You may think them a bit twee, a bit old fashioned. Given the array of ways in which you're able to communicate with your target audience are they even worth the effort? Have email newsletters peaked and are they fast becoming a digital curiosity?
If you've pondered these questions, it might surprise you that 80% of marketers, in 2019, reported an increase in email engagement.
Newsletters are still one of the most cost effective and highest converting tools to have in your digital toolkit. One of the main reasons is that your readers need to opt-in to receive it. Effectively they are saying that they want to hear from you. So while you don't want to spam them, a newsletter with relevant topics can really boost audience engagement and conversions.
If it has been years since you did a newsletter or you're not sure where to begin, below are some pointers to get your started.
Firstly, think about what the goal of your newsletter is. What does it need to achieve? Do you want to build trust, increase loyalty, promote new products or events?
Depending on your goal, here are some types of newsletter that may work for you.
As the name implies, this type of newsletter targets customers and tends to promote new products or services, seasonal sales, advertise events, announce partnerships. They are useful for most businesses but especially ecommerce brands.
You can really leverage this newsletter by inviting readers to share the content with their friends.
If you’re writing regular blog posts or you manage a podcast or video channel, this type of newsletter could be right for you. They’re ideal for driving traffic to your content and feature short punchy writing that invites readers to click through to read the long-form blog post, listen to your podcast episode or watch your vlog.
These newsletters are reasonably easy to prepare and are a great way to enhance your positioning as a subject matter expert, inform and build trust.
If you don’t create much core content (such as regular blog posts), this may be your choice. Ideally you give each (weekly, monthly…) newsletter a theme and you collect relevant industry specific from the web. This is great if you’re a subject matter or industry expert who sells services as it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how your service is unique within your industry.
Four "Must Have" Elements of a Newsletter
You might find the idea of creating a regular newsletter overwhelming but by making sure that the following four elements are included, you’re off to a great start.
#1: Subject Line
Of all the emails you receive each day how many do you open?
I often see brands using the same subject line for all their newsletters and would caution against doing this. Instead create incentives and use intrigue or urgency with your subject lines. This enables you to foster engagement and will help boost your email open rates.
#2: Call to Action
Each email that you send, including newsletters, should have a call to action. It could be that you want them to visit one of your landing pages or you might want them to register for an event. The main thing to remember with calls to action is that too much choice overwhelms the reader. Remember, “a confused mind says no” and this could lead to unsubscribes. So settle on one primary call to action for your newsletter.
With most newsletters now being read on mobile devices, design is even more crucial to the reader experience. Stay clear of bold and overstimulating designs and, instead, embrace white space. Keep the design simple so that it does not distract from your central message and your primary call to action. Think of your newsletter as a ‘tasting plate” that invites people to discover more by following a link or call to action.
As much as we want to keep our subscriber retention rate high, the reality is that some people, at some point, want to opt-out. Make it easy for them to do so and include a clear unsubscribe button or link.
Don’t be too disheartened by people who unsubscribe. People’s needs and motivations do change. It’s not necessarily a reflection of your content. By allowing them to easily opt-out you keep your list healthy and clean.
If you want, you can use the unsubscribe process to ask for feedback as to why they are opting out and use this to constantly improve your content.
Your Email Project Checklist
Follow the 6-step checklist below if you're ready to get started with your newsletter (or inject new life into a previous one). Before you begin, ask yourself how you will manage your email marketing. If you are thinking of using Outlook or a regular email client, I urge you to reconsider. Email marketing automation platforms let you easily set up and measure the success of your newsletter. They are also helpful in safeguarding your email sender reputation and enable you meet necessary compliance.
1. Decide on a frequency
How often should you be sending out your newsletter? The best way is know it to ask your readers. If you haven’t been in touch with your audience on a regular basis, then it might be best to begin with a monthly or fortnightly newsletter and work your way up to weekly newsletters. Before you increase the frequency, monitor your open rates and click rates. Also toy with sending it at different times or days.
2. Collect Content for Your Newsletter
Once you have decided on the type of newsletter you are going for, you can gather the content pieces you wish to include in the newsletter. Also, consider the primary call to action you wish to include. I recommend setting up a Google Sheet or Google Doc where you can “dump” everything you might want to include so that when the time comes to put it in a newsletter, all you have to do is go the document to find everything you need.
3. Design Your Email Template
Depending on the email service provider you use, set up a template or use one of the templates provided. Follow the recommendations above to ensure the design make for an easy reading experience regardless of the user’s device.
4. Have Your List Ready
If you’re using an email service provider, and I highly recommend that you do, I suggest you will have the ability to segment your recipients. Make sure that you have your list set up and that it includes all your intended recipients
5. Check Compliance
If you are sending marketing emails (such as a newsletter) you need to familiarise yourself with legal requirements you must meet as a sender. The two main ones are CAN-SPAM and GDPR.
To comply with CAN-SPAM your email footer needs to show your address and offer an easy way to unsubscribe from your emails.
GDPR is relevant if you’re sending email to recipients who are based in Europe and requires your readers to manually opt-in to receive emails from you. To read more about it, here is a handy GDPR checklist from Hubspot.
So that’s it. You’ve created your newsletter with a nicely designed template, great relevant copy and content an enticing call to action. All you have to do now is to ensure that all your intended recipients have actually subscribed to receive your email and you’re ready to hit send.
Growing your newsletter
So now that your newsletter is out there it is time to keep an eye on the stats. As you learn how your emails are performing in terms of open and click rates, you can make gradual changes. Always make changes one at a time so you know what works and what doesn’t. This way you will gradually increase engagement and grow your readership.