5 golden rules for email newsletters

Email newsletters are still a valuable marketing tool to convert interested prospects into customers, and get customers to keep returning.  They’re widely used by publishers to drive traffic back to their main site, or as a benefit for paid subscribers.  Many small businesses embark on an email newsletter to communicate with their customers, but struggle to create compelling content and can fall foul of spam reports and blacklisting.  These days there are many web-based providers, such as constant contact or mailchimp, to make the actual sending and list management easy, but the strategy and content creation still falls to the business.  Here are my five golden rules, based on best practice among publishers and small business, for successful email newsletters:

1. Set clear objectives

What is the purpose of your newsletter – are you aiming to establish a reputation as an expert, provide useful information to a specific group so they keep reading, drive traffic back to your site, or encourage people to call you ?

2. Guard your reputation

It’s easy these days to be seen as a spammer, and email clients have sophisticated filters.  People are less tolerant of untargeted emails and may classify them as spam rather than unsubscribe. Take a quality approach to your lists – build them yourself rather than buying, and create quality, benefits-led sign-up boxes on your website.  Send a welcome message to new subscribers so they don’t have to wait for your next edition.  Make it easy to unsubscribe – and ask people why they don’t want your newsletter any more.

3. Segment your audiences and deliver value

Targeting is everything; consider creating different messages for prospects vs loyal customers, and for different segments of your list. For each group, develop a value proposition – such as practical tips, saving you money, exclusive offers, latest news – and make sure your content matches this proposition.  Think of yourself as a publisher, even if that isn’t your core business.

4. Entice your reader from their inbox…

Communicate trust in the from line, and a relevant benefit in the subject line.  Remember many email inboxes have a preview pane, so make the benefits of reading the newsletter clear in the first headline.  Watch out for images as they may not display.  Beware of long blocks of copy – snappy headlines and short copy entice the reader in.  Be sparing with links – be clear on the call to action and don’t confuse the reader.

5. Test, analyse and learn

Unfortunately, there are no fixed rules on creative, subject lines, copy or time of day – it all depends on your audience.  So take the time to set up tests and monitor the results.  You’ll soon discover what prompts your readers to open, read and click through.

If you have experiences to share of email newsletters, good and bad, then please comment below.  If you’re interested in learning more about how to plan the strategy and content for an email campaign, then take a look at the content marketing workshops for SMEs I’m running near Grantham in October.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan has a background in specialist magazine publishing, across print, live events and the web, providing a unique insight into creating compelling content for niche audiences. She now advises media businesses on digital strategy, and also runs workshops for SMEs on online content strategy.  Find out more at www.penmaen.media.