How I got a 70% open rate on my newsletter (or, case study: user feedback is everywhere)

I promise, this is not about headline formulas or conversion copywriting.

This, my friend, is about the power of user feedback, and how putting it to good use can produce an amazing result.

Feedback loop

One thing that takes some getting used to, as you weave UX into your day-to-day, and as you scale, is the feedback loop. A way to systematically collect and translate user data into pure awesomeness.

Once in a while, though, great feedback can come outta nowhere. At which point, you must recognize it for what it is, and act on it when the time is right.

Like, when a product manager-slash-colleague-slash-prospect pinged me one random Saturday morning:

If the number of uniques to your site is going up at a steady pace, yet the bounce rate is somewhat level, regardless of device, what am I doing wrong?

Admittedly, my initial reaction to this so-called intrusion was not positive. Which I thankfully kept to myself.

And my next course of action, to dismiss the message altogether, was miraculously interrupted by my inner UX-er, who emerged from her day off and saw it for what it was: a valuable piece of user feedback that required my insight. If he struggled with bounce rates, others did, too.

As it turned out, I had an upcoming deadline that coincided with my next newsletter send. And that newsletter, which contained my answer to his question, yielded a whopping 70% open rate, up 25 points from my usual 45%.

SR – thanks so much for that question!

I learned an important lesson that week. In the past, my content revolved around textbook User Experience topics and trends. Which, at a 45% open rate, my subscribers appreciated. But 70% made me realize what kept them up at night.

And I am more than happy to address those burning issues ;)

Data hub

I admit my success story, and the timing of it all, was a rare moment that also required near perfect planetary positioning to pull off. Normally, schedules and roadmaps don’t align or rearrange themselves for user feedback at the drop of a hat.

That being said, you never want to close yourself off to your customers’ reactions, ever.

And with the help of a data hub, you won’t have to.

I first heard of UX data hubs 4 years ago, when I read this article about MailChimp pooling all of their user data — both qualitative and quantitative, systematic and organic — into Evernote.

Yes, Evernote.

It became their central repository for all user research and feedback. Every department with a data set (customer service, engineering, marketing, social media…) forwarded their findings into the hub. That hub, which grew to encapsulate an immense and diverse set of information, was scoured and mined for insights and opportunities when needed.

Needless to say, MailChimp’s data hub, in Evernote, has worked a treat.

Mind you, I’m not advocating for data hubs in Evernote, only that you should have one. It doesn’t matter what tool you use, so long as it works for you and your team. If you want to build your own, and I know some of you do, have at it.

Though I will say, the easier it is to enter and forward into, index and search, the better.

Okay you, no more excuses. Start collecting and pooling your user feedback, so you never miss out on a whopping opportunity ever again.

Until next time,