A Winning Formula for Email Newsletters

By February 23, 2016Blog

Everybody wants to send their stakeholders an email newsletter because it is a cost-effective way to keep your organization front-of-mind with your audience. As with most other content-focused publishing, this isn’t as simple or easy as it appears at first blush.

Producing any sort of periodic publication requires a strong managing editor and a rigid production schedule. But it is also important to consider how users interact with email and to build a format for your newsletter that will demonstrate respect for your users’ time and attention. Building a reputation for a savvy use of email marketing will increase your open rates and possibly even create a sense of delight when the email appears in the user’s inbox.

Following are elements of the formula that we have developed to help our clients build a solid reputation for effective and considerate email marketing, which results in increased open and click-through rates.

The first key to a successful email newsletter is having a consistent flow of high-value content to draw upon to publish in your newsletter. One way to ensure this flow of content is to have a solid content production workflow in place and a regularly updated publishing calendar for your website. When you have a regular body of work to draw upon for each period, publishing your newsletter becomes that much easier. A good rule of thumb here is to not even focus on an email newsletter (or social media posts, for that matter) until you have a critical mass of content published to your website and a steady flow of content scheduled to be published in the near future.

Another vital element of an email newsletter is to keep the content short and sweet. You might offer one longer piece at the start of the newsletter, but that piece shouldn’t be more than 100 to 200 words long. Everything else should be a teaser with a link that leads back to your site. It is tempting to view the email newsletter like a printed newsletter or magazine, where you deliver all of the content in the body of the document. In today’s world, however, people don’t want all of that content clogging up their inbox. If you build a reputation for simple emails that are easy to scan and process, your open rates will increase along with your click-through rates. The two rates are correlated here because your links can’t get clicked if the email doesn’t get opened. So when your audiences become familiar with your friendly, considerate email style, they will be happy (and perhaps even eager) to open your email newsletter.

The majority of email today is read on mobile devices. Because of this, the design must be simple and mobile friendly. This means not only deploying responsive code, but also considering touch optimization for your links and buttons. It should also be noted that responsive code in emails is a tricky matter because some email clients and providers don’t support responsive code at all. Because of this, it is often best to design your emails optimized for the smallest device and then they will simply appear clean and simple on a desktop client. This has an added benefit of making the email easy to scan and digest on any screen (see above).

An email newsletter is a visible manifestation of your organization’s effectiveness and ability to meet its obligations. It is important, then, to set up a schedule that is sustainable so that you can publish the email newsletter in a regular, predictable manner. Having a regular flow of content and keeping the newsletter short and simple all work together to help make it easier to keep your schedule.

All links in your email newsletter should lead back to your website so that you can capture the traffic generated in your analytics. We’ve covered the good reasons for doing this in depth in a previous blog post about social media traffic, and all of those same reasons apply here.

A strong email newsletter is a good way to keep in front of your audiences. But it is a tool that must be used carefully so that you build a good rapport with your audiences. If you use the elements of our formula to create and maintain your email newsletter, you’ll be on the right track. And once you build a reputation for a considerate use of email and as a producer of relevant, delightful content, your open and click-through rates will increase and you’ll be well on the way to becoming a content whisperer yourself!

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