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Client e-newsletters have become part of an advisor’s bailiwick. But crafting effective newsletters isn’t a simple, one-off task, said Kevin Mulhern, CEO of AdvisorStream in Toronto: “They’re a big commitment, and they work.”

So, how do you create an e-newsletter that works? And how do you ensure that your readers will open, click through and engage with your content?

Assess your audience

First, you need to know your audience, said Aleem Visram, an advisor with MIRFP Financial Planning and marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

“Who are your clients? What are the problems they have, and how are you trying to resolve them?” Visram said. Once you know who you want target, he said, you can consider segmenting those clients into different groups with different needs.

However, client segmentation is not mandatory.

“We tend to send the same thing to everyone,” said Jennifer Black, private wealth manager and portfolio manager with Access Private Wealth and Mandeville Private Client Inc. in Mississauga, Ont. “I’ve always taken the perspective that [the content] may not be applicable to everyone, but they may know someone it could benefit.”

Leverage content

Whether or not you segment your audience, it’s the content that truly matters.

Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing in Toronto, recommended building an editorial calendar that lets you “know exactly what you’re writing, with dates and approvals if it has to go through compliance.”

Ensure your content is valuable and of interest to your clients — if it isn’t, no one will engage with it, Mulhern said. Mix things up with general content and lifestyle articles, and make sure it’s timely. No one wants to read old news.

There should be absolutely no selling in newsletters, Black said. “It’s not about pushing product or promoting ourselves,” she said. “It’s about educating the client [and] answering questions that somebody had that other clients may have as well.”

If this sounds like too much for you, you can link to third-party content from credible sources such as financial sections of newspapers and magazines, or call on your expert contacts to contribute articles.

However, with any external content, remember to keep the client experience in mind, Mulhern said. If you link to third-party articles, ensure your clients don’t hit a paywall. In addition, use strong, punchy headlines and limit your word count.

“In your e-blast, have the first sentence or a very clear synopsis of what the article is about, and link to the newsletter,” Mulhern said.

Use a targeted subject line — no more than 10 words — and if your newsletter software allows you to personalize emails, do it.

“Being targeted and personalized is going to make a big difference between spam and something that’s meaningful and valuable,” Visram said. “Those two things alone will increase open rates drastically.”

Be sure to include visuals, too. “People view content with images much more. Include factoids, infographics and lists, which are easier to read and break up the content,” Heft said — just remember to include the source of the information.

Finally, include a call to action. Heft suggested using lines such as “Call me to learn more” and “Follow me on LinkedIn,” and including your contact information in the newsletter.

Timing is everything

Yet another item to consider is the timing of your newsletter. Decide how often to send out your newsletter — weekly, monthly or something in between — and stick to that schedule.

“[Sending newsletters] too often can be a mistake — people get inundated with emails — and too little doesn’t create that great an engagement,” Heft said.

And you may not want to include too many articles, Black said. “We try to go with four,” she said. “It’s not too many [and] it’s not too few. Anywhere from four to six to is as many as I would do.”

Measure success

Even if you’re following all these principles, how do you know if your newsletter is engaging and getting you business? One way is through analytics (e.g., opens and click-through rates), which a lot of newsletter software has built in.

However, it takes time to study and understand the data, Black warned.

“Unless you’re going to spend the time and look at that data, it’s really not going to help you measure the success,” she said. “I think the success is in putting information out there. Maybe it sits for a little in [clients’] inboxes, but when they read it, it helps them, and there’s some value.”

You should be patient about seeing the results of your efforts, Heft said.

“Engagement can take a long time — it’s not next day,” he said, adding that if you’re still not seeing results after a while, “you may have to rethink the content, [the frequency] and how you’re segmenting your audience — because any of those things may be a little askew.”