Email newsletters are a common marketing activity, especially amongst smaller businesses.
Even if you’re a marketing specialist, it’s a task you might not relish. It can get repetitive, and it’s easy to go through the motions – as long as you send it out every month, that’s the main thing, right?
If that’s ringing true for you, I’ll bet that the analytics on your newsletters aren’t looking too hot either. Whilst most would agree that an email newsletter is an important way of keeping in touch with subscribers and current clients, few really generate the sort of engagement their authors hope for.
Newsletters can underwhelm for a number of reasons, but broadly these boil down to four key areas:
1) Unengaging content
What makes content engaging is topicality, relevance, substance and style. You need to say something interesting and noteworthy. And you need to say it in a way that people enjoy reading. This is written communication above all, and how you say it matters.
People are much more likely to open a newsletter that is addressing an issue that is topical and relevant. For example, an IT firm that capitalises on a scare about computer hacking with an item on ‘Seven Steps to Protect Your Privacy’ is going to generate some clicks.
Content is more effective in terms of click-through if it ‘teases’ people to greater depth back on your website. So, in the above example, the firm might offer in the newsletter top three tips and then links them to the full article on the firm’s home page.
2) Shoddy and clumsy design
But no matter the quality of the writing or content, your newsletter will get binned very quickly if the design is shoddy. Design covers a lot of areas – consistency and readability of fonts, quality of images, uniformity of branding, mobile responsiveness. Fortunately, popular tools such as MailChimp draw your attention to these kinds of issues.
Also, I can’t stress the importance of sending a test email enough. Send it to a colleague, and also to yourself. It’s only here that you’ll be able to see what it looks like in your mailbox. Scan it for formatting and spacing issues, problems with images, and check all the links work.
3) Lack of variety
Lack of variety is a common sin for small business newsletters. You can’t say the same thing every month, otherwise people will unsubscribe. One answer is to feature customer’s stories or to employ a series of articles that encourage ongoing subscriptions.
Variety also refers to a variety of styles of content. Don’t restrict yourself to text. Use video and graphics, surveys and photo montages. If you don’t have a designer, there are free templates for graphics from services like Canva.
4) No ‘voice’ or character
The best newsletters have an attitude or voice of their own. The worst error is a disembodied corporate-sounding style that is drained of character. Go for a more informal, friendly voice like a neighbour speaking over the fence.
Finally, be sure to measure your engagement. Most email marketing tools offer analytics that measure open rates and click-through rates. You can try A/B testing (trialling two different versions of desired content, design, style etc;) to see which one proves most popular.
Remember, if you’re not enjoying putting your email newsletter together, it’s unlikely that anyone will enjoy reading it either. But if you throw yourself into the task and keep yourself interested by varying up the content and design, it will show in the finished product. The best newsletters are ones that subscribers look forward to dropping into their inboxes like a favourite newspaper or periodical. That’s what you should be aiming for.