An email newsletter is a great and inexpensive tool for communicating with many different audiences, which makes them popular for communicating with current and prospective customers. E-newsletters and promotional emails alone make up about 62 percent of all emails sent, and e-newsletters specifically are projected to grow another 58 percent by 2013.* Amidst growing e-newsletter competition, you want to make sure to create and maintain a solid newsletter strategy to achieve long-term results.
To create an effective and sustainable email newsletter, there are five primary areas to consider in the development or update of a successful email marketing strategy.
1. Clearly define the goals for your newsletter. Think about what it is you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach before you get started. Is it to acquire new customers? Increase customer satisfaction? Extend your brand or image? Is your audience comprised of current customers or prospects? Identifying and keeping focus on the primary goals and audience for your newsletters will help define the development of and ultimate success for your newsletters. Don’t develop and send an e-newsletter just because you can. It can have unintended and adverse consequences if the newsletter is not valuable to recipients.
2. Find and communicate relevant and valuable content. Remember the goal and the audience you identified first and provide them the content they want and expect. This includes, in order of importance, identifying yourself clearly in the from address; crafting a concise and compelling subject line so recipients know what they are receiving and why they should open it; and then finally creating the content in the newsletter itself. The from address is the first chance you have to identify yourself to your recipients, so be clear. The subject line may be the most critical piece of the content you provide. The benefit of the information contained within should be conveyed in a concise and compelling manner. Subject lines should be on the short side, less than 50 characters (35 – 45 are ideal). However, in some cases, if truncating the subject line compromises the content significantly, it is okay to have it a little longer.
For the newsletter content, it should first pay off on the promise of the subject line. Provide content that matters to your readers. For instance, for business to business communications, help them stay informed and do their jobs better. For consumers, provide content they are interested in and can’t do without. In constructing your content, use short paragraphs, sentences and words. Break content up with plenty of subheads that are easy to scan and digest. And remember you don’t need to cram everything in.
3. Create a compelling and effective design/format. There are many details to consider in the design and formatting of your e-newsletter. First and foremost, you should take the time to develop a well-designed, professional template that features your unique brand. Not only does it serve as a reinforcement of your company’s image, recipients appreciate knowing right away who the newsletter is from and that they are able to read it in a clean and visually appealing format. Text versions should not be neglected, one should be sent along with every HTML newsletter, but it should also incorporate your brand with clear labeling and tone. For the visual element, you can provide a link to a Web page version of the newsletter.
General guidelines to keep in mind when designing your email include:
a. Design for the preview pane. About half of all email recipients view their emails in a preview pane configuration. Typically it is horizontal, but sometimes it is vertical. With either configuration, the top left corner is the primary real estate and it is advised to identify your company (with a logo or other identifier) in this space. And don’t forget mobile. Many emails are received and viewed on various mobile devices. For this reason, designing for the “lowest common denominator” can be quite beneficial.
b. Remember image blocking. The majority of email clients automatically block images; only about 41 percent of online consumers regularly see them**. When images are blocked, a red “x” appears in its place. Image alt text should be used to identify what should be there, and email should be designed so that the content is not dependent on or altered by image placement.
c. Use more text than images. The content portion of any newsletter should be the primary focus, this also helps with image blocking. The ideal ratio is about 60 percent text to 40 percent supporting graphics.
d. Consider viewing patterns. Most emails are skimmed, not read. And based on heat map tests, it has been shown that the majority of viewers scan emails in an “F” pattern. Down the left rail, across the top (left to right) and then down a bit and left to right again. Make sure your most important content and messages are in these areas.