Uh-oh: You’ve got nothing for this week’s email update. The one that’s supposed to go out tomorrow. Due to a missed deadline, a sick teammate, or some other disaster du jour, there’s a great big hole in that email template. The blank space is staring back at you.
What to do? Skip the mailing entirely? Make a weepy apology? Or figure out – in the next few hours – how to still pull this thing off?
It can be done, and you can do it. In fact, this is less of a problem than it appears to be, especially if you consider repurposing old content. So, take a deep breath and warm up your coffee. Here are your options:
1. Scale back
The first thing to remember is you don’t need much content to have a nice email message. Just two hundred words of copy is enough. And one piece of content is fine, too. It’s an email update, okay? Not a newspaper.
Here’s a nice concise email from Return Path. It promotes only one post.
Some conversation rate experts prefer this limited content. Having just one thing in the email makes it easier for people to focus. That focus makes them more likely to click.
Is this you? “That first idea won’t work. I don’t have even one blog post.”
Okay, I’ve got more for you. Let’s repurpose old content that’s got a lot of life left in it.
2. Promote some recently published content that didn’t get enough attention
Time to look at what’s been published lately. And by “lately,” I mean anything within the last three months. Is there a recent piece of content that deserved more attention than it got? If so, there’s your target.
All you really need is a link to something and a few lines of description. Take some inspiration from the email from TechnologyAdvice. It’s got just three pieces of content – two blog posts and a buyer’s guide. There’s barely one hundred words of copy in the whole email.
Surely you can find some recent content to package up into something like this, right?
Here are a few ideas:
- Done any webinars lately? How about sending a link to the recording?
- Got an eBook you published lately? Could you excerpt a few sentences from it, or maybe include a table or graphic from the ebook?
- Have any social media posts done especially well lately? How about sharing a popular post with your email readers – and encouraging them to follow you on the social network that post is from?
- Is there a theme to the content you’ve been publishing in the last few months? How about sending an email with 2-5 pieces of content that are grouped around that theme?
3. Play your greatest hits.
Know how popular television shows do a “best of” episode every 5-10 years? Well, marketers have their own version of that.
Typically, we do our “best of” blog posts and emails near the end or the beginning of the year, but if you’re in a pinch, you can do one any time. Something like “Best posts from the Company X blog – so far this spring” is a viable choice.
It doesn’t have to be a long list, either. Your top three blog posts are plenty of content for an email update.
Alternatively, you could pick the top-performing piece of each content format you publish. You’d have a “best” blog post, “best” social media post, “best” webinar, etc.
This greatest hits tactic can be particularly effective if you define “best” as the pieces of content that have gotten you the most leads.
In fact, if you know which pieces of content are major lead generators, maybe they deserve a spot in every email newsletter you send. Why not re-promote content that performs unusually well?
4. Send a survey.
Don’t have any recent content you want to promote? Then maybe it’s time to develop some ideas for future content. Sending a survey is a perfect way to prepare for that.
Surveys don’t have to be a big deal, either. In fact, if you can keep your survey to five questions or less, that’s ideal. The trick is to think very carefully about which questions you ask. Think hard about what information would actually help you develop more effective content. For more ideas on how to write a great survey, see our blog post, “How to Use Surveys To Create Better Content.”
By the way – if you’re low on budget and can’t afford any of the survey tools, don’t worry. Use Google Forms for your survey. There’s a tutorial for how to do one here.
5. Curate some content.
Ever heard of content curation? It’s a popular content marketing tactic right now, where you share third-party content but add a bit of your own commentary for context. Curation can be done via social media, as a “round up” of resources in a blog post, or in an email newsletter/update.
Curated newsletters are quite stylish right now, so much so that Copyblogger has a series of posts about them. Here’s an example of one curated email from Convince and Convert. Every week, they send out an email update with three third-party articles on a specific theme.
The “only” work Convince and Convert (or anyone else) has to do to create a newsletter like this is to:
- Pick the theme that ties the content together
- Find exceptional pieces of content worth sharing
- Write a short introduction for each piece of content
- Lay out the email and send it
That does take a certain amount of work, for sure, but it’s easier than writing three detailed blog posts for a newsletter. The curation also means you’ve got a promotion opportunity, too: You can tell every company whose content you shared that they had a prominent place in your newsletter.
6. Resend a recent email to non-openers or non-clickers.
Many new email marketers don’t know this, but you can re-send an email message to people who didn’t open it or click it the first time you sent it. It’s a pretty common practice.
This can be particularly effective if you change the subject line a bit. And don’t worry about annoying people – most of them probably missed the first email, and you’ll be resending to the people who didn’t open or click anyway.
Given how 80% of your subscribers didn’t even open the email, and maybe only about 10% of them clicked on it, resending the email means you’ll still be communicating with most of your list.
Conclusion: Fast company
A few months back I floated the idea of a “content fast” – a planned pause in content creation, done specifically to create enough time to properly reformat and update older content. It’s a practice applied by the Unbounce blog and many others. It would also be familiar to any of you who have done a content audit.
Well, during a content fast like that, it might be a good idea to try out some of the ideas mentioned here. In fact, you could take your fast for an entire month if you planned out your newsletters like this:
- Week One: Send a survey
- Week Two: Most popular social media posts
- Week Three: “Best of the blog.” Your three most popular blog posts of the year
- Week Four: “Best of the Rest.” The three most popular pieces of content of the year that aren’t blog posts. Any content format you do on a regular basis could take this slot. For instance, your three best podcasts of the year, or the three most popular webinars.
Back to you
Do you struggle to come up with content for your email updates? Have you tried any of the tricks mentioned here, or are there any other tactics that aren’t mentioned here? Give them a shout out in the comments.