How To Maximize The Power Of Newsletters

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Marketing Podcast with Russell Henneberry

Russel Henneberry, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing PodcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Russell Heneberry. He is a renowned digital marketing expert, digital marketing consultant, speaker, and co-author of Digital Marketing for Dummies

He’s the Founder of theCLIKK, an email newsletter about digital marketing. Russ also consults and trains employees of companies through his Digital Advisor program.  

Key Takeaway:

Newsletters have made a comeback by combining email marketing with content marketing and direct response promotion. By building trust, providing education, and offering entertainment, newsletters have the power to nurture subscribers and connect with them by creating engaging content, and effective calls to action. It is important to have a voice to attract and maintain subscribers depending on the niche of your business and not rely completely on AI to generate content and to maintain a human touch.

Questions I ask Russell Henneberry:

  • [01:52] How have you seen newsletters evolve? What do you see happening in the space in general?
  • [03:40] There are different newsletters now like on LinkedIn or behind paywalls. Do you see those as approaches that will be with us for a long time, or do you think the classic newsletter approach is still valid today?
  • [04:53] One thing is getting subscribers, but then keeping them because it’s worth reading is another one. What’s your editorial strategy?
  • [07:00] How do you differentiate your content based on somebody who is in a potential buying situation?
  • [09:42] Was there a point in time when you decided to use newsletters to fit your business model or you started it as a normal standard digital marketing tactic?
  • [11:10] What are some ways for monetizing newsletters?
  • [14:58] What are some of the metrics that show you’re doing things right?
  • [17:02] What approach might you recommend to somebody to build a list?
  • [20:20] Do you feel like you have a different relationship as an advertiser because of the relationship with your readers?
  • [21:34] How has AI impacted content production?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Nudge, hosted by Phil Agnew, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. You ever noticed how the smallest changes can make the biggest impact on Nudge you learned simple evidence back tips to help you kick bat habits, get a raise, and grow your business. In a recent episode, Phil tested a thousand dollars on some marketing principles, some work, some don't. Uh, guest Nancy Har Hut, who's been a guest of the show as well. And Phil put these principles to test in a set of real life experiments. You'll learn what works and what doesn't. Listen to Nudge wherever you get your podcasts.

(00:52): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Russell Henneberry. He is a digital marketing consultant, speaker and co-author of Digital Marketing for Dummies. He's the founder of theCLIKK an email newsletter about digital marketing. Russ also consults and trains employees of companies through his digital advisor program. So Russ, thanks and welcome to the show.

Russell Henneberry (01:20): Hey, thanks for having me on.

John Jantsch (01:22): It's in honor. So do you go by Russell or Russ, or Depends on who you're talking to.

Russell Henneberry (01:26): It doesn't matter, but most people call me Russ, but Russ. Okay.

John Jantsch (01:29): There are

Russell Henneberry (01:29): Several people.

John Jantsch (01:30): Then I just jumped right into it. . All right. I mentioned that you have a successful newsletter called theCLIKK, so I thought that we'd talk about newsletters. Newsletters have been around for ages. I've been putting one out at least for 20 years, myself, . How have, and I know that you've studied, you know, we are, we are alluding to some of the old timers before we got on the air here, you know, how have you seen newsletters evolve? Because I think they were in the, in sort of phase one of digital marketing. They were kind of a standard tool, but then social media came along and other stuff came along. They fell out of favor. Now they seem to be really back in favor. What do you see happening in the space in general?

Russell Henneberry (02:10): Well, what I see right now is a return to, to email newsletters. They're hot right now. Yeah. And you know, I think of email as this intersection of content marketing and sort of direct response promotion, right? Email is still a great place to make and probably the best place to make a direct call to action, which is sort of frowned upon most of the time in social. But when you can take the, the email and turn it into content, right? So you're not just continuously pounding your email list with promotions, you can get this sort of best of both worlds where you get that engagement that you get from content marketing plus the bonus, uh, big bonus of being able to make direct calls to action.

John Jantsch (02:58): Yeah, I mean, I started mine, you know, to share, educate, you know, build trust, all those things. But let's face it, it was a way to build an email list. I, I literally remember people, you know, 20 years ago saying, oh, I got your newsletter, you know, , I'm so excited. I mean, it was, cuz that was before we got tons and tons of email every day. Right. So, in terms of how, I mean, I think I look at your newsletter, I subscribe to your newsletter and it is pretty classic format in terms of education. There's not any new crazy technology necessarily that's showcased there, but I know it works. I mean, I'm just looking at some of your statistics. I know it works for you. Before we go into that, you know, LinkedIn has newsletters. Now, you know, there are people putting newsletters behind paywalls. Do you see those as approaches that will, you know, be with us, you know, for a long time because it's very curated content? Or do you think the kind of the classic approach that you take, you know, is still valid today, obviously?

Russell Henneberry (04:00): Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I, I've looked at moving my newsletter over to things like CK Yeah. Or moving into LinkedIn and publishing there. Personally, I wanna be able to control that technology because I wanna be able to do some other things with it. And I'm not afraid to mess around that technology. But I think the barrier to entry into starting a newsletter because of things like subs and then the competitor there, beehive is also something to look at. If you're looking at starting a newsletter, the guy who I believe was in charge of li growth at Marketing Brew or Morning Brew started beehive. So there's some really great out the box options there. I like to have more control over, over everything. Yeah. So I end up with, you know, sort of that patchwork of tools. But yeah, I mean, um, getting into the newsletter business is easier than ever today.

John Jantsch (04:51): Yeah. Yeah. So, so getting subscribers, you know, is one piece of it, but then keeping them, because it's worth reading, right? Is obviously a huge part of this. What's your editorial strategy? I'm curious, how do you decide, I'm sure you don't wake up on Monday and go, here's what I'm gonna write about.

Russell Henneberry (05:09): Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, so the content marketing side of the editorial strategy, I'm always in all the top of funnel content and, and sort of mid-funnel content that I produce. I'm looking to either educate, inspire, or entertain. And I do try to get a little bit, you know, witty inside of there. And I have some editors that do a pretty good job of helping me not tell too many dad jokes in there . But, but yeah, I mean, my goal when I talk to my editors when I think about my own stuff is that I want to give you something educational, but I wanna do it with a spoon full of sugar. So, and that's that entertainment sort of, don't take myself too seriously angle. I think we see a lot of that cuz you know, I'm competing against other publishers like say, like Digit Day or Ad Age or something like that, that are probably a little bit more buttoned up. And so, you know, if you like my style and you know, then you know, you're gonna read my stuff and you're gonna anticipate my stuff coming into your inbox.

John Jantsch (06:12): So you didn't say it as directly as this, but I mean, I think certainly a best practice would be have a voice of some sort, right? Yes. That is, that's going to either repel people or attract people ,

Russell Henneberry (06:23): Right? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think a good way to think about this is, you know, an exercise you can do when you're looking for a voice is you can say to yourself, I want to be the blank of blank. Right? Right. Yeah. So you, if you know what niche that you're in, let's say you're gonna be creating a gardening newsletter, you know, you might say, I wanna be, I wanna be the,

John Jantsch (06:42): I wanna be the Seinfeld of gardening newsletter, , Jerry,

Russell Henneberry (06:45): Jerry Seinfeld of gardening or whatever, of gardening. Right? So, and that can help you start to box out what maybe you're looking for from a voice perspective.

John Jantsch (06:53): Yeah. What would Jerry say, right? So you threw out the terms top of funnel, middle of the funnel. Maybe explain kind of how you differentiate your content based on maybe where somebody is in a potential buying situation.

Russell Henneberry (07:07): Yeah. Well, and, and we were talking about this before you hit record. We were talking about, you know, you know, newsletters are a great way to build trust and they're a great way to, to connect with people. You know, you're right there in their inbox and, you know, you do that consistently over time. You're gonna build that know, like, and trust, but it's still, you know, making a, a really high ticket offer, like is tough to do in an email. So I'm, I'm typically looking to get people to engage with my content and then I'm gonna ask them to do, so, for example, last week, I, I ran an article and then I said, if you'd like me to shoot you a little video to expand on this and show you some examples, click this link and I'll tag you in my system or whatever.

(07:47): And then I'll, so then I shot a Loom video and I sent that out just to people that, that were tagged and, and, and had asked for it. And then inside that video, you know, I make a call to action, you know, for a service or a product Yeah. Or a force or whatever that I'm looking to do. But I only wanna do that with people that are really engaged. Right? Yeah. The strongest parts of my list. It's sort of that whole, you know, don't ask somebody to marry you on the first date type Yeah. Thing where, you know, we wanna kind of build up that no, like, and trust with people over time.

John Jantsch (08:19): Y you know, and you make a great point because I, I, I think a lot of people, you know, they have the, that you just said a high ticket item, let's guess at a price, $9,700, you know? Yeah. Thing. And the idea that somebody's gonna read a newsletter, I mean, they might, if they've been following you for years, they've decided time's. Right. But the idea that somebody's gonna click on a button and buy something like that, you know, it really needs to be much more of a dance to get there, doesn't it?

Russell Henneberry (08:42): For sure. You know, I, whenever I'm talking to anybody in, in my consulting work about what they're selling, I, I try to immediately put it in one of two buckets. I'm, look, I'm putting it in, I can close this deal on a webpage bucket. Yeah, yeah. Or I put it in the, I gotta get this person on the phone bucket. And if it's a phone bucket, which if you're hitting that 10 K mark, that's phone bucket for me. Like, you're gonna need to get somebody on the phone, there's gonna need to be a sales process and so forth. You might be able to close that on online de depending, but probably not. And so, you know, those kinds of calls to action are difficult to make in a newsletter. And so what I like to do with that is, you know, you're trying to nurture people towards a phone consultation or, and that takes a lot of touch points.

John Jantsch (09:26): Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Unless you like overpromise something, you can't actually deliver, you know,

Russell Henneberry (09:32): , there's that

John Jantsch (09:34): . So, so we're waiting into monetization. How do you think, actually, let me back up before I ask that question. I want to ask a broader question. Did you, was there a point in time where you said, I'm gonna go all in on newsletter, this is, you know, this is how it's going to fit my business model? Or was it, did it start more as Yeah, this is a normal standard digital marketing tactic?

Russell Henneberry (09:55): Yeah. So I kind of did go all in as, so we are email first, right? Yeah. So, you know, I like to think, when I'm thinking content marketing, I think about where's the genesis of this content going to be? And I, I think podcasts, by the way, are a wonderful place to, to, uh, create original content and that's where it's born. And then you can hand that out to writers, for example, and have them chop that up into pieces and go out to social with it and cut the video up and different things like that. Right? And my newsletter is that for me, so I, I produce original content only there in that newsletter, and then that stuff is then chopped up and cut up and put into different places. So the reason I did that is because, you know, I was spending a lot of time thinking, well, how am I gonna get this person from social media onto my email list and how am I gonna get this person from listening to this over here?

(10:43): And I'm from this YouTube video and from my website. And I said, well, why don't I just start there? You know, like, why don't I just start with them on the email, uh, list and focus all the attention there, and then I can move them out from there. So, you know, just like you could do with a podcast, just like you could do with a YouTube channel, it's just, you know, where are you producing that original material? And then you can then kind of go and do what you want with it from there. And a lot of times you can hire somebody to go do a lot of it from there.

John Jantsch (11:10): So, so again, now as I allude to monetization, do you, maybe I'll just let you as, as much as you're comfortable sharing about all the ways you think about monetizing, and I know there are some very direct ways that you do it, but I'd love to hear kind of your theory on that.

Russell Henneberry (11:27): Well, I like to keep it diversified because, you know, things go up and down. So, for example, I sell advertising and it's very easy to sell advertising in the fourth quarter because everybody's fleeing Facebook and Google for cheaper clicks elsewhere because of, you know, all the retail, you know, ads are cranking up prices and things like that. Yeah. It does it for me, advertising can be kind of seasonal. So I also sell trainings and courses. I use it to fill my consulting work, right. When, you know, if I need a consulting client, I'm gonna, I'm gonna start working towards that through, through that list. And so yeah, it's advertising, it's consulting and some info products like courses and so

John Jantsch (12:12): Forth. Yeah. So, so if I'm a potential advertiser, I'm guessing top of funnel ads, , like list building ads give away, you know, a great resource ebook, lead magnet kind of ads are really what work in a newsletter like yours, aren't they?

Russell Henneberry (12:28): I think it's the, when I speak to advertisers, I advise them to try to move people from my list onto theirs because people that are reading my newsletter have shown that they use email as a source of information. Yeah. So it's smart for them, in my opinion, to use a lead magnet offer or a webinar offer or something like that can move them into that person's email list because that person is an email reader. But we do get a lot of advertisers that know we wanna go straight for a free trial or we wanna go straight into an offer or something like that. And we'll do that too. But absolutely love the, and we, we see great response from people that give out a solid high value lead magnet to my list.

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(14:11): Hey, marketing agency owners, you know, I can teach you the keys to doubling your business in just 90 days or your money back. Sound interesting. All you have to do is license our three step process that's gonna allow you to make your competitors irrelevant, charge a premium for your services and scale perhaps without adding overhead. And here's the best part. You could license this entire system for your agency by simply participating in an upcoming agency certification intensive look, why create the wheel? Use a set of tools that took us over 20 years to create. And you can have 'em today, check it out at dtm.world/certification. That's DTM world slash certification. Let's talk about metrics, again, going back to when I started, I remember 83, 80 4% open rates, , those days don't exist for anybody today. But what are some of the metrics that that the, not just that you should be tracking, but that show like you're doing things right?

Russell Henneberry (15:18): Well, so when you start to get involved in buying traffic to get subscribers, it could, it becomes pretty important that you're buying subscribers that are opening, because, especially if you're selling ads because Yeah. You know, think about it. Like you might be measuring, for example, your cost per lead and it might be, let's say at a satisfactory $4 per lead. But then you're finding that these, that, you know, these leads are only opening at 30%. Well, you know, the, are they really only $4 leads when you're only getting three out of 10 to open? So it really is important to be watching the quality of the subscribers that you're getting and whether they're opening and it might be worth paying six or $8 for a subscriber that will open. Right. And so I do love the idea when you're using, when you're running a newsletter of advertising in other newsletters, because again, that person's shown the propensity to read newsletters and use email as a source of information.

(16:13): Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I mean it's the classic ones. Open rates, click rates, cost per lead if you're buying traffic. I also look at sort of the virality, like how can I take any subscriber that maybe I've bought right at $4 or $6 or whatever and turn that into 1.5 subscribers. Right. So I can get them to spread the word. Yeah. And get me. So, you know, and that cuts my, if I can get one every one person to bring somebody else, then I cuts my lead costs in half. And there's some cool tools out there that can be used to do that.

John Jantsch (16:48): A viral referral tool. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Russell Henneberry (16:50): Yeah. Up viral is a cool one that works really well to get people to share and, you know, using a unique link and then you can kind of reward them with more content, things like that.

John Jantsch (17:02): Do, do you, let's talk about list building then. O obviously, you know, the, a lot of this, a lot of your success, a lot of your ability to sell ads, , a lot of your ability to have reach, you know, is that you're getting subscribers. So do you, what's kind of your approach or what approach might you recommend to somebody, uh, to build a list?

Russell Henneberry (17:21): Well, so, you know, when I started out I said I wanna build a list that advertisers will find attractive, right? Yeah. So that's where I kind of, where my brain started. So that comes out to your ad targeting that you're gonna use when you buy traffic. So I was looking to build a list of people that are doing marketing work for other people. So they're either agency workers or freelancers, right? Because software companies and service companies, oftentimes these people very valuable. Yeah. A software company especially where they can roll, if they can get an agency to adopt their tool and roll it to all their clients, that's a big client for them. So we set out to build that list and that's who's on this list, right? So Yeah. And it's all comes down to your targeting and it that, that that particular subscriber might cost you more. You might be able to go find other people that would want to read the same content for cheaper, but Yeah. Is that what your advertisers want? And I think if you're gonna sell advertising, you need to be thinking about building a valuable list, not just any old list. Yeah,

John Jantsch (18:26): Yeah, yeah, yeah. AB absolutely. Well, and also if you know the diversification you wanna sell to that list, they should be people that are obviously interested in what you're selling. So, so you do recommend buying subscribers, so to speak, or buying at least traffic that you hope to turn into subscribers?

Russell Henneberry (18:43): Yeah, I mean, if you wanna advertise, I think you need to hit that 10 K subscriber mark before they start getting interested. You gotta remember that you're dealing with advertisers that could just go into Facebook and, and access a limitless Yeah. Nearly limitless. Yeah. Group of people. So there's an unlimited scale, in other words, inside these other platforms. And so you gotta have at least some scale in order for them to take a look. So I, I do like the idea if you've got your advertising packages in place and you're able to do it, but I don't recommend that you start there, right? So with advertisers, your monetization model, I would encourage people to, especially if you're just getting started to, to sell services or information products, until you can get to that, you know, cuz you're gonna wanna, unless you're funded and you've got a giant dumpster of cash that you wanna burn, you're probably gonna need to be roi. If you're buying traffic, you need to be ROI it a little bit faster, you know? And so you can't just sit here and build up until you hit 10 K and then start selling advertising. So I would recommend that you sell either e even physical products Yeah. But physical products or info products or services until you hit that 10 K mark. And then you can add that, start adding in that advertising revenue.

John Jantsch (20:00): So over the years, I, I actually sell sponsorships. It's just kind of a package with our podcast and things like that. But I've always felt like, well now I have a personal relationship with my subscribers, you know, they really see it as me. And a lot of that is on the trust that I don't try to shove stupid stuff down their throat. So do you sometimes find yourself really having to, you know, there we have turned away sponsors because we're like, no , and I mean, they're obvious ones, but even sometimes where we just don't feel like that's a very good tool or a very good resource we'll say. No. So do, do you feel like you have a different relationship as an advertiser because of the relationship with your readers?

Russell Henneberry (20:43): Well, I turn people down all the time and it's because it's just, you know, I'm the end decision maker on all that, right? So I can, but I can see how larger publications must have a battle between editorial and Yeah. And monetization, right? Because you do get people that want to just put your stuff in front and you don't, and you, you could just take their money and put it in front of people. But I know that's not the good long-term strategy for my business is not to just shove things on their throat. And I can always, if I don't have an ad to run that I, like, I can, I just run my own stuff, you know? Mm-hmm. , this is sponsored by this course or this, you know, yeah. Whatever this event that I'm going to or whatever. Right. Yeah.

John Jantsch (21:23): All right. So I'm gonna end on the question that, you know, we could have spent the whole time talking about, um, , but I've been throwing this into pretty much, uh, any conversation, especially about content, but ai, how has that impacted your, you know, your thoughts about, you know, producing content?

Russell Henneberry (21:42): Well, you know, obviously things are shifting daily with this, so check the date on this podcast because right? You know, you know, it depends, but like, yeah, what I'm seeing now is every tool that I use is getting is, is overlaying on top of ChatGPT. And so I am using AI every day. The way I use it for content creation is typically for things that would've maybe taken me a half hour. For example, I was, I won't go into why, but I was, I needed to be, have the details of Dwight Eisenhower's career for a little article I was writing, and I just popped it into ChatGPT I was like, you know, gimme a bulleted list of Dwight Eisenhower's and, and it was like done, right? And I, right, right. Because it wasn't, you know, completely crucial that was even correct.

(22:32): A hundred percent. I just popped it in there, right? I, you know, I didn't even check the information. It all lucked pretty, right? So I popped it in there, and if somebody would've come back and said, actually he didn't start the highway program or something, he did this, that would've been like, well, that wasn't really the point of the article, but yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm using it for stuff like that. I do come down on the side right now that if you are creating, if you're not creating content that's better than what ChatGPT can put out, you shouldn't be creating content. Like, you're probably not getting any traction anyway. It, it does lack voice now. I mean, you can get some pretty incredible stuff out of it, but still, in fact, at the top of my newsletter, uh, what I've been doing, just to be sort of cheeky, is like today, I, I just finished it up and I said, this newsletter was written by a human with real arms and legs and everything, you know, and I, I do see, uh, a world where it's going to have value for you to state that you have chosen to, to continue to write or produce your content yourself.

(23:34): I think there'll be other places where people are gonna be tolerant of what, I don't care if that's a bot that wrote that, or a person, but other places where we are going to find a lot of value in the fact that someone is writing this is a real human and, uh, with experiences and memories and thoughts and all those things.

John Jantsch (23:52): Yeah. Well, I, I've definitely am telling people that if you, you can't ignore it or, or you won't be able to compete, but it we're definitely a long way. I, in fact, I don't even think it's artificial intelligence. I've been kind of jokingly switching it around and calling it ia. It's informed automation is what I really think it is. And just as your example, I mean, imagine if you were trying to come up with a killer headline and you had three or four people sitting around and you all brainstormed it, well, that's the way that I use, you know, ChatGPT is, it's like, yeah, make this headline better. Gimme 10 ideas. And it's like, there might be one word that I go, yes, , that's the word. Exactly. But, you know, that's really how I use it almost as a research assistant.

Russell Henneberry (24:31): Yeah. I mean, it's open on my desktop right now, and I will, yeah. Yeah. I, I can't see myself going away from using it anytime soon. It's here to stay so it can't be ignored. But you know, you know, you and I have both been doing this a long time, so we've seen people try to take things like this and look for a shortcut build, you know, maybe, I'm sure there's people building giant, you know, content filled websites with AI content in them. And I've been doing it long enough to know that in the long run, it's not gonna be a sustainable business model.

John Jantsch (25:05): Well, and what I love is the Make Seven Figures as an AI consultant courses that are being sold right now, too. . Yeah.

Russell Henneberry (25:14): They're everywhere.

John Jantsch (25:15): , but such as life. All right. Well Russ, thanks so much for dropping by and kinda sharing some of your knowledge on the newsletter. TheCLIKK we'll have, uh, how to subscribe in the show notes, but, uh, certainly any, anywhere you want to invite people to connect with you,

Russell Henneberry (25:31): Well yeah, just come over to the newsletter, theclikk.com and subscribe and then say hello. You can always reply cuz I read all the replies to, to my emails. And then if you wanna connect me on social media, I'm Russ Henneberry on LinkedIn.

John Jantsch (25:46): Awesome. Well, again, thanks for taking a moment out of your day to share with our listeners and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Russell Henneberry (25:53): Yeah, it's been my pleasure. Thank you.

John Jantsch (25:55): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it @marketingassessment.co not.com. Co check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketing assessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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