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Newsletter Best Practices 101
Sending out an email newsletter is not a task that should be taken lightly. Having your brand, organization and message landing directly in hundreds, or even thousands, of inboxes means there’s little room for error. Why? Because once someone unsubscribes from your list you’ll most likely never get them back.
Sound stressful? Don’t worry, I’ve got the lowdown on not only mastering the content inside of your email, but how that can also translate into maintaining a healthy relationship with your audience outside of email.
When creating or scheduling a newsletter, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind.
A newsletter, or any interaction you initiate with your audience for that matter, must always be intentional and backed by a goal and purpose. Ask yourself, what’s the end result you want to see? What actions do I want the reader to take? Why is this group of people receiving this newsletter?
Common goals and purposes include audience education, retention, increasing sales, driving traffic to specific pages, or getting to know your audience. No matter the reason or the end game you’re seeking, always keep your emails mutually beneficial.
Focus on Tangible Results
One of the best things about newsletters is that they have the potential to provide real, hard data. Data such as how many people opened, clicked this or that, then interacted with a page, is all at your fingertips. This data is priceless when it comes to deciding what content to include or how you should organize the newsletter’s layout.
Send to People Who Want to Receive It
First and foremost, your newsletter should only be finding itself in the inboxes of people who are not just interested in your organization, but who also want to receive such an email. Think about your own inbox. If you received a newsletter out of the blue from an organization that you haven’t recently interacted with, wouldn’t you probably delete it? Your efforts and messaging will always be better spent sending to a smaller interested group, than a larger apathetic one.
Segment Your Audience
Now that you have a list of interested people, you don’t just want to have a one and done newsletter. Your audience is bound to be diverse, whether it’s demographically or how they’ve interacted with your organization. Undergrads receiving alumni event information, a teen with a new bank account receiving a retirement blog — these instances all scream to your audience that you don’t know them, or worse, don’t care to know them.
Look at what they’ve signed up for and go from there. A customer relationship management tool is a great way to segment and sort your contacts. Not sure who your current audience is? It’s not too late to ask them with a survey.
It’s Not All About You
Sure, your newsletter is a key piece of your marketing, retention, brand recognition or thought leadership strategy, but that does not mean it’s all about you. Your content should be at least 60% non-promotional and provide information and insight that’s valuable to the receiver.
Anything strictly promotional, say you’re a seafood restaurant with a new menu item, should be paired with a blog post about finding fresh fish in the area, or even a recipe. You just don’t want to push your organization 24/7.
Keep Content, Fresh, New & Relevant
Ah, the age old “quality over quantity.” Look to current events to help you find new, fresh content. You’ve probably heard this 100 times, but it has to be said again. It’s okay to recycle and repurpose some content, such as a larger campaign, contest or announcement, but if the vast majority of your content is blah, a newsletter doesn’t need to be sent.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at how your content does across different mediums; that can serve as an indicator for what will do well in your newsletter.
Avoid “Action Paralysis”
Time to get scientific. A study conducted by psycho-economist Sheena Lyengar illustrated that the number of options you give your audience negatively correlates to the number of actions they will take. Essentially, if you include call-to-actions to download this, read that, click here, subscribe there and so forth, you probably won’t get a lot of engagement. Pick one action and highlight it. It’s better to include one thing and see an action than many and see none.
Check out Sheena’s TED Talk “How to make choosing easier,” here.
Have an Easily Digestible Layout
The golden rules:
- Be mindful of the amount of text you include as it should just entice a reader to take action and interact with your newsletter.
- Images should only be included if they directly complement your content.
- According to a 2014 study by Movable Ink, over 65% of emails are first opened on a smartphone so having a responsive design is obligatory.
As far as the aesthetic design, virtually all email clients come ready with tried and true templates for your choosing. To get an idea of how you can put your brand’s spin on these bases, check out reallygoodemails.com.
Send Email at the Right Time
Finding the right time of day and time between sends will most likely include a learning curve for testing and modifications, but you can start with these tips in mind:
- According to MailChimp’s Send Time Optimization insights, sending email on a weekday, especially Thursdays, proves more favorable by a landslide, with the hours of 10:00 AM – noon being the peak time of day for it to arrive in your user’s inbox. Whatever interval you find fits your time, content and audience, just make sure it remains consistent.
- Don’t wait longer than six to eight weeks in between newsletters. In this period of time, your user’s permission and care will go stale.
- However, when in doubt about whether or not you should be sending another newsletter, look to your content. If you have quality content that your audience would enjoy and benefit from, don’t hold it back.
Encourage Email Sign Ups
- Have a dedicated landing page on your website where users can opt-in to any newsletter, but also which newsletters they’d want to receive.
Image: The New School
- Have in-person sign up forms at events.
- If your organization requires an account to be made, include an opt-in check-box as part of the create form.
- Include call-to-actions on all relevant web pages or social media posts. Promoting an event on Facebook or posting events to a calendar? Include a CTA for your events newsletter.
- Post sneak peeks of your newsletters on social media or your website.
- Add a subscribe call-to-action after each blog post so users know that they can get your amazing content delivered right to their inbox.
Tip: Don’t forget to couple your call-to-actions with a quick snippet about what benefits your audience can enjoy by subscribing. Think about first-to-know insights, special promos or best practices.
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