The topic of email monetization is a hot one. It seems the age-old question for a myriad of publishers is this:
How to make money off subscribers without scaring them away?
The attention of your email subscribers is worth to you far more than their current money-making value. In essence, monetizing email lists is much like the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century: you’re sitting on a revenue gold mine and just need to exploit it effectively.
Email List Monetization Methods
Naturally, there are different ways to monetize your email list. Here are some of the best ones:
Monetize with ads
The simplest and arguably the best way to get the most bang for your buck, a well-designed newsletter will have plenty of room for monetization through ads. One under-reported aspect of email ads is they’re not labeled and treated as spam so why wouldn’t you take advantage of targeted ads to deliver a more personal experience? From the metric side of view, email ads can boost click-through rates because people tend to respond more to content that’s relevant to them.
The thing is, advertisers won’t be automatically attracted to your site so you need to reach out to them. In addition, if you’re juggling multiple advertisers (as you should) to effectively target different segments of your audience with different campaigns, you’re making it harder to manage and maintain the effort.
In that respect, you can use a trusted email list monetization solution such as PowerInbox to give your audience a highly relevant experience through real-time personalization and dynamic subscriber engagement. The process becomes much easier through a simple setup and management that comes with accurate tracking and CPM billing to drive revenue. Each of your email lists is open to delivering hyper-targeted content that boosts subscriber engagement by providing more value. The ads are chosen based on the information gathered about the customer so each time they open the email, a different ad is shown to maximize value.
In the image below, you can see the ad by The Washington Post, relating to a topic that’s very much in line with the content Smithsonian Institution produces, as the world's largest museum and research complex.
Ads in newsletters can be tricky if you aren’t sure how to make them work. Hence, it’s imperative to choose the right partner, preferably one who works smoothly with all platforms, devices, and ESPs, offers seamless ad placement in a variety of engaging formats, and a robust and trusted advertiser network that can generate email revenue with relevant and personalized ad content (even backfill unfilled ad space) for guaranteed monetization on every send.
Paid subscription model for premium content
If you’re wary of ads in newsletters, you can create premium content for your subscribers and charge it on a timely basis. The greatest challenge fellow publishers face with this monetization model is providing their subscribers something of value they can’t get anywhere else. Providing a sneak peek of the premium content in your email newsletter can increase the number of your paid subscribers. However, make sure you have enough freebies to establish yourself as an expert. If you aren’t confident you can pull it off, it’s best to avoid this due to high risk of subscriber defection.
Sell your stuff
You can always sell something, particularly if you develop a quality product or service internally. Feel free to mention it in your newsletter, whether it’s an announcement, launch date, a reminder, special sale and so on. Just be careful of email fatigue — your readers are there for the content you deliver, not sales pitches.
Instead of selling your own products and services, there’s an option to go the affiliate route: sell someone else's products and service and get a commission. Affiliate marketing is a long-standing practice where the key is to choose brands that will appeal to your audience (in other words, products and services they will likely buy).
4 Email List Monetization Best Practices
Once you settle for your preferred email list monetization method, you should follow these steps to keep the momentum going.
1. Uncover best times to send with analytics
Sure, the number of your subscribers matters, both to prospective advertisers and in terms of overall monetary value. However, what matters more are open and click-through rates. These metrics paint a full picture when it comes to email list monetization, particularly in relation to most effective times to send. By measuring open rates and clicks on a daily basis, publishers can organize their emails to go out at the exact times that yield the best results (most likely to be opened and engaged with). A small word of advice: don’t neglect the already proven send times like holidays, anniversaries, and other important dates.
2. Segment for more precise targeting
On a similar principle, you can segment your email list to get a clearer idea of customers who help you get better open and click rates and those that are mere names on the paper (email addresses on the screen, to be precise). Segment according to subscribers’ demographics, open rates, interest in different content and products, past behavior, etc. By narrowing your focus and sending email to segmented groups, your subscribers will find your email content more relevant, delivering better results because emails target recipients truly interested in them.
3. Offer native ads
Much of the success of ad-based email advertising can be attributed to native advertising. As their presence is getting bigger and bigger, native ads in newsletters are also getting easier to sell with the automated and programmatic process behind it. While the form of sponsored articles is the most common (hint: the first image here), native advertising provides publishers with options like content recommendation blocks (as you’ll see in the image below) and custom in-feed placements for various advertisers. Add in the fact that these types of ads greatly resemble organic editorial content and it’s no wonder companies like Huffington Post, Hearst, and Buzzfeed frequently use native ads in their email newsletters.
4. Test for best performance
Last but certainly not least, the importance of testing should never be underestimated, even by the more experienced publishers. In a way, you’ve already done some qualification: your email lists are filled with people who want to receive emails from you. To avoid the risk of alienating your subscribers, it’s critical to run A/B tests when trying out new things for your email campaigns.
Email campaigns and newsletters can be a great way to get repeat business, as well as new customers. You’re already working with a somewhat pre-qualified base: these people have said they want to receive information from you. And a lot of them have likely already done business with you. And we all know it’s easier and cheaper to retain customers than it is to get new ones. Improving conversion rates by testing different elements like layout, body text, images, specific offers, CTAs and else can make a big difference revenue-wise.
Email is a critical channel in terms of customer engagement and monetizing subscriber lists requires a delicate touch. You have to make sure it’s more of a supplement to your content rather than the central focus of your email. The balance between maximal revenue and your subscriber’s perceived value can be achieved by choosing the right solution such as PowerInbox that offers a complete email and newsletter monetization package. That way, you’re positioning yourself on track to achieve your top priority: increased revenue.