Talking to your customers Part 1: How to create great newsletters

So you want to ‘talk’ to your clients or customers using an email newsletter? Do you want to entice them to buy something, read something or participate in something?

Sometimes referred to as an EDM (Electronically Distributed Marketing), email newsletters are a great communication tool but let’s face it, how many do you delete from your email in-box without reading or how many do you skim read, missing valuable information?

The key to successful newsletter construction is understanding your users' or readers' behaviour and developing your newsletter accordingly.

Your primary goal should focus on getting your clients or customers to click through to your website and undertake an action. Chances are you've spent tens of thousands of dollars building and maintaining your website - why not let your readers enjoy a superior user environment, rather than cramming all your information into one email?

Let’s look at some of the main points when considering your newsletter marketing.

Why are you sending your newsletter?

Before you start, ask yourself “what do I want to achieve by sending this newsletter”?

It can be something specific like a number sales from your website, it can be about 'open rates' (the number of people who open you newsletter), it can be about 'click throughs’ (the number of people who click through to your website). It can also be a general comms message.

While your newsletter can be a general communication/brand building newsletter (e.g. a ‘we’re still here’ newsletter), it is important to give something to your clients (discounts, freebies or knowledge in the form of articles, tips or pointers) or give them a firm call-to-action ('click here to read more', for example).

Building your newsletter

The point here is 'less is more'. Can’t stress this point enough.

Your main aim is to get your reader to click through to your website to undertake an action. Making them read a lengthy article inside the newsletter will not result in them absorbing more information. It will just make them switch off or start skimming. 

Chances are you’re repeating or re-framing the content that is on your website anyway, so why not send them through to a webpage with user-friendly elements?

Sending readers to your website also increases the possibility they will move from the (newsletter) entry point to other content on your site. And with this in mind, your users' activities will be trackable, in detail, through analytics on your website.

Pushing your users to read content inside the email reduces your ability to track what they are reading in any great detail, thus reducing your ability to refine your content for better results.

And finally, if you make money from page views, it can reduce your page view count and therefore have a bearing on the revenue generated from the website.

As further reading try Google-ing: 'Why people don’t read long emails' and you’ll get hundreds of articles explaining the science and psychology about user behaviour around reading content inside emails and newsletters.
 

Tell your recipients (or guide them) to do what you want them to do

Give your reader a clear course of action.

What do you want them to do? Buy something? Subscribe? Become a member? Or to read some knowledge you are imparting.

Think about this as you construct your content. Order your content from highest priority to lowest, with the understanding that only a minority of readers will thoroughly read your newsletter to the end.

Here’s a suggested set-up:

  1. Header section – visual branding, usually a variation of your website header.
  2. Headline – what is the newsletter about (keep it simple!).
  3. Sub headline – explain in a little more detail what the newsletter is about.
  4. Introduction – a brief paragraph message containing the call to action.
  5. Content – this is your sale items, your articles, your conference sign up click through etc, make these visually appealing and simple for the reader to understand.

One final call to action – this is optional but you can create a click thru ‘button’ or visual that links to your home page, sale page, conference page etc, make it easy for the reader to undertake the action.

  • Legals – copyright, year, your business contact details and anti-spam notification.
  • Footer – usually contains the legals and contact details.
  • Social media links – make sure they work!
     

Create a punchy subject line

Keep it focused and brief. Try to avoid more mundane title such as “February newsletter”, or "March update". Refer to your call-to-action if in doubt e.g., "20% of all stock”, “Tips on how to find more clients” or “Early bird registrations close soon”.

Use images where possible

Humans are, for the most part, visual beings, we love looking at images that evoke emotion and reinforce the concepts in the text. Even the least inspiring of content can be improved with images. And no I’m not talking about clip art pictures! I’m talking about professional quality images that support and work with the content. 

One word of caution – make your images high quality, expertly cropped and professional; a poorly executed image is worse than none at all. 

If you don’t feel comfortable working with images, speak with your designer or content manager, they can advise you.

Check your copy and links

Get someone to check your copy – spelling and grammatical errors, missing links and other mistakes ruin your hard work and reduces the professionalism of the newsletter.

When linking from your newsletter to your website, ensure the URL destination is the most direct route for your users.
 

Customise your newsletter for smart phones and tablets

It is vital that you customise your newsletter for mobile devices. Excluding these users will reduce the impact and results of your efforts.

Include your social media

Be sure to link to your social media as a standard practice. It's your way of sending your message further. Not everyone in your social media circles with be on your email recipient list and vice versa.

When to press the send button?

This one depends a little on understanding your users. Do they work 9 to 5 at a desk, are they only on their computers after hours, do they prefer to use their smart phones? Do they like to read their emails as they come in or only at specific times of the day?

Understanding your client-base will assist in making this decision. And how do you do this? Talk to them. You can undertake fairly rudimentary research through a quick survey or even some phone calls about what they want. Give you users what they want and they will respond in kind. 

And of course you can always finesse your send time as you go on. Your statistics will help you understand your users (more on this one below).

Reviewing your send

Creating a newsletter that works requires continual improvement and tweaking of content, look and feel and send time.

The simplest and cheapest way to review your send is to review your statistics. All newsletter software will contain a ‘dashboard’ of varying complexity which allows you to track and compare data such as open rates, click through rates, bounces, unsubscribes and of course, the actions they took. 

Final note

Finally, a note on recipient databases. One hundred subscribers who follow a call to action is a far better outcome than 10,000 recipients who delete your e-newsletter and unsubscribe. Be prepared to slowly and organically build your recipient list. Using databases where you cannot prove how you obtained the email addresses legitimately is not only illegal under anti-spamming legislation, it’s a sure fire way of turning people off your brand. Think about from your end - how would you feel if someone on-sold your email address and you received unsolicited emails?

If you need help with your newsletter let us know.