Ten top tips for successful email newsletters

Email newsletters are amongst the most popular means by which businesses keep in touch with existing and potential customers and clients.

But many businesses struggle with their newsletters. A very high proportion are never read; they simply languish in inboxes – or, even worse, in junkmail folders.

So how can you improve the performance of your email newsletters?

1. Concentrate on the subject

Email overload is the modern business malaise. When sending unsolicited email (which is how your newsletter will be thought of by many recipients, regardless of the fact that they subscribed to it) you have to give people a pretty good reason to open it. The subject line is vitally important here. A good subject line will make clear what you have to offer the recipient. Most recipients don’t actually care about your business for its own sake – instead, they want to know what you can do for them.

2. Give something of value

There are few things more irritating than a useless email newsletter. If you want recipients to actually read the newsletter that you have slaved over, you need to give them something of value. What do your recipients want? Advice and commentary? News? Interesting links? Experiment with different types of content and see what works for you.

3. Develop your tone of voice

Often, the newsletters that work best are those with an informal, chatty style. Recipients are often encouraged to click on and interact with emails that have an approachable tone of voice. At the same time, though, many business owners tend to revert automatically to a more formal tone when writing. Finding a suitable tone of voice is one of the key tasks facing those hoping to write a successful email newsletter.

4. Include a table of contents

Recipients are generally more likely to read on when a table of contents is included in a newsletter. By explaining at the very beginning what the reader can expect to see, you will encourage them to keep scrolling. You might also consider adding a short ‘letter from the editor’ at the beginning, explaining the theme of the newsletter and outlining its contents.

5. Think about design

An attractive newsletter is much more likely to be read (and concentrated on) than a dull, plain-text missive. You should therefore spend some time working out how you can make your newsletter as pleasing to the eye as possible. Remember, though, that design should never take precedence over readability. It doesn’t matter how good your email looks if the text itself is illegible.

6. Remember smartphones

The birth of the smartphone has had dramatic implications for email marketers. A significant proportion of email is now read not on a computer but on a phone screen, and your design should take this into account. Where possible, prepare both a ‘full-fat’ and a plain text version of your email. The latter will be useful for those with Blackberries and similar devices with relatively primitive rendering abilities.

7. Build distinct sections

You can help to give your newsletter a ‘magazine’ feel by splitting the content into distinct sections. This is particularly useful if you have a number of different customer groups. By splitting your content up you can hopefully provide something for everyone. Similarly, distinguishing between categories and topics makes the breadth of information contained in the newsletter clearer.

8. Encourage dialogue

Newsletters need not be a one-way communication channel. Indeed, in order to be truly beneficial they need to encourage some sort of reaction. For example, you might want recipients to reply by email. Alternatively, you might want them to follow you on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook. Make sure that your newsletter includes a variety of means by which recipients can get in touch – and a reason for them to do so.

9. Check, check, and check again

Nothing smacks of unprofessionalism like a poorly proofread newsletter. Before hitting the send button, make sure that you check and double-check the text for embarrassing mistakes.

10. Read your reports

Good mailing list software will not only send your emails – it will also generate reports telling you how well your newsletters are performing. You should be able to see, for example, the number of people who opened your email and the number of clicks that were generated. These reports are vital if you want to improve your email newsletters.

Despite the many new methods by which businesses keep in touch with clients, email newsletters look set to remain popular. By following these simple tips you can help to maximise the chances that your newsletters are read – and acted upon.

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