So many companies send newsletters these days, as can be demonstrated by my email inbox. But, what makes a newsletter successful? And, how can you be sure that recipients open your email?
Newsletters can help keep the lines of communications open between you and your clients (or customers), as well as promote your products and generate (and increase) your web site traffic.
10 Tips for Effective Newsletters
- Identify your goal. Why do you want to send a newsletter? Think about what part of your marketing plan you would be supporting with a newsletter. Maybe you want to demonstrate your expertise or sell a product? Identify 1-2 goals.
- Select a tool. You can use one of the many different tools available to create & send your newsletter. Some cost money. Some are free. I have experience with a couple different tools – Constant Contact and Mailchimp. Each has templates that you can use to create a newsletter that coordinates with your company’s brand. While Constant Contact does cost money, they do provide a free trial (totally free – you don’t even need to enter your credit card information!). Mailchimp is free. Now, this isn’t a product endorsement. These are the tools that I have used. I encourage you to check these out, and look around at others. Ask your colleagues about their experiences.
- Create a template. My one piece of advice regarding templates is to make it as simple as possible, and coordinate it with your company’s brand. Consult your style guide (if you have one). Your content is the lead actress (or actor) and the design is a supporting role. Use images, but use them sparingly. You don’t want your email to end up in someone’s SPAM folder, after all.
- Create killer content. No doubt about it – Content is queen (or king). Respect your reader by not wasting his or her time. Provide content that is relevant.
Where do you get this killer content?
- Re-use content from somewhere else. Were you recently in the news? You can include a link to that press announcement. Do you write a blog? Use an excerpt from your blog and link to your blog in your newsletter.
- Ask someone else to write. For example, ask someone who works in the same industry to write an article. Let’s say you operate a plant nursery. You could ask one of your suppliers to write a short article (focused on something related to what your nursery does, not focused on selling their products). Whenever possible, create links back to your web site for more information.
- Add value. You can add value by providing readers with white papers, discounts or coupons. Again, whenever possible, create links back to your web site for more information.
- Test. Whenever you’re doing something new, such as sending a newsletter, testing should be part of your process. Send to a few colleagues or friends for feedback. You should send to those people who will provide you with that critical feedback you need. Feedback such as “it looks nice” is not helpful. Also, take a look at your newsletter on different devices (e.g. Desktop computer, iPhone, iPad). Testing will help to fine tune your newsletter.
- Build your list. While you test, you can work on building your mailing list. After all, you can’t have a newsletter without subscribers. Send invites to your intended audience (e.g. present and former clients, colleagues and friends). You can create quick and simple sign up forms within the newsletter tool you are using (see #1 above).
Note: When you ask someone to subscribe, think about the information you really need to collect. Ask yourself what information you really need beyond someone’s email address. And, then include only those fields. You can include options for sign up on your website (especially on your home page) and facebook page (if you have one).
- Consistency. This will keep your newsletter organized and unified. Once you have created and tested a template, use that template for future newsletters. Also, think about when you want to send the newsletter (i.e. on the 2nd Tuesday of the month) and then maintain that schedule.
- Distribution. In addition to sending your newsletter to your mailing list, you should think about how to get your newsletter in front of as many of your prospects as possible. Consider having a newsletter archive on your web site. And, include social media sharing buttons to encourage people to share your newsletter.
- Review your metrics. One great feature of newsletter tools is the metrics. About two weeks after sending your newsletter, take a look at the newsletter metrics. Pay attention to open rates and clicks:
- Open rates. This number refers to the % of people on your mailing list who opened your email. My personal goal is 30%.
- Clicks. This number refers to the what readers clicked on within your email. This number is important because it can help you identify what content readers value.
One more thing. Be aware of the CAN-SPAM laws (I’m sure these laws are different in different countries). These laws deal with requirements such as (1) don’t use deceptive subject lines and (2) honor opt-out requests (those people who do not want to receive your email).