How to create email newsletters that don’t suck – part 2

How to create email newsletters that don’t suck – part 2

Keep design and copy minimal.

Like I said before, a newsletter can easily feel cluttered because of its nature. The trick for email marketers to make a successful email newsletter look uncluttered revolves around two things: concise copy and enough white space in the design.

Concise copy is key because you don’t actually want to have your subscribers hang out and read your email all day.

You want to send them elsewhere — your website or blog, for instance — to actually consume the whole piece of content. Concise copy gives your subscribers a taste of your content — just enough that they want to click and learn more.

White space is key in email newsletters because it helps visually alleviate the cluttered feel, and on mobile, makes it much easier for people to click the right link.

Make sure images have alt text.

Given that visual content is incredibly important to the rest of your marketing activities, it’d make sense that you’d want to include them in your emails … right?

Right. But email’s a little bit trickier. Most of the time, people won’t have images enabled, so you’ve got to make sure your images have one essential component: alt text.

Alt text is the alternative text that appears when images aren’t loaded in an email.

This is especially important if your CTAs are images — you want to make sure people are clicking even without the image enabled.

Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

This seems a little counter-intuitive, but it’s key if you want to maintain an active, engaged subscriber list.

Don’t use weird language like “Alter your communication with us.”

Don’t hide an unsubscribe button behind an image without alt text. Besides keeping your list healthy, having a clear unsubscribe process will help ensure your email isn’t marked SPAM before it hits the rest of your list’s inbox.

Test, test, test.

I know I just listed out a whole bunch of “best practices” to make sure you’re doing email newsletters right, but you’ve also got to find out what works for your company and your list.

Just like different cultures of people prefer different things, different groups of email subscribers prefer different things.

So use these email newsletter best practices as a jumping off point … and then experiment to find your secret sauce.

Run an A/B test on subject lines. Change up your CTA copy. Heck, even try not including images. The world is your oyster for your email newsletter, so find out what it likes.

The Anatomy Of An Amazing Email Newsletter

The Anatomy Of An Amazing Email Newsletter

One of the biggest problems with email newsletters is that they are often cluttered and unfocused because they are supporting every aspect of your business.

Product news goes right next to PR stories, blog posts go next to a random event week … it’s kind of a mess.

Email — whether it’s a newsletter or not — needs one common thread to hold it together.

A way to help reduce the randomness of an email newsletter is by keeping it to one very specific topic.

So instead of it being about your company in general, maybe it’s dedicated to one vertical.

For example, if PetSmart were to send out a newsletter, they could do one solely on dog food rather then the whole damn store, because really who cares about cats!

In it, they could gather together recent blog posts on dog food, dog advice and tips, events that all dog lovers should go to, and maybe even a doggy quiz.

By tying together those pieces of content all under the umbrella of doggy stuff, the email newsletter would be much more focused and engaging.

So. Don’t send dog stuff to cat people and car stuff to bird people. Etc. etc. target your audience.

Balance the content of your newsletter to be 90% educational and 10% promotional.

Chances are, your email newsletter subscribers aren’t down to hear about your products and services 100% of the time. While they may love you and want to hear from you, there’s only so much shilling you can do before they tune out.

Case in point: if you have a thing for shoes, and You especially love this one shoe site. You willingly opted in to the company’s email list, but it now sends you emails 2-3 times a day to buy, buy, buy … and when You see its sender name pop up in my inbox, You want to scream. Now, if they sent you educational content — maybe about the latest styles of shoes, or how to pair certain styles with certain outfits — You might be more inclined to buy from them, or at least start opening their emails again.

Don’t be that company. In your email newsletters, get rid of the self promotion (most of the time) and focus on sending your subscribers educational, relevant, timely information.

Unless you actually have an exciting, big piece of news about your product, service, or company, leave out the promotional parts.

Set expectations on your ‘Subscribe’ page.

Once you’ve figured out your newsletter’s focus and content balance, make sure you’re properly communicating about them on your subscribe landing page.

Get specific: Tell potential subscribers exactly what will be in the newsletter as well as how often they should expect to hear from you.

As a subscriber, wouldn’t that be awesome?

You’d go in with open eyes knowing exactly who you will be receiving email from, what they will be sending you, and how often they’ll be sending it to you.

As a marketer, having this information up front will help diminish your unsubscribe and spam rates as well.

Get creative with email subject lines.

Even if your subscribers sign up for your emails, there’s no guarantee that they will open your emails once they get them in their inbox.

Many marketers try increasing familiarity with their subscribers by keeping the subject line the same each day, week, or month that they send it.

But let’s face it, those subject lines get old — fast — for subscribers.

Why?

Because there’s no incentive from the subject line to click on that specific email right this instant.

A better approach would be to try to have a different, creative, engaging subject line for each newsletter you send.

One company who does this really well is Thrillist. Here’s a collection of email newsletters

I’ve received from them over the past few days:

“A fight you’ll want to get in…”
“Pizza, I’ve cream. No joke…”
“The biggest opening this year so far is…”
“WARNING this email is RED HOT….”
“What’s your states biggest food chain?”
“You’ll need to drink all of these…”

Pick one primary call-to-action

Okay, part of what makes a newsletter a newsletter is that you’re featuring multiple pieces of content with multiple calls-to-action (CTAs).

But, that doesn’t mean you should let those CTAs all have equal prominence.

Instead, let there be one head honcho CTA — just one main thing that you would like your subscribers to do, and the rest of the CTAs are a “in case you have time.”

Whether it’s simply to click through to see a blog post or just to forward the email to a friend, make it super simple for your subscribers to know what you want them to do — and then do it.

Email newsletters that don’t suck – Part 1

Email newsletters that don’t suck – Part 1

Most marketers have been there — you’re sitting around a conference room, trying to figure out how to best engage leads and customers, sell more product, or just “stay top-of-mind” for your target audience, and someone decides there’s a solution that can solve all of those problems at once: an email newsletter!

And then suddenly it’s you that’s been chosen to do it. Oh, and make sure that open and clickthrough rates don’t dip. That sound good?

I’ve been in that situation before, and I was worried. Even though email newsletters are one of the most common types of emails to send, they are actually some of the hardest to do right.

It’s hard because it includes a mix of different types of content about different parts of your business, including event reminders, surveys, educational information about your product, service, or industry, and promotions.

And because it’s not an email designed to serve one purpose — say, about one promotion, one digest of previously published content, one lead nurturing email, or one transactional email providing order information, email newsletters have a difficult time trying to get readers to complete a call-to-action.

… But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. If done right, you could develop a really engaged subscriber base, and potentially nurture them into qualified leads and customers.

At the very “least,” you could engage your company’s evangelists, and they could help bring in business. And that’s definitely something you don’t want to miss out on. Repeat after me:

Not everyone needs a newsletter.

Actually, most people don’t need a newsletter. In fact, most of you marketers out there probably have better things to do with your time than search for content and compile it into a messy template that no one’s going to read in the first place.

Or your newsletter might be wildly successful and an integral part of your marketing strategy.

Here’s how to determine if you should have a newsletter:

REASONS You Might Need a Newsletter:

1) Your boss is making you send one out. (my fave)

2) You have an internal newsletter (in which case this guide isn’t all that relevant).

3) You have had recent proven success with newsletters.

1)You think you will have success with this method and it is the best use of your time (you have nothing else to do?).

Advantages of Newsletters:

1) Spread brand awareness.

2) By building habitual communication with your email subscribers, you enable them to recognize your brand and associate it with a positive sentiment.

3) Leverage existing content.

Many companies do quick summaries of their most popular blog posts and link to the articles from their newsletter.

4) Include different types of content.

For instance, the same newsletter can contain a popular blog post, a new offer, an announcement of an upcoming event, information about a discount, and a link to a survey.

5) Guaranteed reach (unlike social media).

Things to Consider When Deciding:

1) In your industry, are there successful email newsletters that people like to subscribe to?

2) What’s in them?

With the resources you have available to you — budget, time and internal support — could you be successful?

It’s a lot of work, you will need the time and manpower to:

1) Proofread copy

Unlike blogging, there’s no redo or update button for newsletters

2) Create compelling calls-to-action

3) Design it to work for multiple inboxes and devices

4) Avoid spam triggers

5) Brainstorm clickable subject lines

You need to have a lot of content/other stuff going on for a good newsletter.

You shouldn’t waste your time working on an email newsletter if it isn’t right for your marketing. So do some research.

Re-examine your business’ goals.

Are they trying to increase the number of leads? Better qualify leads to speak with salespeople? Close more deals? Or retain more customers?

If your industry isn’t really interested in email newsletters or you lack the internal support to send them out, it might be time to reconsider.

Or if your goals don’t line up with what a newsletter could accomplish, your time might be better spent setting up lead nurturing email workflows, or not even sending emails in the first place — perhaps creating content for your blog, instead.

So gather some data, create a plan of action (either for a successful newsletter, or another activity), and go chat with your superior.

Even if you disagree with his or her vision in an email newsletter, your boss will be glad you came prepared with a plan for success.