Building Your Brand: How to Create Effective Newsletters | Email marketing and automation with Mailchimp

With comet models that hiss and fizz, color-changing potions and glitter clay sculptures that conduct electricity, science can be fun. But too often, a child’s experience in the core subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) in school can be boring and uninspired.

“Hardly any primary school teacher has done science beyond GCSE,” says entrepreneur Renee Watson, who is a scientist by profession. “I had worked a lot with schools and saw that there was no time or money to make science fun and interesting in the classroom. So I thought, “Well, I can put fun stuff in boxes and send it to families to make at home.”

It was the start of an idea that led her to found Curiosity Box in 2016. Today, in addition to the monthly subscription box for families to work together at home, the company also sends kits to UK primary schools. But Watson admits that building that following hasn’t been easy. “Trying to establish a new children’s brand and a physical product without a lot of marketing budget is incredibly difficult,” she says. “There are competitors coming into the market all the time, which are sometimes big companies with huge amounts of money to spend on marketing. And schools have extremely tight budgets and teachers are overwhelmed.

Research by the Wellcome Trust in 2017 suggested science was not a priority in primary schools. Only 42% of students had enough teaching time for the subject and schools did not have sufficient resources to teach it. Since then, a host of initiatives have sprung up to try to support Stem in schools. Watson has been able to leverage some of this work, partnering with universities and organizations such as the UK Research Institute (UKRI) to fund boxes for schools, which include up to 20 hours of activity (according to box size). “Our kits include science and tech resources that they can then use in all of their Stem classes, so it kind of builds their overall science capacity in the classroom, not just the activity that we sent them to do,” adds Watson.

Renee Watson, Founder of Curiosity Box: “It’s a way for us to engage with people who may not be customers yet”

Sending out a newsletter helped the Curiosity Box team grow their community. There are currently 15,000 subscribers on the mailing list and the team uses Mailchimp to streamline the process. “Subscribers get regular updates on new things we’re doing, or cool science stuff we’ve found, something like that. It’s also a way for us to engage with people who may not be customers yet, but may become customers in the future.

Watson used features offered by Mailchimp, such as A/B testing, to help determine what content performs best. Content Optimizer tools also help ensure emails are engaging, maximizing the number of people who actually read the newsletter. “For us, it’s about creating that sense of community around the brand, rather than just pushing sales,” says Watson. “Testing helps us fine-tune our messaging to find the right balance. And I’ve become a big fan of automated workflows. For a small business that’s always short on time, it takes a huge amount of stress and pressure away.”

At Mailchimp, its director of product management for smart content, John Wolf, says Content Optimizer’s features were developed and released a year ago in response to such challenges. “Creating great marketing content is really hard and time-consuming,” he says. “We believe it is possible to improve campaign performance by at least 20% with tools like these. Our clients spend 28 million hours per year writing texts. We want to reduce that by 80%.”

Content Optimizer, which is included in the Premium and Standard plans, analyzes millions of data points from the billions of emails sent through Mailchimp each year. “It gives us a lot of data to work with to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” says Wolf. Suggested recommendations include advice on readability, keeping titles and subtitles short, and using accessible language. “People spend an average of eight seconds on an email. So if you’re really concise, you’ll be more likely to get your point across. One of the most common mistakes marketers make is trying to do too much in one email.

There are more features in the pipeline, around tone and image recommendations, as well as better insight into the most powerful posts. “It’s about being a brand that your customers can consider a friend,” Wolf adds of the most effective newsletters. “And create value every time you contact your customers.”

Back at Curiosity Box, Watson is already planning her Christmas campaign with her team of 60 and has just signed partnerships with several schools in South Korea and the Crest Awards in the UK. She wants to double the number of subscribers on the company’s mailing list by the end of the year. “I think the mistake a lot of organizations make is that they think about what they want to talk about, rather than what their customers are going to find useful,” she says. “If you’re sending emails that nobody really cares about, you’re just wasting your time and money.”

Mailchimp is the #1 brand in email marketing and automations*. With plans tailored to every size of business and database, marketers are able to send the right message at the right time to convert more customers, get AI-assisted suggestions to make more engaging content and implement automated workflows to cross-sell products, recover abandoned carts, and help increase loyalty and sales.

*Based on publicly available data from competing brands on the number of customers worldwide in 2021/2022.

The views, information and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Intuit, Mailchimp or any of its flagship brands or employees. The main purpose of this article is to educate and inform.

Harry L. Blanchard