Are You Messing Up Your Email Newsletter? How To Avoid Common Pitfalls
To keep newsletter subscribers engaged, make your readers feel involved every time you send an email. Contributor Daniel Faggella explains how.
Newsletters are a powerful tool to promote your business and attract and retain new clients. Once you’ve studied your customer database and you know their demographics, you’re ready to go; but before you start, there are some important issues to consider so that you don’t succumb to the same mistakes that many companies do when producing newsletters. Here are some tips to help you avoid the most common blunders.
Target Your Readership
Don’t produce vanilla newsletters that send out the same information to everyone in your client database. Not only is this pointless, it will turn your prospects and clients away because they don’t want to read a generic email that is not relevant to them. These days, customers expect to be treated like individuals. This is why it’s important to keep it simple and direct your newsletter to a specific segment of your client email database.
For example, if you are a firm that sells software for healthcare providers, it would be to your advantage to target certain group clusters within your client list, such as doctors’ associations, hospitals, assisted living facilities and home health care providers, rather than sending a uniform email to everyone.
The unifying characteristic of newsletters that get opened and deliver ROI are those that are highly targeted and relevant to your desired audience. Segmentation is key, here, and most companies (even ones with large email lists where the benefits of segmentation are evident) are too lazy to do it.
I’ve written extensively on segmentation strategy basics, and this initial decision of how many ways you’ll “break up” your message is an important one, and will be unique to your audience and business.
Publish Your Newsletter Consistently
How often you publish your newsletter, whether it is bi-weekly, weekly, or monthly, will depend on whether you are involved in a hobbyist niche or large consumer segment.
If you are involved in a small niche or hobbyist field, such as model trains, a bi-weekly newsletter is more than reasonable, as people will consume your content for fun. If your company is involved in B2B (like selling industrial pipe to plumbing wholesalers), your newsletter will generally be sent out less frequently.
Whichever frequency you decide on, it is important to make sure that your newsletter is delivered on a regular basis, so that your customers don’t forget you are there. Pick a frequency that’s manageable and stick to it.
Track Your Analytics
There is no point in sending out your company newsletter like a message in a bottle and hoping that it will be picked up and read by someone, somewhere. If you don’t know how many people that receive your email are reading it, you don’t know if it is effective as a marketing tool, and this is simply a waste of your time and resources.
It’s essential that you know how many people receive and open your emails and who clicks on your offers and links to your webpage. Email marketing software can keep a track of all this for you , so you can stay ahead of the game.
Use Subject Line Best-Practices
This may sound obvious, but many company emails go unread because their headlines fail to catch the intended reader’s attention.
The most common error here is to title each newsletter the same way, making it go “stale” in a subscriber’s inbox (MailChimp’s research has shown this to hurt response). Instead, be specific, sometimes fun (depending on your corporate image), and be benefit-driven as much as possible. People need a reason to read, or they’re not reading. There are easy to spot differences between a good and bad headline:
Bad Headline: News update from our CEO
Good Headline: CEO expects company growth to double within three years
Bad Headline: Acme Newsletter #407
Good Headline: 2 simple tactics for doubling your inbound leads
To see a few sample subject lines from companies like HubSpot, Wayfair, and others, check out the Newsletter Breakdown that we conducted of successful larger companies.
Understanding and modeling the strategies from large and successful companies is not only a good place to start, it’s often a good way to generate quality ideas.
Keep It Simple
Don’t try to be too clever. Keep your layout simple and avoid experimenting with different font styles and sizes.
Take example from the style of your favorite major newspaper. Use one type of front style and one size for the main text of all your newsletters. Keep your text uniform and consistent. If you find that your story is too long for your format or template, cull some words rather than reducing your font size to make it fit. Saying consistent will give your clients a sense of familiarity that will keep them coming back.
Use Images In Your Newsletter
Newsletters that do not use photographs are doomed to lose readers simply because they look less appealing.
Research indicated that when people first look at a page, they are initially drawn to the images. Images also have another important advantage: they help your customers to remember you and your products and services.
Think about it, if you are running a story about your new CFO, it may be a great story about a valuable new asset to your company, but your readers will remember him or her much more readily if the story is accompanied by a photograph of the CFO.
HubSpot has found that their emails don’t do best when they’re mostly images, but that one small image in a given email will help to boost response (click-through rate) from emails.
Don’t Forget Your Footer
The footer of your email newsletter is just as important as your headlines.
CAN-SPAM regulations require that you place an unsubscribe link in the footer along with a legitimate mailing address where you can be reached. Some newsletter providers have methods of hiding this altogether, or making it seem near invisible. When people can’t “opt out” manually, they click the “SPAM” button, and you want to keep those to a minimum.
In A Nutshell…
Remember, don’t take your subscriber’s attention for granted. Every time you send out an email, you have to prove yourself. Keep their attention by keeping your emails personalized and making your readers them feel involved. In general, a relatively quick, benefit-driven, and timely newsletter message is the kind that’s likely to get opened month after month.