I was asked recently: “Is an email newsletter part of a nurture program?”

Usually we think of newsletters as useful devices to keep customers informed and engaged. And that is, in part, a goal of a nurture program. So a bit of confusion about how newsletters and nurture fit together is understandable.  In fact, newsletters should not be considered part of a nurture program, although they may co-exist with one. Here’s why you should keep the two programs separate:

  1. Different Goals. Newsletters are meant to educate and inform prospects and customers, so that they can use your product better. The goal is to maintain communications even when your customer is not actively making a purchase decision around your product or service, so that your customers remain engaged with your product, your overall brand, and your service department. At the end of the day, newsletters are part of a larger communications plan designed to remind customers that they should want to do business with you in the future.While nurture streams will also make an effort to educate and inform, the goals are to identify pain points for potential customers so that a sales person can follow up and help move past those issues. Nurture streams have short-term goals and are designed to work with a sales person, rather than a service department.
  2. Different Messages. Newsletter articles are meant to elicit interest in topics relevant to your customers, so that they can continue to engage with your brand and product. Topics are chosen based on what you know about your overall customer needs, or possibly about the interests of a specific segment of your customer base. Often, articles will focus on communicating new features and services, or known issues that impact your broader base.  A newsletter will be focused on making sure that customer interactions with your product continue to be good ones.Nurture streams should also be designed around specific areas of interest that are identified by the potential customer. Nurture streams won’t have the range of topics a newsletter stream has, since issue resolution is generally not helpful and product news will be written from a slightly different point of view. The tone will be different even across content and articles that are in both vehicles, since the goal of nurture is to make prospects and customers feel as though your product can and will solve the issues they have turned to you to solve. In other words, a nurture stream is focused on how the prospect or customer hopes the product will help them, instead of how they should interact with your service team.
  3. Different Timelines. Newsletters run indefinitely on a set publishing schedule, often monthly. They will often be saved by the recipient for future reference, or passed around with a note to follow up on a piece of information contained within. Newsletters are not usually viewed as priority action items, but the content can be of value.
    Nurture streams match cadence to the sales cycle. A signal of interest (whitepaper download or webinar attendance, for example) might be followed by a rapid succession of messages to evaluate level of interest, but the full length of a nurture program will be determined by the average sales cycle for that product. A short average cycle may focus on the initial burst of messages, and a long sales cycle may start to look similar to a newsletter program.

Knowing the difference between newsletter and nurture can help make both programs stronger. And when it makes sense to augment a nurture stream with an existing newsletter program, knowing the difference between the two can help you sort responses more accurately. This can help both your sales and your service efforts.

Do you have a successful nurture program or newsletter program? Share the keys to your success.

Originally posted on MediaPost.com’s Email Insider blog. View comments there.