How many of you get email newsletters arrive in your inbox every day? And how many of you actually read all of them? I’m willing to bet the virtual show of hands for that last question was pretty low, and it’s not surprising. Not many people do. That’s because we have trained ourselves to spot when we are being sold to and ignore it. We either delete the email without reading it or we simply hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button. We have all become email savvy enough to recognise a waste of our time, and so it’s even more of a challenge for businesses to get their newsletters through those invisible barriers and actually read. It’s a large part of why newsletters have actually fallen out of fashion for a lot of business, who prefer to engage in more direct sales tactics to get results. But content marketing is all about the long game, and our approach to newsletters has had to change to keep up with current opinions. So what do people want from a newsletter now?
What’s The Point Of A Newsletter?
Many businesses will assume they need a newsletter, but not actually consider the point of one. They might think ‘it helps us communicate with customers’, but in reality, it’s much broader than that. The purpose of an email newsletter is to provide readers with relevant information that will accomplish the following goals:
- Cause subscribers to think of, be aware of and build a relationship with your brand.
- Create continued exposure of your brand and products in a customer’s mind for the time when they are ready to purchase.
- Drive page views to your website.
- Create awareness of your company, product or brand through emails full of useful information.
- Generate sales through product features and advertised specials.
Notice how out of those 5 points, only 1 of those is ‘generate sales’? A good newsletter is more about brand awareness and relationship building than generating physical sales, although that is a nice bonus! We find clients who want to judge the effectiveness of their newsletter by how many sales they make right after each send out tend to be disappointed because getting sales from email newsletters has become an incredibly difficult and rare thing. Instead, customers who understand that newsletters are about branding and awareness tend to see better results and better read rates. They will see more conversations started with prospects over the content of their newsletter, which can lead on to you selling your services to someone who already has an interest and a relationship with your brand. Ultimately, informative newsletters might not give you the higher quantity of leads, but they will deliver high quality, engaged leads with more likelihood of successful conversion.
What Makes An Effective Newsletter?
Now we could talk all day about the ins and outs of creating the perfect email newsletter, but firstly we don’t want to ramble on too long, and secondly, every industry is different. We are able to give you some guiding principles for creating an effective, informative newsletter that will apply to different businesses in different ways, rather than specific do’s and don’ts. These are our top 5 tips to get a head start with your newsletter.
This is the stage a lot of people forget. Go and look at newsletter from others in your industry. Are there successful newsletters there that people subscribe to? What’s in them? What are they talking about and how are they conveying their message? How often are they being sent? Can you access them offline afterwards? All of these things will help you to understand the best approach for your newsletters. There is absolutely nothing wrong with identifying something that works well for the competition and trying it out yourself, in fact, the whole marketing industry is built on that idea.
Services like MailChimp make it very easy for you to customise and brand your newsletters, so you should take advantage of them. Instead of sending out plain text emails (which historically perform abysmally), take some time to create your own brand identity for your newsletter. Design a template that you will use with each send out so there is consistent branding there for people to identify and remember you by. If you aren’t confident doing it yourself, get someone to train you or to do it for you.
Figure Out The Purpose
A lot of newsletters fail because they are trying to do too much at once. Product news is right next to the latest PR story. Blog posts are crammed in next to your upcoming events. It’s a bit of a mess. Your emails should have one common thread to hold everything together. If you have a lot to cover, then maybe having a few send outs that focus on one vertical each for different audiences might be more effective. But before you start, make sure you know what the purpose of your send outs will be. If your answer is ‘everything in my business’, think again.
Chances are your readers don’t want to hear about your products 100% of the time, and it’s very difficult to get an overly salesey newsletter to be successful. So instead try and balance your newsletter with 90% educational content and only 10% promotional. So you can structure the text to be informational, linking to blogs you’ve written or giving away some free advice. You could then have a box featuring that month’s special offer on the side or at the bottom. For example, if you love shoes you might want to opt in to a newsletter from a company you know who sells your favourite brand. If they send you 2-3 emails a week telling you to buy, you will probably start deleting the emails or unsubscribe, right? But if they told you about the latest styles and how to pair certain styles with certain outfits, would you be more likely to stick with it and potentially even buy?
Test And Tweak
Variety is the spice of life, so you should be keeping your newsletter approach fresh. Try new things often. Experiment with different approaches to titles, layouts and images. If you want to measure the effectiveness of one change against your normal send outs, try sending a split campaign – Half of your list will receive the original email and the other half will get the one with the change. It’s a great way to see if your new ideas will work in practice.
Ultimately the success of your email newsletter relies on a lot of different factors. The relevance of your lists, the strength of your design and branding and the quality of your content are just some of the bigger issues you need to address. The most important thing in our opinion is to keep that balance of 90-10 right so that you don’t overwhelm or turn off your readers. For more tips and advice about writing effective newsletters, follow us on Twitter or drop round for a cup of tea and some home-made biscuits anytime.