10 Secrets of an Effective Email Newsletter

Newsletters can be a powerful marketing tool…if done right.

Newsletters can create a stronger bond between the recipient and the company than a website can.  However, usability problems or poor content can create a stronger…but more negative…impact than your website.

Newsletters take time to prepare and require a commitment to providing relevant, timely information.  You probably won’t know the readers personally, but they’ll expect you to provide subject matter that’s directly related to them.  The newsletter benefit isn’t normally in immediate turnaround in sales, or in increased readership…although that can happen.  Newsletters typically build relationship…over time… and the benefits can be exceptional.

Newsletter subscribers spend between 50 and 90 seconds on average reading an email newsletter…if  they immediately spot something that interests them. You probably know what that means…keep your message short, clear, and customer-focused.

So here are the 10 crucial secrets I promised that you can use to create a newsletter to help you strengthen the bond with your subscribers:

  1. Provide benefits for the reader.  Give a lot of thought to how you can give your readers what they don’t already have.  A newsletter is not an ad.  For example, if you sell health care products, your newsletter could contain summaries of articles, with links to current research on a health issue of specific interest to your email recipient.  You could also include useful tips and links for diet and exercise.
  2. Pick a template and stick to it.  Produce both an HTML and text version and brand your newsletter for consistency with your website.  Become the friendly, familiar face they look for when they open their email on the day their newsletter will arrive.
  3. Include case studies.  Stories about how real people and real companies have resolved real problems can help highlight your customers and your company, and are interesting reading.
  4. Include useful, interesting or controversial news. Industry trends or statistics, regulation changes…new or proposed…are generally considered of value.
  5. Keep it short.  Put your main message at the beginning.  Include only three to five articles, two or three paragraphs each.  If you have longer articles, consider putting them on your website and create hyperlinks in your email.
  6. Make it fun and interactive.  Even if it’s about business, newsletters shouldn’t be dry or boring.  Include trivia questions, funny quotes, and cartoons.  Use a quick poll relating to your website business to get interaction.  Everyone loves to be heard, and then see how their peers rated the issue.
  7. Talk with them, not to them.  Put your personality into your newsletter.  Make sure it’s informal and that you’re speaking directly to your reader.  Read your newsletter out loud…if possible to someone else.  If you’re not comfortable speaking the words you write, it’s unlikely the reader will feel as though you’re having a conversation.
  8. Make your subject line relevant…and interesting.  To enhance brand identity, include part or all of your newsletter name to the subject line.  Include phrases like “Top tactics in . . . ., How to . . . . .Secrets of . . . ., 10 Ways to . . . .and “Trends in . . . . to gain your readers attention.  Many email marketers personalize their subject line by including the recipient’s name in the subject line.  With an 80-character maximum, though, you’ll need to decide what’s most likely to gain their attention.
  9. Provide email address and phone number.  Make sure your email newsletter recipients can tell you what they do…and don’t…find valuable.  Encourage their input to evaluate its effectiveness.  At the end of your newsletter, include a sentence asking for your readers’ opinion on what they’d like included in the next issue.
  10. Minimize technical and usability problems.  Consider using a template provided by an email marketing or hosted email service unless you have a very sophisticated (and under worked) Information Technology staff.  Maintain consistency by having only one person write and put the newsletter together, or…if there are multiple writers…have one person who assembles the articles and consistently puts everything together.  Use graphics…sparingly. 

Most of all, just remember to  focus on your readers’ needs.  The newsletter should be a bit like a good Scotch…with a bite of excitement, but smooth and mellow…something that reduces, not increases, the burden of the inbox.

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