Published on June 18th, 2013 | by Colleen Corkery5
7 Golden Steps to Creating an Effective Email Newsletter
Do you remember the theme song to The Golden Girls? Sing it with us: “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.” In the world of email marketing, guess whom your customers’ pal and confidant is? Ding, ding! Your email newsletter… and there’s research to prove it!
According to the Nielsen Norman Group’s extensive Email Newsletter Usability report (based on 270 email newsletters across 6 different countries), readers feel an emotional attachment to their email newsletters.
So how do we keep that bond with our customers and ensure we remain connected to our readers? Follow these seven steps and you’ll be golden:
1. Be informative
Being informative and relevant is the end-all, be-all in the newsletter realm. Telling useful and/or compelling stories is also how we catch up with friends. If your email looks like a newsletter, but isn’t full of valuable, interesting, educational content, then it isn’t really a newsletter, nor is it a very good friend. But what do people consider valuable content?
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, more than 40% of users said that each of the following aspects make for valuable email newsletters:
- Informs of work-related news or company actions (mentioned by 2/3 of users)
- Informs about personal interests/hobbies
- Informs about events/deadlines/important dates
- Reports prices/sales
Lisa Lillien aka Hungry Girl has an uber-enlightening daily newsletter (with more than 1 million subscribers!). If you love food, but you’re watching your weight, she’s got the know-how on just about everything including newly released low fat/cal sweets, eats & recipes. Starting with just an email newsletter in 2004, Hungry Girl today has exploded into NY Times Bestseller book deals, a Food Network TV show, and features on The Rachel Ray Show, Good Morning America and more. Looks like an informative newsletter pays off!
Here are some examples of informative content you can include in a newsletter:
- Blog posts
- Tips, tactics, how-tos, tutorials
- Industry news/third party news
- Events, dates to remember, holidays
- Interesting facts
- Contests/contest winners
- Company news – updates, improvements, new products, awards, volunteer projects, etc.
- Webinars and/or videos
- Fan photos
2. Lose the (sales) hype
People like to be informed of sales, but selling shouldn’t be the main focus of an email newsletter – send your offers in promo-specific emails. Think of your newsletter as a trusted friend that your reader has let into their home/inbox. If someone lets you into their home and you instantly transform into a pushy salesman with a pitch, they’re going to think twice about opening the door for you (i.e., opening your newsletter) again. If you want to plug a sale or a product in your newsletter, do so like a friend would: “Did you know we’re having a friends and family sale this Saturday? You can save 50%!” and leave it at that.
3. Keep it brief & aim for a click
Guess how long the average person spends reading a newsletter? 51 seconds! Don’t let that get you down though – attention spans are spread thin. Keeping your content scannable with content blocks, brief blurbs, snapshots, takeaways and/or bullet points and including call-to-action buttons will give your readers’ eyes a scanning sigh of relief. But remember, friendship is give and take, and you deserve something too! Satisfy your readers with just enough info, but leave them eager to learn more. Lead readers back to your site/blog/social media network for more info. The point of a newsletter isn’t to make a sale, it’s to build a relationship with your audience, to inform/educate, and snag some clicks … which, with any luck, will eventually lead to a sale.
Put clear, strong and specific calls-to-actions after each content block so your readers know they need to “Learn More,” “Read More,” “Watch the Video” for more juicy details.
4. Be reliable and consistent
Flaky friends – We have them, love them, but they’re unreliable, unpredictable, and the more they flake, the less likely we look to them for friendship. The same goes for your newsletter. If you tell readers to look for your newsletter each week, you better be there. Pick a frequency, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly, etc. and stick to it. Make sure to tell readers on your opt-in form just how often they can expect to hear from you – some people don’t like surprises, last minute drop ins or no shows.
5. Have a compelling opening line
First impressions are important for establishing any type of relationship, professional or personal. How you introduce yourself to someone can either pique or fizzle his or her interest in continuing a conversation. The same goes for your email newsletter’s subject line. If the subject line isn’t compelling, interesting, intriguing, thought provoking, etc. your reader may not make it past “Hello.” In fact, the Nielson Norman Group even found that “Some users who forwarded email newsletters on to others said they sometimes changed the subject line to make it more interesting…”
In your “From Label,” state clearly whom the email newsletter is coming from. Typically, using your company name (since it’s more recognizable than a personal name) is advisable.
When crafting up your newsletter subject line, avoid using generic lines like: June Newsletter, Your Monthly Newsletter, This Week’s Newsletter, The Insider, etc. and make sure to take advantage of your pre-header – It’s like a secondary subject line (and possibly a second chance!).
Nothing’s worse than talking to a friend who clearly isn’t listening – You ask a question and all you get are crickets. Using a “do not reply” email address when sending out a newsletter indicates to recipients that any responses will not be seen or answered. Allowing customers to reply to your email newsletter, and responding to those inquiries or comments lets your readers know a friend listening on the other end. You’ll also receive valuable insight, feedback, and questions that very well may improve your newsletter for next time.
7. Let them opt-out easily
Break ups are rough, but would you rather someone break up with you calmly, or unknowingly throw you under a bus? A person unsubscribing from your newsletter is just a fact of life, and it’s nothing to take personally. However, the harder you make it for someone to unsubscribe, the easier it allows them to click that seemingly insignificant “spam” button, and under the bus you go. Let your readers go easily if they so desire (they can always come back!) and make your unsubscribe link easy to find. Otherwise, sitting in a spam box will only cause your delivery, open, click through, etc. rates to go down.
Creating a personable, presentable and effective email newsletter takes work, but it creates a friendship with your customers that most marketing strategies can’t. Follow these seven golden steps, and your customers will “thank you for being a friend.”
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