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A successful email newsletter is often measured in terms of audience growth. The more sign ups you can get, the better you’re doing, right? Not always, says marketer Jay Acunzo.

Acunzo, who runs Marketing Showrunners, a media company geared at people working to find their voice, noted raw data points like the size of your email list don’t reveal much about how effective your email marketing is. Instead, he recommends taking a closer look at what happens after someone signs up.

Acunzo noted people who subscribe to one of Marketing Showrunners’ email newsletters get a welcome message with a question about who they are and what they do. The message encourages the reader to hit reply with their response.

Acunzo not only tracks how often subscribers reply, but also the length of the replies he receives and how he responds to those readers. The goal is to develop relationships with readers and to measure the depth of that connection, he said.

“We’re not a transactional company. We’re a relationship company,” Acunzo said. “We want to go deeper and broader.”

What about open rates and click-throughs? Acunzo warns against reading too much into those.

A few intentional interactions with your audience can tell you a whole lot more, he added.

In the latter case “you’ve struck gold,” Acunzo said. “You have found something meaningful to lean into and explore.”

Acunzo, who appeared on a recent episode of rasa.io’s Pushing Send podcast, encourages email marketers to shift focus from gaining new subscribers to taking care of the ones you already have. Here are a few of his tips for converting meaningful customer interactions into long-term newsletter growth.

Shift your priorities.

Acunzo sums up his approach to email marketing in a single question: Have we developed new relationships?

“Not new names in the database,” Acunzo said. “Has there been actual interactivity with the audience?”

The easiest way to measure interactivity? Ask your readers to respond to your email with their thoughts or feedback. 

Kickstart a conversation.

Marketing Showrunners used to respond to new email subscribers with a message thanking that person for joining and explaining the benefits of the newsletter they just signed up for.

“And that would have been it,” Acunzo said.

Now? He keeps the thank you note, but also tacks on a few more specific questions like:

  • Do you have a podcast?
  • How is it going?
  • Can you send it to me?

Make an offer.

Acunzo offers to listen to and review the podcasts of subscribers who take the time to respond to his welcome emails. Being able to offer value to a new subscriber right off the bat lays the groundwork for a long-term relationship, he said.

“It’s one thing to get somebody to subscribe to a newsletter. The next challenge comes with getting that person to stick around for the long haul,” Acunzo said.

He noted being able to measure the depth of a reader relationship also helps you as the newsletter sender. It allows you to focus your time and energy on the strongest relationships on your email list, he said.

Describe what you do.

A lot of companies and organizations assume new newsletter subscribers already know about what they do. Few take the time to really spell out what they do to new subscribers, and they’re surprised when those folks don’t convert to long-term subscribers or supporters, he said.

Acunzo encourages email marketers to continually reinforce and explain what it is they do, through newsletters and other email marketing. Use each email to share a little bit about who you are, what you do and how your brand supports the community.

Don’t miss an opportunity to give readers a clearer vision of the why behind your work, as well as the ins and outs of what it is you do, he said.

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