importance, here’s
what I recommend you pay attention to:
1. Is your phone ringing / inbox dinging with clients? We all
want to create and publish a great newsletter, but that’s not an
end in itself. The point of all this after all, is to attract
“good clients” — defined as companies and people with whom we
want to do business. If publishing your newsletter creates this
kind of activity, skip the rest of today’s issue and go buy
yourself some doggie treats. Your newsletter is getting the job
2. Is your phone ringing / inbox dinging with non-client offers?
Calls from journalists, invitations to speak or appear on
industry panels, questions from colleagues, etc. Activity
related to your standing as expert — while admittedly not
client work per se — is still a sign that you are viewed as an
authority in your field. If your newsletter is positioning you
in this way, you’re definitely on the right track (i.e. buy the
doggie treats, but maybe don’t eat them yet).
3. Are people you’ve never heard of adding themselves to your
mailing list? It’s great (and recommended) to acquire new
subscribers by asking people you meet if they’d like to be on
your list, but the true test of quality is when strangers
request your stuff. With nobody twisting their arm (except
maybe one of your current readers enthusiastically forwarding an
issue — another good sign), this is about as pure an indication
that your newsletter is valued in the “information marketplace”
as you’ll find.
4. Are readers interacting with your newsletter? When I say
“interacting,” I’m lumping together both e-mail comments sent
back to you when you publish, and clicks made on the various
links within the newsletter. Both of these are good, often
early signs of future clients. In my experience, people tend to
snoop around and feel you out before they pick up the phone and
So while “interaction” by itself doesn’t necessarily mean
anything (lots of people just like to interact, but will never
become clients), if you’ve got the opposite situation — no
clicks and no e-mail from readers — your message may be falling
on deaf ears.
5. What’s your e-mail open rate? I mention this one because I
know you’re paying close attention to it, although frankly it’s
not a very accurate measure of what’s going on. As a result of
a few technical developments over the last couple of years
(click here to read my newsletter from last year for more
details — scroll down to the “Interesting Tidbit” section),
this number has so much noise in it that it offers only a blurry
glimpse of how much your newsletter is really being opened. So
I’d keep an eye on open rate, but only in the context of all
these other pieces of the puzzle.
6. What’s your opt-out rate? Lots of people swear by this
statistic, and in particular, how low it usually is: “Our
newsletter must be good because we hardly ever get any
unsubscribes.” I don’t know. To me that makes about as much
sense as gauging the quality of your piano playing by tracking
how many rocks your neighbors throw through the window. Just
because your newsletter isn’t bad enough to complain about or
request removal from, it doesn’t mean anybody’s reading it.
With e-mail, it’s just as easy for the recipient to click delete
or assign your newsletter to the junk mail folder as it is to
unsubscribe. A low opt-out rate may only be measuring what it’s
measuring (if you get my drift).
Bottom Line: An E-Newsletter is an incredibly powerful and
effective marketing tool. However, because it contributes to
your business on so many different levels, in so many different
ways, and across a long period of time, it’s hard to put your
finger on one metric that tells the entire story.
If it’s bringing you the clients you want, that’s terrific —
keep doing what you’re doing. If it’s not, pay attention to
these other measures, and see if you can get a handle on
possible areas for improvement. Time for me to get my tail out
of here. . .