Email newsletters are a dime a dozen these days. And for good reason – they can be an excellent way to engage your audience. But only if you get people to open them. Follow these 6 steps to inbox ROI.
When you first checked your email this morning, how many subscription emails did you have? How many of those were newsletters? And how many did you delete without opening? Your answers to those questions tell you all you need to know about how challenging it is to create an email newsletter that people actually open and read. We have a few tips that can help.
To build an audience of subscribers who regularly open, read, and even share your newsletter, you need to be curating a newsletter full of relevant, useful, and reliable content. When recipients know what to expect inside your newsletter, they’ll be more likely to open it.
We recently revised the our own newsletter, and in the process, we kept a list of the qualities that separate an okay newsletter from one that actually gets opened and read. If you’re thinking about starting an email newsletter, or maybe you already have one that isn’t performing very well, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Follow these steps to create a newsletter that people look forward to and actually read.
6 Steps to Create a Well-Read Email Newsletter
1. Decide on a format.
The best email newsletters are consistent. You know why? Because people know exactly what to expect when they open it, and if the quality is good, that’s reason enough for them to open it every time. When you’re not sure what to expect from a newsletter, you can’t be sure it will be worth your time to open – and that makes you more likely to skip over it.
When you sit down to begin creating your email newsletter, start by discussing what you want it to be. Is it a weekly digest of your blog content? A monthly update on happenings within your company? Or perhaps it’s more externally focused, reporting on trending industry topics.
You might look one step ahead and consider what you want to accomplish through your newsletter. Most newsletters are designed to position the company as a reliable resource within the industry, in which case your newsletter should be a healthy mixture of internal and external content. Newsletters that are all sell, sell, sell, tend not to perform as well as those that provide value to readers. An ideal ratio is 90% educational, 10% promotional.
2. Define your audience, and write only to them.
Who is your newsletter for? Clients? Prospects? Industry peers? Many newsletters aren’t clear about who their audience is, with the result that their writing and content is all over the place. Highly technical blog posts coming right after pushy promotional language.
If you’re writing to an audience of clients and prospects, your newsletter should be predominantly educational content that will provide your audience with the resources they need to make informed buying decisions.
If you’re writing your newsletter in an effort to build your reputation amongst industry peers, your content should focus instead on case studies demonstrating your work and results, along with articles on topics such as ideation, process, and industry trends.
Can’t make up your mind and want to tackle both goals at once? Try creating segmented newsletters targeted at separate audiences. According to MailChimp user data, segmented email campaigns generate a 14.31% higher open rate and 100.95% higher click rate than non-segmented campaigns.
3. Be personable.
The most popular newsletters are the ones that read like an email from your favorite clever, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth colleague. If your emails tend to sound like a robot mashed up with a stereotypical salesperson, you’re not alone. Many marketers slip into “professional speak” (aka jargonized gobbledegook) when they sit down to write a marketing email. But not only are these emails no fun to read, they’re often also hard (if not impossible) to understand.
Find your brand’s voice, then stick to it. The most magnetic, likable people in real life are those who showcase their distinct and authentic personality. Why should brands be any different? Consumers respond to authenticity, so don’t be afraid to show a little personality.
Cultivating a clear personality for your brand will attract clients that jive with that personality, and those are going to be the clients that you have the best chemistry with, giving birth to long-term partnerships. If your brand voice turns a prospect off, they weren’t going to be a good fit anyway. Believe it.
Remember: People subscribe to newsletters for perspective, not regurgitation.
4. Make it easy on the eyes.
Once you’ve got your content nailed down, it’s time to think design. Generally speaking, emails should have minimal design and copy. With more and more people reading email on smartphones, cluttered design is a fast-track to the delete button.
Make your email easy on the eyes by including graphics and images, leaving plenty of whitespace, and writing concise copy. If your email newsletter contains a digest of industry articles or your own blog content, provide just enough teaser copy to get readers to click through to the full article. You don’t need to summarize every point, you just need to get them to click!
Brainstorm a list of your favorite email newsletters and take notes on what you like about their design. Try to emulate some of these qualities in your own design. Chances are if it’s appealing to your eyes, it will appeal to your audience, too.
5. Create a specific, problem-solving CTA.
The real secret to creating an email newsletter that people actually read is not about your newsletter at all, but about your list. The best way to guarantee that recipients open your newsletter every month? Send it to a list of people who really want to hear what you have to say.
How do you do that, you ask? Market your newsletter in as specific of terms as possible. For example, you’re not writing a marketing newsletter, you’re writing a newsletter for marketers who want to learn more about email marketing.
When you’ve done your due diligence defining your audience and curating your content, you should already have a highly focused newsletter. Now you just have to promote it with a specific, problem-solving CTA.
Instead of a newsletter signup button that simply says, “Sign up for our newsletter!” you might say, “The email newsletter for marketers who want to work smarter, not harder with email marketing.” Give people an incentive to sign up right in your CTA copy.
If you create a landing page for your newsletter (and you should), you can take this one step further by outlining exactly what subscribers can expect to receive in your newsletter. Like we said in step number one, the firmer the grasp people have on what to expect from your newsletter, the more likely they will be to actually read it.
P.S. Your CTA form should also be very easy. Don’t make people work too hard to sign up. An email address and AT MOST a first name is all the information you really need. You can gather more information later through lead nurturing efforts.
6. Stick to a schedule.
You know how we keep repeating that consistency is key? Yeah, that includes your delivery schedule. Decide on the frequency of your newsletter, then pick a day and stick to it. For example, every Friday morning, or every third Tuesday of the month.
The first factor to consider when deciding on a schedule is how frequently you’re going to have enough content to fill a newsletter – and whether you have the bandwidth to keep up with your chosen schedule. Unless you have a high-volume content marketing team, once a month is probably enough.
Lastly, do some research to determine when the best times are to send emails in your industry. We’ve found success with Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but peak email times might be different for your industry. Professionally oriented content tends to do better during the workweek, while more lifestyle driven content gets more engagement on the weekend.
Email is just one piece of the digital marketing mix. It will always work best as part of a complete inbound content strategy. Your website will always to be the core of that strategy. Is yours up to the task?