How To Make Effective Email Newsletters

It seems to me that the growth of email newsletters has been exponential the last few years. Every day I seem to get 10 to 15 of these from various sources that I have provided my email address to over the years. Many of them are so non-newsworthy that they get deleted immediately (and I eventually opt out). Others seem to have some relevant information but they are usually so poorly written or designed that reading them is a chore. You’ve probably experienced something similar.

This made me wonder, what makes an effective email newsletter? What makes recipients want to open it every time it is emailed? I did some research and here are a few ideas that I have been able to gather on the topic. So if your company is considering making the investment in email marketing, here are some ideas you can use.

Be Clear on Your Mission

First, in your inaugural email newsletter, it is a good idea to clearly state your mission for your readers. Then in subsequent newsletters, be sure to stick to this mission. In other words, if you state that your goal is to “provide informative news relating to your industry,” then do so in every issue. If your stated mission is to keep the reader informed about new products and services you are rolling out, stick with that theme. It is far better to do this than confuse your readers with irrelevant information that is far from your focus in your email newsletter. Always ask yourself before sending, does this newsletter achieve the mission?

Create Content People Want to Read

email newsletter marketing

Secondly, be sure that your content is relevant, useful and timely for your customer. Don’t decide to create an email newsletter simply because your competitors are publishing one. If you don’t have content that your readers will find relevant, then re-think your mission or wait until you do have content.

Be sure that your copy is useful to your readers. Keep in mind that they are bombarded with newsletters just like you and me. To get someone to click the open button, you have to consistently provide information that is helpful for the recipients. Also, don’t fill your email newsletter with old info. There is nothing worse than reading something that was pertinent four months ago and is now old news!

Be Social, Not Formal

Many experts believe that one of the reasons more email newsletters are not read regularly is that the tone is far too formal. Know who your audience is. There is no reason to sound like you have a PhD in economics in your email newsletter if you are not writing to an audience that has that degree. Know what they are interested in and make sure your tone matches their interests. Generally you should write the way you speak. If you are sending out an email newsletter to your customers, write to them as if you were speaking to them. Keep the tone social and fun and not so formal.

Timing Is Everything

Another key issue is frequency of publishing. Bottom line: Don’t publish a monthly email newsletter if you don’t have info that is relevant on a monthly basis. Lots of novice email newsletter writers believe that connecting with their customers as often as possible is more important than producing useful, valuable content. Since email newsletters with stale content will turn your readers off (leading many to opt out, which is your worst nightmare), timing your publishing dates to coincide with new information worth sharing is vital. Don’t mistake volume with value. Your readers sure won’t!

The time required to read your email newsletter is another issue to consider. The best bet is to operate under this motto: The shorter the better. Experts say most successful email newsletters require only five to 10 minutes from the reader. Try to keep yours in that time frame.

Find Out Who Your Audience Is

Finally, use your email newsletter as a vehicle to really get to know your readers. The best way to do this is to ask them questions. This sounds really simple but too many email newsletters are static, one-way communications. Typically they are used to “push” info to the reader. But sometimes – especially if your email newsletter is going to current or prospective clients – you can use it to gather intelligence about your reader’s interests, needs, and concerns.

It can also be a great tool to use to gather market research for planning purposes. For example, if you are a retailer and you invest in advertising, wouldn’t it be a great idea to use your email newsletter to find out what your readers’ TV viewing habits are, what they listen to when driving, what sites they frequent online, etc. By gathering this data using simple polling techniques or creative contests, you will be able to fine-tune your advertising initiatives.

These are just a few ideas I have gathered on this topic. Most importantly, keep your content relevant to what you do and to what your target audience is interested in. If you do these things, chances are your email newsletter will be a big hit.

Art by Fletcher Prince and used with permission under the Creative Commons.

© 2011 Generational Equity, LLC All Rights Reserved

About Carl Doerksen

Carl Doerksen is the Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.

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