10 Lessons Boutique Consultancy Owners Can Take Away from My Newsletter Strategy

Email is the third-highest owned media platform B2B marketers use to distribute content, reports Content Marketing Institute

For those wondering, an organization’s website comes in the first place, and a company’s blog takes the second spot.

Simply put, email marketing is still one of the most effective tools boutique consultancies have at their disposal. 

In this article, I’d like to share how my newsletter – The Authority – has been one of the drivers of the success of my consulting business, and what lessons I’ve learned along the way that boutique consultancy owners can apply in their business development strategy.

Have a quick look at my newsletter. 

Newsletters – a central distribution hub of knowledge and trust-building

My approach to newsletters has been the same for decades. My first “newsletter” was just a simple email sent from my mailbox to a curated list of contacts on a regular basis. 

It included my case studies, articles, takeaways from events I presented at and attended as a delegate, and other resources. No email marketing software. No tracking open or click-through rates. 

Just a straightforward communication avenue to keep my contacts in the loop on the types of insights I thought they would find useful.

I am extremely anti-spam. I’m against the idea of purchasing newsletter subscribers or somehow tricking people into subscribing to my newsletter. It’s really easy to subscribe to my newsletter and just as easy to unsubscribe. 

For me, a newsletter is the single most important channel to nurture relationships with those who showed interest in my expertise and in what I had to say. It’s a level of trust that I would never want to compromise.

While this is a macro view of my approach to newsletters and email marketing, I’ll now get in the nitty-gritty of how boutique consultancy owners can use email marketing as a powerful tool for business growth.

#1. The quality of subscribers is more important than the quantity

I never cared how fast my email list grew. Of course, I keep track of the KPIs – who subscribed when and why, how they engage with my content, which pieces of content attract more subscribers, etc. 

But the speed of growth was never my concern or priority. While it's tempting for many businesses – boutique consultancies being no exception – to focus on growing their email list as fast as possible, having a large number of uninterested, irrelevant, or disengaged subscribers can be counterproductive. 

Instead, I recommend that boutique consultancies focus on the quality of their subscribers – more specifically, how neatly they fall in the parameters of a target audience. 

I strongly believe that it’s better to have an email list of 1,000 contacts who deeply engage with the consultancy’s content and convert to clients at a solid rate than to have 100,000 subscribers who are only somewhat relevant, if at all.

#2. An email list is the ultimate trust weapon

I don’t gate my content. Anyone can go on my blog and read the content I post with zero barriers. Similarly, my LinkedIn posts are there for anyone who comes across my profile.

So why do people subscribe to my newsletter? For the most part, it’s for a simple reason really: to make sure they are regularly reminded to check my latest thought leadership. Why? Because they see value in it.

For me, that’s the ultimate demonstration of trust – especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with marketing messages both offline and online. 

The fact that I’m entrusted with the email address to keep a subscriber in the loop on my latest blog articles, bite-sized advice on LinkedIn, and other forms of content is often one of the first measurable steps toward building a long-lasting relationship with that subscriber. 

It’s the job of consulting firms is to nurture and grow that trust by sharing their expertise and providing answers to prospects' questions, addressing their pain points, and, thus, showcasing their subject matter authority. 

At the end of the day, people do business with those they trust, so I recommend boutique consultancy owners to use their email list to nurture that trust.

Recommended reading: Building an Email List Is Consultancies' Ultimate Trust Weapon

#3. An email list requires regular pruning to stay effective

“Luk, we have a database of 50,000+ people but our open rate is barely 5%!” That’s what one of my clients told me as I was gearing up to conduct an audit of their business strategy. 

Now, 50,000, “WOW! That’s an impressive number, especially for a boutique consultancy”, right? Well, that wasn’t the case for this consultancy.

While the mailing list was indeed more than 50K contacts, even a quick scan showed just how poor-quality the list was. At least a third of the contacts contained no data points beyond the email address. About a quarter of the contacts appeared to be bot subscribers. Thousands of contacts haven’t opened the consultancy’s newsletter in over 6 months. 

That’s why I regularly prune my contacts. It keeps my mailing list fresh and relevant. That means my open rates are high – 40-50%, with the industry average at 29.61%.

Pruning not only improves open and click-through rates, but it also reduces costs associated with email marketing platforms that charge based on the number of subscribers.

#4. A newsletter is an educational channel first, a business development channel second

The primary goal of my newsletter is to educate and provide value to my subscribers. While I have a section on my services, it is at the very end of my newsletter and is not promoted in any way. 

My philosophy has always been that clients will come only after I provide them with sufficient value and build trust based on the educational content that shows my understanding of their needs. This approach has served me well over the years. I get call requests by prospects on a daily basis.

I recommend boutique consultancy owners and leaders to not think of newsletters as “something that marketing teams need to handle.” Instead, it’s a communication channel that they should actively get involved in.

Recommended reading: 5 Reasons Consulting Leaders Are Missing the Digital Train

#5. A newsletter should connect to the larger audience education mechanism

My newsletter doesn't exist in a vacuum. It’s part of my broader strategy to educate and engage my audience. LinkedIn is one other such component. This is where I regularly share advice and insights with my network. 

Every time I publish an issue of the newsletter, I share it with my network on LinkedIn. As a result, about 75% of my subscribers come from that source. 10% come from my subscription CTA on the website, and about 10% from the subscription link in the newsletter itself.

What boutique consultancy leaders can take away from this is that it’s important to connect a newsletter to other platforms – the website, blog, social media, webinars, etc. They can cross-share their content across these channels to create a cohesive narrative and increase their reach. 

#6. Consistency and setting expectations are key

I send my newsletter every other Wednesday (with a few exceptions here and there due to public holidays, holiday seasons, etc.). I have the same sub-sections in the newsletter every time. My subscribers have come to expect certain types of content from me and to have my newsletter land in their inbox on certain days.

Of course, my newsletter has evolved and changed over time. I refined the design elements, I experimented with different sections, etc. But 99% of what my subscribers receive has been consistent.

Why does it matter? Because it allows me to build certain habits with my subscribers. Becoming a part of their routine is a massive achievement. It’s a sign that I’ve become a go-to source for a certain type of educational content and my subscribers actively make the time in their very busy schedules to catch up with what I’ve shared in the past two weeks.

Boutique consultancy owners can benefit tremendously from becoming a part of their target audience’s routine. And in order to do so, they need to set the right expectations with their newsletter and make sure to deliver on those expectations at regular frequencies.

#7. A newsletter is an excellent tool for engaging past clients and continuing to deliver value

A newsletter is a great way to maintain relationships with past clients by providing ongoing value. 

By sharing success stories, updates about the consultancy, or industry developments relevant to them, boutique consultancies can stay top of mind with past clients. This continued engagement can lead to repeat business, referrals, and an expanded network. 

By keeping past clients in the loop, boutique consultancies maintain their position as a trusted resource.

Recommended reading: Why You Should Share Your Expertise To Grow Your Consulting Business

#8. A newsletter is a massive source of relevant website traffic

A third of my blog traffic comes from the newsletter, and these users stay on average >3 minutes on my blog. This has been the case for more than two years now.

These are my most loyal readers. And what’s more, new clients almost always refer to my newsletter as a loyal reader. 

What I also want boutique consultancy owners and leaders to consider is that this influx of traffic can improve their website's search engine ranking, especially if newsletters are published on the site.

#9. A strategically utilized email list is a cost-effective way of staying top of mind with prospects

It happens often – someone who subscribed to my newsletter 2-3 years ago decides to book my services. Clearly, they were familiar with my content, my expertise depth, and my services. However, the time was not right.

By regularly staying in touch via my newsletter and continuing to provide value, I am able to remain top of mind with these prospects. 

The reality is that nurturing contacts is not a race. It’s a marathon. Sure, most of my clients do not take years to convert. However, nurturing my contacts is one of the reasons I don’t ever stress out about my pipeline of new business. In fact, I get increasingly picky in order to protect my time.

#10. Newsletter and email list KPIs provide valuables insights

Key performance indicators such as open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and unsubscribe rates offer valuable insights into the effectiveness of email marketing efforts. I have had so many boutique consultancy owners and leaders report struggling to measure the impact of their thought leadership efforts over the years.

Well, newsletters make the process very straightforward. If configured correctly, any email marketing software will show a wide range of data: who subscribed when and where, who opened which email and clicked on what links, at what time of day/week subscribers engage the most/least, where the subscribers are located, and so on.

This data, in combination with other content- and website-related KPIs that I strongly encourage boutique consultancies to track and assess, provides insights into how well marketing and business development efforts are working, as well as what adjustments could further improve the ROI.

In conclusion

Newsletter-based email business development is a powerful tool for boutique consultancy owners looking to grow their business, engage with prospects, former and existing clients, and build a trusted brand. 

As illustrated by my experience with "The Authority," newsletters can serve as a central hub for distributing valuable content and nurturing relationships. 

Just like with my approach to thought leadership, I urge boutique consultancy owners to think of newsletters as an audience education opportunity first and foremost. Because the business will follow!

Interested in receiving all my learnings to become a better consultant? No spam, no BS. Pure teaching! Subscribe to my newsletter.

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