Just about everyone who runs a business has heard of a newsletter or blog - the idea that you provide your subscribers with weekly (or regular) content that will keep them engaged with your business. Get people to subscribe to your newsletter, so the theory goes, and you can build trust by continuously providing value. When you do make an offer of one of your products or services, they're more likely to buy than someone who just heard of you.
But there are problems with the venerable newsletter (or blog articles).
First, there are a ton of newsletters out there. Subscribe to more than an few and your inbox will soon be flooded with "valuable" content you don't read. Second, the idea of a "news" letter (which tells your subscribers what's happening) is flawed from the start - they're not that interested in news about you and what you're doing.
But the biggest problem with the classic approach to newsletters is two-fold:
- First, you have to produce valuable content every week. This ties you to a hamster wheel, and it's not that easy to produce consistently high-value content all the time.
- Secondly, new subscribers to your list are going to miss some of your best content - very often content you produced a year or more ago and went viral.
I've previously written about newsletters and blog articles - in this article I want to talk specifically about the difference between newsletter and evergreen nurturing, and the approach I'm using to get the best of both worlds.
The difference between newsletters and evergreen nurturing
Newsletters, by definition, are weekly (or regular) emails with up-to-date information about current affairs. This could include news about what you or your business is doing, but typically also includes announcements of upcoming events or time-sensitive information that has to go out "now".
As I said above, the problem with newsletters is that you're tied to a hamster wheel - you have to produce consistently high-value content every week.
Enter the alternative - evergreen nurturing, or an evergreen newsletter.
The idea here is that you collect your best content and serve that content up to every new subscriber to your list. This way, new subscribers get your best content irrespective of when you created it. The key of course is that the content itself is "evergreen" - in other words, it is valuable irrespective of when your subscriber reads it; today, tomorrow or a year from now.
Set your evergreen nurturing up correctly and you will be sure that every new subscriber gets your best content - with no additional work required from you. The disadvantage here of course is that if you want to go truly hands-free, you're missing the opportunity to alert your subscribers of new products or events. We'll get to how to handle that in just a bit.
When to use newsletters
Newsletters still have their place of course. If you have announcements to make, say a new product or event, you need to alert your subscribers. The place to do this is in a newsletter.
A newsletter - at least the way we're defining it here - requires that you actually sit down and write the content shortly before you send it out. The announcements in the newsletter are time-sensitive, so you don't always have the luxury of setting it up long in advance.
So use newsletters for time-sensitive information. If your newsletter is just about upcoming events or announcements, you don't have to worry that much about announcing blog articles - your newsletter can be relatively short and to the point.
When to use evergreen nurturing
The idea with evergreen nurturing is to send each new subscriber your best content, irrespective of when they sign up. So, for example, if you have a series of articles or blog posts you know have been well received, you can set up a sequence of emails to send one article per week. Any new subscriber that joins gets the same content.
There are at least two situations where evergreen nurturing is the way to go:
- If you regularly produce new content, you want to make sure new subscribers get the best content irrespective of when they sign up to your subscriber list. You curate your best content into a collection that is sent to new subscribers using a predetermined sequence.
- If you have only a small collection of content, the same concept applies. You send your content to new subscribers in a specific sequence, and when you reach the end of the content you make an offer or revert to newsletters.
There are two big advantages to evergreen nurturing:
- First, it frees you up from having to create new content every week; and
- Second, your subscribers get your most valuable content irrespective of when they join your list.
Getting started with evergreen nurturing
Of course, you still have to produce the evergreen content in the first place. Your first option is to sit down and create a small collection, say 12 articles. This gives you a 3-month runway of content before you have to produce anything new.
Alternatively, if you have a collection of content already, you can find the most popular articles from that collection and put that in your evergreen sequence. You have to be a little careful here - if you put recently published content in that sequence your subscribers may already have seen it. However, if your content is more than say, a year old, you can probably safely add it to the sequence.
The mechanics of setting up your evergreen nurturing will depend on which platform you use to manage your subscriber list. In principle, you want to set up a sequence of emails that get sent to your subscribers every week (or however regularly you want to send the content). You do however want to keep the option open to add new content to the sequence, so make sure you can do that on your platform.
I am familiar with two email platforms:
Evergreen nurturing in ConvertKit
In ConvertKit, setting up evergreen nurturing is as simple as setting up a new sequence and adding all your subscribers to that sequence. Each email in the sequence is a brief introduction to the content and has a link where subscribers can read the full article.
To update the sequence with new content, all you have to do is add the content (a new email) at the appropriate place in the sequence. You can then remove all the subscribers from the sequence and add them back in. ConvertKit's default behavior is to only send emails in a sequence the subscriber has not received before, so they will only get the new content (no repeats).
Evergreen nurturing in Drip
In Drip you will have to set up a workflow. The workflow is a series of decisions and two steps:
- have we sent this content to the subscriber before? If not:
- send the content; and
- tag them as having been sent this content
Repeat this sequence for every piece of content in your evergreen collection. To add new content to the evergreen collection, add the appropriate decision and steps into workflow, remove all current subscribers from the workflow and add them back in.
The best of both worlds
I was on the weekly content creation treadmill for almost two years before I really understood the value of evergreen nurturing. This not only gave me a collection of some 150 articles, but also gave me a good idea of what was popular.
Today, I use a combination of evergreen nurturing and newsletters. Here's how it works:
- By default, new subscribers to my list get added to my evergreen nurturing sequence. The sequence is set up to send the most popular content from the last two years, one article per week, and I regularly add in new content. These emails get sent every Wednesday.
- When I have something newsworthy (like a product launch or upcoming event), I send an email (often over the weekend). These emails are typically crafted during the week and are relatively informal and chatty.
This gives me - and my subscribers - the best of both worlds. They get to see the best content that can help them build and grow their business without tying me down to producing weekly long-form articles. They also get timely announcements of products and events which don't take me long to craft during the week.
Newsletters, evergreen nurturing and product promotions
There's one last thing worth mentioning. If you use email to promote a product or service, you will want to remove subscribers from your evergreen nurturing (and possibly your newsletters) for the duration of the promotion. If you don't, chances are they will be getting so many emails from you they will stop reading them - or even unsubscribe.
Most email platforms, including ConvertKit and Drip, allow you to remove subscribers from a sequence or workflow, and add them back in later. If the sequences or workflows are correctly set up, your subscribers won't get to see the same email twice.
You don't have to tie yourself down to a weekly routine of producing high-value content. Evergreen nurturing frees you up from that cycle, and gives your subscribers the best content you've produced.
Using a mix of newsletters and evergreen content gives you the best of both worlds: providing your subscribers with high-value content and keeping them informed of upcoming events.
Getting started with evergreen nurturing will require that you produce enough content to start with. You can do that on the fly, or produce a batch in one go. When your early subscribers reach the end of the sequence, you can add more content or revert to less frequent emails.
And a last trick worth mentioning - you can recycle old (but good) content. If something is more than a year old, you can safely send it out again and few of your subscribers will notice.