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Improve your content strategy by surveying your newsletter readers

You’ve had content flowing for several months and have a solid readership. Yet, over time, your content wanes in effectiveness – not just in getting outbound readership, but even your existing audience is clicking through less and engaging less. 

What’s going on?

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. In fact, many content managers run into this challenge as they start to get into the flow of executing their content strategy. It’s the great content plateau that any content program runs into – and this article digs into an easy way to break through it by surveying your newsletter readers. 

Whether you run a newsletter for a business or as a media company, you’ll want to read this article from end to end for some practical tips on surveys. 

Give the readers what they want

You see, most content managers are using limited data and their gut in understanding what content works for their readers. 

However, this guesswork isn’t necessary and by surveying your newsletter readers you can start to refine your content calendar. 

Plus, that annoying task of figuring out ‘what to write about’ – well your readers will tell you. Imagine building out a content calendar by crowdsourcing the best things to write about, from the audience that’ll read the content!

That’s clear value. It’ll help you deliver content your readers want to read, in the format they’d like to. Effective content marketing at its finest. 

Gain additional insights through direct surveys

Beyond understanding what your readers would like to read. You can gain additional insights such as:

  1. The various audience types and how this related to content preferences (e.g. Marketers vs. Entrepreneurs)
  2. What format do they prefer? (one-pagers, summaries, eBooks, etc.)
  3. Their preferred content length?
  4. When they read your content
  5. What they’re looking to use your content for
  6. If they’re likely to share your content along
  7. What tone do they prefer?
  8. Etc.

You can start designing your survey to answer specific hypotheses about your business as it relates to your overall content marketing strategy. 

You’ll start to not only gather ideas on what to write about but how to write it, what specific value you should hope to deliver, and if there’s any content personalization you can for different reader segments. 

Segmenting your newsletter by survey response

One of the smartest and most effective ways to use a survey with your newsletter readers is at the very beginning when they first sign up. By asking them basic information not only about their content preferences, but also about their demographics and backgrounds, you’ll be able to start segmenting your list into various groups. Here’s why that’s important:

  1. Knowing who is subscribing. You may have a targeted audience in mind when building your content plan and newsletter, but do you know with 100% accuracy that that’s who’s reading? 
  2. Attracting new audiences. Even if you’re on target with your intended audience, you’ll probably unintentionally appeal to other segments which could inspire you to create new content aimed at generating more subscribers or boosting click throughs. By seeing who is actually subscribing, you’ll be able to spot early signs of opportunity to expand into new demographics.
  3. Attracting sponsors. If your goal is to use your audience as a way of generating revenue through advertising or direct sponsorships, you’ll need to provide evidence of who’s actually reading your content. You may claim that your readers are affluent and trend setters, but the serious brands and advertisers will need you to back that up with survey data. 

Survey tools you can use with your newsletter readers

By now I hope you see the value of surveying your readers to build out a content calendar. 

Now how would you go about executing? Well, there are many survey tools out there you can use. These tools are highly scalable and you can built-in anonymity and confidential. All saved on the cloud with the ability to download locally. 

When it comes to tools to gather ideas for your content planning, our top picks are to use either Typeform, Jotform, or, of course, our own tool BigTeam.  With any of these three tools you can:

  1. Design advanced surveys using various rules and logic. 
  2. All of them come with the option to be embedded into your own content creation and distribution tools
  3. Are highly customizable to reflect your brand. 
  4. Have integration features allowing you to link them up with your marketing and management tools such as Asana, Trello, Hubspot or MailChimp.

With any of these tools, you can get a feel for if it meets your needs by using their free plan and only need to move onto their paid plans if you’re looking to use their advanced features. 

Tying Survey Data and Contact CRMs together

Before you start designing some beautiful surveys and becoming a data nerd, we would recommend you look for a way to combine survey answers with your contacts hosted in whatever email or crm system you current use to manage your newsletter. Most common tools are MailChimp or Constant Contact, although nostalgic content managers may still be using a good ol’ fashioned excel sheet. 

Once you get your survey answered, you’ll want to flow those answers into your system so that you can start looking for trends in readership, click throughs and any unusual activity. By already having your demographic or readership preference data in your system, you’ll be able to answer questions like:

  1. Who likes this type of article the most?
  2. What group or segment is most engaged?
  3. Am I losing any specific demographic? 
  4. What age group are my biggest fans?
  5. What brands would be interested in my readership? 

You should be able to achieve this type of blending of survey data and contact readership data by one of 3 ways:

  1. Direct integration via API or through a provider like BigTeam provides
  2. Using a “connector” like Zapier to plug your newsletter and your survey tool
  3. Manually exporting the answers and uploading them into your CRM or newsletter management tool as new fields on the contacts. 

If possible, you may even be able to automate the process of surveying your new subscribers for information about their content preferences and demographics so you don’t have to manage the process. That way, anytime you pop into your CRM or email newsletter management platform, you’ll have all the data you need to rock your content calendar. 

That’s it! Go forth and conquer that content calendar you survey whiz!

The most effective marketing strategies start with a strong understanding of the customer. Utilizing surveys to understand your newsletter readers is the best way to make data-driven decisions when it comes to building your content calendar and informing the direction of your content strategy. 

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