10 Best Practices for Creating Effective Email Newsletters
Earlier this year, we published a post on why an email newsletter is a digital marketing must-have, where we gave you 5 reasons you should have a newsletter, but not a lot about how to execute your email strategy effectively. Today, we’ll focus on the latter topic by offering some basic best practices that will help ensure your email marketing newsletters are achieving your business goals. There’s no doubt that newsletter strategies are tricky, and require constant attention and tweaking to get the job done, but by adhering to these principles, you should start to see results in no time.
- Offer something of value
This might be the most important rule of email marketing – in order for someone to want to even open your email, there must be a promise of something valuable to the reader inside, otherwise, why bother? Depending on your business, this “something of value” can take different forms, but the most common are: coupon codes offering exclusive discounts to subscribers, free downloads of ebooks, white papers, tools, templates or any digital product that your customers may find useful. You might also offer exclusive access to content on your site that isn’t available to the general public.The possibilities are limitless and no one knows your customers better than you, so put some time into coming up with incentives that are truly useful. Offering valuable incentives also has the added benefit of making your call-to-action seem less spammy, and gives customers a good reason to click that link, add a product to the cart, or whatever your particular CTA happens to be. Which brings us to our second tip.
- Make sure you have a strong, clear, call-to-action (CTA)
The reason you want people to read your newsletter is because you want them to do something, right? Whatever that thing is—buy a product, sign up for a class, get a free trial, visit your website, etc—be sure that it is crystal clear to the reader of the newsletter. The other thing to keep in mind is that you want to be sure that you’re not asking for too much from your readers. Clicking a link or downloading an ebook is a reasonable ask, but buying a $1,500 piece of jewelry may not be. Nobody wants to make a big decision based on an email, so take care that you’re keeping your CTA in the real world.
- Pay attention to design
Good design should always serve your business goals, and your goal in an email marketing newsletter should be for your readers to take the action you want them to. Therefore, all elements of your email design should serve this intent. The layout, the colors you use, and even the length of your copy should be created to create a clear path to your CTA. It’s very easy for a reader to get confused by a complicated or cluttered design, and the unfortunate result of this confusion will usually be a click on the delete button. If you don’t consider yourself a skilled designer, find one who is (tip: LLD can help with this) and who will work with you to understand your goals and create a UI that will serve them.
- Allow your readers to contact you directly
When someone has a question or comment about the content of your newsletter, nothing is more frustrating than hitting “reply” and then discovering that the email they’ll be sending will go to a “no-reply” address. The reason you’re sending them an email in the first place is to connect with your customers, so not allowing them to respond to your email is not only frustrating for them, it’s counterproductive to your business. We understand that you may not want people to know your personal email address, or that you don’t want your inbox to become flooded with email responses, but why not simply set up a separate account on your domain—or even a gmail address—that can collect these responses in one place. That way, you’ll be free from a cluttered inbox, and have one place to go to read an reply to your customers.
- Make sure your list is organic
I know there are many services out there allowing you to buy email addresses for your list. Don’t do it. You’ll only be throwing your money away and ticking off people that never subscribed and wondering who the heck you are, and this could cause irreparable damage to your brand. Your email list should be comprised—exclusively—of people who asked to receive news from you. Similarly, you may have old lists that you’ve used in the past for other businesses or projects, and the temptation to use these should also be resisted. Again, the golden rule is: if they did not specifically ask for this content from this specific business, they should not be getting it. I know building a list can take some time, but if you have the patience to build something that is 100% organic and permission-based, it will pay off huge dividends in the long run.
- Always include an unsubscribe link
A hard reality of any email marketing newsletter is that, from time to time, readers will no longer wish to receive your correspondences. That’s ok, and people unsubscribe for different reasons, so you should never take it personally. However, there is no value in making it difficult people to unsubscribe. All that does is add to the reader’s frustration and make it even more likely that, instead of simply unsubscribing, they will mark your email as spam so they’ll never see it when it does come in. And if you’re labeled as spam by too many people, this increases the likelihood that you’ll eventually end up on an ISP’s blacklist, and that is definitely not good for your business. Make sure your unsubscribe link is visible, even obvious, and allows people to leave your list with a single click. Most mail services (Mailchimp, Emma, etc.) will include this link by default.
- Send a welcome email
After a user has subscribed to your newsletter, it’s a good idea to send them a welcome email letting them know what to expect from your correspondences. This not only helps cement the fact that they asked to be on your list, but also gives you a chance to describe the value they can expect when they open your emails each week (or month.) You can also take this opportunity to provide clear instructions on how to unsubscribe if they find that the newsletter doesn’t meet their needs, or even how to reduce the number of emails they are receiving if you have different segments (see below) that receive emails with varying frequencies.
- Utilize user segmentation
The basic rule of thumb here is that the more you can customize your content to the specific interests and needs of your customers, the more value your email marketing newsletter will have for them. Most email marketing services, like Mailchimp, provide segmentation features giving you numerous ways to slice and dice your lists so that each email can be targeted to customers who, for example, live in a specific geographic area, or have purchased a specific product. This is a powerful tool that ensures that both you and your customers are receiving maximum value from your newsletter, so take the time to create segments that make sense for you, your business, and your customers.
- A/B test subject lines
Another powerful tool offered by many email services is the ability to send out different versions of your newsletter with different subject lines to a sample of your list, measure which one most respond to, and then send the remaining customers the version with the most effective headline. Subject lines are powerful, and they work. Think about the emails you’ve opened recently. Your very first impression of what’s inside comes from the subject line, and if it piques your attention, you open. If it doesn’t, it goes into the trash. If you take advantage of A/B testing and pay attention, you’ll be eventually have a subject line strategy that will maximize the utility of your efforts.
- Track open rates and clicks
This may seem obvious, but the only way to create an email strategy that actually works is to monitor the results, tweak your strategy accordingly, and repeat. Every email service provides the data you need to chart the efficacy of your emails, so use that data to make your newsletter better. How many people opened the email? If opens are not meeting your expectations, it may be time to tweak your headlines (see tip #9) or to examine your list to make sure it’s comprised of only organic subscribers (see tip #5). If no one is clicking your links, perhaps on your next email you should consider placing them higher on the page, or clarify the call-to-action. Open rates and clicks are hugely valuable data, so make sure you’re using them to get the best results.
While these 10 tips are pretty straightforward and easy to execute, putting it all together into a smart email marketing newsletter strategy can still be a challenge. If you find yourself getting stuck, feel free to reach out to the digital marketing specialists at Love Local Design, and we’d be happy to help get your campaigns off to a great start!
Filed under: Email Marketing