E-newsletters don’t leave much margin for error. But follow a few simple rules, and your digital newsletter will be both effective and cost efficient.
It’s tough to be an online newsletter these days. With tons of emails flooding our inboxes. A good spam filter really helps. But that still leaves more than enough to deal with – or at least take a glance at.
Given information overload, is a newsletter worth time and effort?
The answer is a definite yes-and-no. Online newsletters don’t leave much margin for error. Even a well-meant “I’ll check it out later” must count as a fail. An email that doesn’t get opened today probably never will.
But most of us know that newsletters can work. Because there are one or two we like and read almost regularly. Well, at least quite often.
Here are seven “do’s” that help make an online newsletter work.
1. Benefit. Benefit. Benefit.
It’s a split second decision: Important or not? An email from the boss is a no-brainer. A newsletter might be interesting – but does that make it important? This insight makes for great guidance. Is our topic of interest? Even better: Does our newsletter offer benefit to our audience? The answer must be: Definitely.
Any newsletter that’s lukewarm does not stand much of a chance. Because lukewarm does not go well with the medium email, our rigorous focus on must-reads and the time we are willing to invest. Which is very little.
But then, the medium newsletter comes with a great advantage. Recipients are known and most likely share a common interest. This interest is our guiding light, our first and foremost focus. If our topic is interesting and of benefit to our readers, our newsletter can be both effective and efficient.
2. The all-important line
Remember split-second? With a newsletter in your inbox, that split-second goes to sender and subject. Who’s it from and what’s it about? The answer prompt an “OK, I’ll take a quick look.” Effective newsletters come from a meaningful source and have their custom email address. “Bitcruncher: Tips’n’tricks” is better than “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Every editor will tell you it’s the headline that sells. With an online newsletter, its the subject line. For a “Newsletter #10” to catch my interest it really has to come from a top notch source. “5 ways to write a headline – and 5 ways not to” stands a better chance.
A newsletter’s subject line deserves tender loving care. Even if it’s just five words. They matter.
3. Pamper the eyes
Remember when online newsletters were word processor documents sent by email? Even before the brain digests the first word, the eye absorbs the form. And that can be appealing – or not.
In planning a newsletter, two questions need to be answered. First: How many items to offer our audience. More is not necessarily better. For a local politician, for instance, one well-worded op-ed piece sounds just right. For a local business, two features and three short news items wouldn’t be wrong.
So we have our structure. Leaves – second – our style. A newsletter coming from a hotel group should look different from the heads-up from your local fitness studio. Both should have a different touch-and-feel from the news coming from your favorite vineyard.
Form follows function – design is determined by the users’ expectations and needs.
4. Keep it short
Every well crafted newsletter will serve a purpose. Not necessarily to “Buy Now!”. The local politician wants to get a message out – that’s it. But more likely a newsletter will serve to facilitate a buying decision. Which means to direct the reader to a webpage where more information leads to the next step.
Roughly two out of three readers will open a newsletter on their smartphone. Probably on their way from here to there. So the content needs to be concise and well structured.
Success is when a recipient opens the newsletter. But that is only one step on the potential customer’s journey. Spark interest, address needs, suggest options – that’s all a newsletter wants to do.
Which means: Keep it short.
5. Emotions are facts
Speaking of needs: A newsletter cannot offer conclusive answers to difficult questions. Because it must be kept short. And because a recipient scanning a newsletter is rarely ready to dive into details right then and there. That’s what search engines and forums are for. Later.
A newsletter will address the audience’s overarching interest. Specific questions and emotional needs. A person looking for a holiday home looks forward to a pleasant vacation. Someone researching mountain bikes enjoys the physical challenge of rough terrain.
This post offers some specific pointers concerning specific questions. But, deeper down, it promotes an emotion, an attitude. Confidence. That success is doable. And that we will be most happy to support your efforts.
6. A word about timing
As a newsletter’s creator, you determine when it hits your audience’s inbox. Which deserves some thought. Because timing is crucial.
There is no one-size-fits-all guidance for timing. Better to use common sense and run a few tests.
For recipients caught up in a demanding job, Monday morning is bound to be less than ideal. On Monday mornings, the workweek ahead is priority number one, two and three. Thursday late afternoon is probably better.
Two or three plausible timing options can easily be tested. By sending the same newsletter out to different subgroups at different times. Testing or not: Key stats including opening rate, click through rate, bounce and conversion deserve a closer look now and then, anyway. See what they are telling us.
7. Minding our manners
Maybe we have included some recipients in our distribution list without their explicit consent. All the more reason to treat our audience with respect.
Addressing our reader by name significantly improves our chances to get read. Care invested into database maintenance is effort well spent.
Needless to say an online newsletter needs to identify the source, offer a means to get in touch and include a simple way to unsubscribe. In all likelihood, these are not mere formalities but legal requirements. They can be kept short and to the point.
But a bit of friendliness, even when confirming an unsubscribe, never hurts.
You would like to stay in touch with customers and reach out to a broader audience? You are looking for a partner to set up and feed an online newsletter? Any efforts on our part will be driven by your needs. Give us a call to discuss. No strings attached. +49 221 9984630 or using our contact form.
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