This article was first posted on LinkedIn on November 20, 2019.
Recently I was asked to explain the rules to make a company marketing email newsletter worth reading, a newsletter that gets read. It’s an excellent question.
Publishing a newsletter gives you the opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of your company and its products and services.Ian Linton
In publishing a marketing newsletter, there are many big issues and several little details to watch out. Here are the most important:
- Craft an engaging subject line. If the subject of the email doesn’t capture the curiosity or interest of your users, they will not even open the newsletter (Open Rate). An old trick is to add some sense of urgency. Be careful also for what you select as the email sender. Avoid repetitive subject lines.
- Select a newsletter frequency and be consistent. How often should you send out email blasts? No more than once a week, no less than once a month. Users subscribing to your newsletter are somehow expecting it. Don’t disappoint them with delays or confuse them with irregular frequency.
- Include plenty of visual content. Most of the time, the images are what pushes the user to invest more time in visually scanning and, eventually, reading the newsletter. The text of your newsletter should be easy to scan visually. Use short paragraph and bullet points.
- Always include at least one CTA (Call to Action) button in a prominent position. The CTA can invite the user to get more info about a product, to add a product to the cart, to contact the customer service, to participate in a poll, or any action aligned with your marketing goals. According to email CTA best practices, you should keep the CTA above the fold (so it’s visible without the reader having to scroll down).
- Segment your audience. Based on the breadth of your eCommerce or activity, consider a target segmentation by creating from one to four different versions of the newsletter. Each version will be tailored to a specific vertical subset of your contact list. In case you are considering more than four variants, then a newsletter may not make sense anymore for your business. It would be best if you instead consider sending messages with fully personalized content, timing, and frequency.
- Personalize the newsletter, e.g., by addressing the customer by name, mentioning its company and location. When possible, mention even more specific details about the customer or the products he purchased from you. Good examples are the newsletters of companies selling subscriptions. Their newsletter frequently includes a reminder of the subscription expiration date, service level, and some statistics about the usage. Include offers and product references that are a match with the user’s purchasing history and browsing profile.
- Tie that product to some seasonal event or trend. The best way to attract attention for a specific product, service, or offer is to connect it to an event, like Black Friday, or to some popular trend, such as a popular movie. The association should also continue on the website or the app and not be limited to the newsletter.
- Make sure to add some variety. When sending personalized newsletters, do not recommend the same product or group of products over and over to the same user. Add some variety to your email newsletter. Also, every while, throw in a curveball: mention a product outside the user profile and see how he reacts.
- Use only fresh content. Include news and posts no more than a few days old. How old is old-content? It depends on the frequency of the newsletter. A weekly newsletter should only report news from the previous seven days. A monthly newsletter should stick to news from the last two weeks unless the story was anticipated by the previous month’s newsletter (e.g., a new release announced in October and described in November).
- Include only relevant and compelling content. This should be part of your eCommerce content strategy. Assuming you have identified multiple personas to describe the typical users of your business, for each piece of content, ask yourself if it is relevant for the personas in the vertical you are addressing. Also, make sure the language you are using could be the language of that persona. E.g., if you are selling products for architects working in small teams, populate the newsletter with content relevant for them and try to speak their professional language.
- Skip boring corporate news. While it’s essential to get your users to know your brand better, avoid information that is not relevant to your user. Let’s be honest; none of your users cares about the new CMO you just hired, this not an internal company newsletter. Regarding the silly pictures you shoot at the office during the Halloween party, usually, it’s a good idea not to share them with your users. The only exception is when your marketing strategy is pushing to put a face or a team behind your logo. Then it could be OK, but the pictures you select must be consistent with that goal.
- Use mostly original content. I know it takes much work to create unique content, but it’s fundamental the users recognize what you are sending to their inbox as unique and original. They should recognize this is a curated newsletter. It can’t just be a regurgitation of something that was already in the news. Yes, it doesn’t have to be 100% original, but it needs to communicate your brand personality, your unique touch. Linking to your most recent blog post is OK. Generally I would not recommend linking back to Social Media posts. Doing so, you are taking the risk of sending users back in the conversion funnel.
- Include plenty of links pointing back to your website. Use as many as you can, but only if it makes sense. The usual goal of a newsletter is not to maximize the CTR (personalized mailer are better tools for that goal), but rather to reinforce awareness of your brand, build familiarity, and allow people to know your brand better.
- Make sure the landing page for each one of your newsletter links matches the expectations created by the blurbs you used in the newsletter. If the link is a promise, the landing page must fulfill the promise. Nobody can afford to lose the trust of their users. You neither. If you don’t want to create each landing page manually, there are landing page builders you can use.
This was a very long list of email newsletter design best practices. And I have listed only the most significant recommendations on how to make effective newsletters.
I have one last suggestion: always measure your newsletter performance. For every issue of the newsletter, you should be able to measure:
- Open Rates
- Bounce Rates
- Click-Through Rates
ESP (Email Service Providers)
Those KPI are available on almost all web-based email marketing services like:
Based on the measured results from each issue, you can tune the newsletter to become more engaging and to more popular.
Franco Folini lives and works in the eCommerce territory, a wild area between the Kingdom of Technology and the Kingdom of Marketing. He speaks fluently the language of both realms. For many years, Franco has been helping people bridge the divide and successfully collaborate.
If you want to find out more about Franco, visit his LinkedIn profile or send him an email folini[at]gmail.com