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8 tips for creating a successful email newsletter

To newsletter or not to newsletter: there’s a great question. On one hand, you have a golden opportunity to engage with current and prospective customers on a regular basis. On the other, you risk irritating, alienating and (worst of all) spamming your database to unsubscribing death. It all comes down to how you execute.

Here are a few quick tips for creating a successful marketing email newsletter, from branding to content to measuring success.

1. Name the baby.

Branding matters when it comes to newsletters. Spend some time brainstorming titles that:

a) Align with your brand’s voice, tone and personality.

If the newsletter features humor and unfiltered perspectives, have fun with the name. If it appeals to logic (e.g., a systems design newsletter for engineers), opt for a more descriptive title.

b) Sound like something that recipients would be irresponsible to reject.

This is foundational news for your job! It will enrich your life, help you impress your friends, coworkers and managers—or at least not waste the 7-10 minutes of your life it will take to read it.

2. Feature dynamic content.

I’m not just talking about personalizing subject lines here—that’s table stakes at this point. If you have the budget and tech savvy, make your newsletter modular and dynamic so that recipients will be drawn in by content that is pertinent to them.

For instance, let’s say you cater to multiple verticals, such as financial, healthcare and government. Create three separate pieces of featured content to swap out in the top module based on those industries to draw specific audiences in.

You can segment based on any standard form field in your database, including location (think relevant local news or info that pertains only to one office at your company) and customer status. Existing customers should get relevant product, account and cross-sell messaging, whereas prospects should see more overarching product or company benefits.

If you don’t have the resources to make unique content for all segments, consider simply swapping the order in which content appears to get the most relevant items for each audience up front. Of course, you’ll also need to create a “generic” version for any contacts who have not provided additional information.

3. Include a mix of “internal” and “external” news.

General items of interest that are relevant to your target customers should come first. Let’s say you’re a company that uses recycled plastic to make badass shoes (I’m lookin’ at you, Rothy’s). Consider including news about how plastics are harming the oceans followed by information about how much plastic your company is recycling each day/month/year. This reassures audiences that the newsletter isn’t just thinly veiled self-promotion—it’s about them and their interests.

Including pieces that are not directly about your business also removes some of the artificial constraints that we marketers place on ourselves when it comes to content publishing. Curating external content still provides value, but with far less effort.

4. Make it interactive.

If you really want to engage with your audience, consider creating a section featuring reader comments, like “letters to the editor” at the beginning of a magazine.

Use the section to encourage recipients to follow specific conversations on your social media channels, then pull comments from those channels for the next issue of the newsletter. This is also a great way to up your social media presence.

5. Make it FUN.

More than perhaps any other marketing initiative, your newsletter has the opportunity—nay, the obligation! —to be entertaining. If you don’t want it marked as spam, make it jargon-free and fun to read. Even serious topics can be addressed in an entertaining way.

Of course, there are some audiences who frown upon “fun” (engineers, FBI agents, morticians…). In those cases, aim for “heartfelt and compelling” at the very least. Anything but “marketing-y.”

6. Make it pretty.

Design is critical, from legible typography to eye-catching photography to clear, concise copy. Don’t jam pack everything in like late 90s Amazon or recipients will be clamoring to unsubscribe.

7. Mind your cadence.

If you only have enough compelling content for a monthly newsletter, don’t send one every week or—heaven forbid—every day. But whatever you decide, make sure you’re consistent. If your database can’t trust you to send an email out once a month, how can they trust you to take care of them as a customer?

8. Measure your success.

Keep an eye on all your usual email metrics (open rate, click through rate, etc.). But pay special attention to your subscribe/unsubscribe rates. If your subscribes are consistently outpacing your unsubscribes, congrats, you’ve made it! If not, you’ll want to rethink what content you’re publishing and how you’re presenting it.

In addition, you can use makeshift view through rates to see if your main site or certain product pages get a bump in traffic soon after each newsletter is deployed.

Interactive social engagement (#4 above) is also relatively easy to track, especially if you assign specific hashtags to conversations. You should be able to see whether you’re gaining new social followers and/or newsletter subscribers by cross-promoting and monitoring engagement on both.

 

If you have the resources and the drive, your email newsletter can become a cornerstone of your marketing machine and an initiative to proudly hang your hat on. Deliver engaging, valuable content in a beautiful package, and you’ll endear customers and prospects to your brand without fail.

Need help creating a newsletter that aligns your content strategy with your digital marketing campaigns? Contact us.

Excerpts from this commentary have been included in CMSWire.