How Erica Tannen turned a weekly email newsletter into a bona fide business

July 13, 2015 McKenzie Gregory

In 2009, one stylish Connecticut gal left her long career in fashion to launch a free email newsletter. Now that newsletter – her "excruciatingly opinionated guide to the Connecticut shoreline" – has become an extremely successful business venture: the-e-list.



Helping Connecticut ladies stay in-the-know

Why a newsletter, you ask? "There are several small towns on the shoreline of Connecticut,” Erica explained, “But there was never one place where you could find out all the cool things that were going on or the best places to go in those towns. So I decided to compile all that information into a short, stylish, easily-digestible newsletter format. I sent it out to a list of my friends – check out this art show; here’s a wonderful new restaurant; I bought a beautiful arrangement here, etc. They sent it to their friends, and those people sent it to their friends, and I just kept at it, week after week.”

Despite her initial intention to drive traffic to her website, she quickly learned that email would be her best source of income. In fact, 90% of Erica's revenue stream comes directly from Emma. "My advertisers love email; they love that the newsletter goes directly into people’s inboxes." 


Using Emma features to adjust her message

Erica made the-e-list super popular (and attracted so many great advertisers!) by serving her audience relevant, targeted content based on the click rates she was seeing for certain topics. For instance, she originally planned to focus primarily on museums and art galleries. “But when I delved into the analytics I got through Emma,” Erica recounted, "I learned that people were clicking on food and fashion a lot more than they clicked on art. So I started doing more of that type of content and found myself instantly getting better engagement from my audience.”

Erica mentioned that she regularly uses our Metric app to help her determine how she should adjust her marketing tactics. “Back when I was a buyer, all I did was analytics – how much did we sell of this, how much do we need next season? It was all based on that sort of thing, so that part of Emma really excited me. And constantly monitoring data was a huge part of what helped me propel the-e-list into what it is today."

And she can’t get enough of those eye-catching CTA buttons. "It’s hilarious to me, the buttons. I used to get an average of 35% for my click rates, but as soon as I started using CTA buttons instead of text links, it became 40-50% every single week. And really, it was silly that all this time I’ve been using text links when even I know that I wouldn’t click a text link on my phone.” Plus, thanks to CTA buttons, the page views on Erica’s website have risen from 40,000-50,000 on average to about 75,000. 

Staying on top of best practices (with a little help from her friends!)

Marketing United: Erica loves using examples she learned at our Marketing United Conference in her own emails. She just began using a three-item content bucket in her newsletter (idea courtesy of Garden & Gun), and it turned into a useful and attractive way for her to recycle older content. Erica said, "That little tweak alone drives tons of traffic. A lot of my content is very time-specific, but something like a ‘White Wine Sangria’ recipe is useful to my audience every summer.”

Emma services: In the past few months, Erica has taken full advantage of our design and strategy services. "For a small business that has difficulty getting quick turnaround on design work, your design services are really wonderful. I’ve also used your strategy service – I spoke with Emma Matthews after Marketing United about some ideas I had and how I could incorporate them into my newsletter. It was sort of like having a consultant sitting next to you. She had a bunch of great tips and tweaks that really mattered to me."

For Erica, the help she’s gotten from Emma has been critical to the success of the-e-list. "So few people understand what I do, so it’s really nice to have access to people that really get it and know ways to make it easier. I work in a complete vacuum, so all of this information on best practices is wonderful for me – because really, I’m just making it up as I go along."

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a content writer on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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