Wildly Effective Newsletters for The Digital Age: Your 5-Point Checklist

Were newsletters the first form of opt-in content marketing? People have been reading newsletters since 1538, long before interested audiences started visiting the Internet—or even picking up inky newspapers—for relevant news and enticing offers. By the early 1900s, newsletters began to flourish due to businesses’ need for specialized industry information. And the rest, they say, is history.

What makes newsletters such an effective form of customer communications? And why are they still in vogue? Once again, we’ll take a page from our direct response marketing playbook, and share our take on marketers’ love affair with the newsletter. Make that the e-newsletter.

E-Newsletters: Engaging, Retaining, and Re-Engaging Your Key Customers
With our without the “e-,” newsletters contain important information targeted at a specific audience: people with a known interest in a topic, company, or brand. While they may share some valuable evergreen content, newsletters mainly alert customers to timely news—anything from product updates and special offers to the latest research and trustworthy thought leadership. They can boost the company’s reputation, brand loyalty, and even sales.

But most certainly, they drive engagement, even during times when people aren’t actively making purchasing decisions. And that engagement typically starts with the customer taking action: they opt-in to a newsletter’s mailing (or e-mail) list. A Content Marketing Institute study found that the most effective marketers rely mainly on eNewsletters (72 %) as the content offer they ask customers to subscribe to, followed by blogs (56%) and online communities (22%).

In fact, according to Nielsen Norman Group research, when asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company, 90% of customers chose to receive email newsletters, while only 10% elected to do so through Facebook. That’s likely because an e-mail newsletter is easy to locate and consume—just open and click. No searching or scrolling.

How to Make Your E-Newsletter Wildly Effective
Working with a number clients on newsletter marketing has brought a handful of best practices to light. We apply these to every newsletter program to ensure we’re aiming for the right targets and hitting them head-on.

1. Define Newsletter Program Goals. As we’ve been saying, newsletters are the perfect way to get your company’s latest news, offers, and thought leadership in front of customers. On a high level, every client’s goal is to grow or maintain relationships and stay top-of-mind; beyond that, it’s important to identify what results you’re expecting. Some examples:

  • Expand your reach/engagement: get 50 new e-newsletter sign-ups per month
  • Generate leads: collect contact information from 15 customers who click-through to access exclusive offers
  • Drive sales: Attribute 2% of online purchases to promotional content in newsletters

This is an important first step because your newsletter content and offers will be shaped by what you need to achieve.

2. Develop Timely, Relevant, and Value-Added Content and Offers Your e-newsletter will probably share some combination of industry or company news, tips or best practices, success stories, or other information that’s interesting to your readers. Depending on your company’s products, services, and goals, this could mean sticking to one topic or mixing it up a little bit to be sure there’s a little something for everyone.

SalesWings 
points out that customers look forward to your newsletter as a break in their day—something to inform or entertain them that won’t take too long to read. With this in mind, you don’t have too long to engage them. And you don’t want to aggressively push sales. If you’re looking for a response, your content needs to have clear call-to-actions, whether you’re asking your customers to “get more information” or “buy now.” Ideally, you’ll give your newsletter readers access to exclusive deals or specials that tie directly with your goals.

3. Focus on Digital Format and Delivery. We’re not in the 16th (or 20th) century. An effective e-newsletter needs to supplement your website because that’s where conversions happen. An e-mail based newsletter should contain enticing “Read More” links within truncated versions of full content that lives on your website. Of course, you can also provide a link to a downloadable PDF version for viewers to print and read at their 
leisure.

Read 3 Reasons to Apply Mobile-First Email Design for additional insights.

4. Creatively Build Your List. You have to be careful to not “SPAM” people with your e-mail newsletter, so it’s important that you follow CAN-SPAM laws. Working with an opt-in list of recipients is ideal. So how do you build this list?

  • Start with an existing list of customers or prospects who have agreed to receive e-mails from your company
  • Place an e-newsletter sign up form on your website to attract new subscribers
  • Include a “share this newsletter with friends” message/link within each e-newsletter e-mail to encourage and enable customer-led distribution
  • Promote your newsletter’s exclusive content and any subscriber benefits on your Facebook page, and ask for sign-ups
  • Run Facebook banner ads, which can be highly targeted by location, gender, age, interests, and behaviors, and link them to an e-mail signup landing page

5. Track, Measure, and Repeat. Leverage the analytics tools on your e-mail marketing platform to track and measure engagement and click activity:

  • Number of e-mails opened/read (and when)
  • Number of click-throughs to the e-newsletter content on your website
  • What content was clicked on (and when)
  • Whether the e-mail was shared, and how often
  • Look at soft and hard bounces, too, to help keep your list clean.

You’ll also want to monitor the activity on the website page(s) containing your e-newsletter content to get a feel for how visitors behave. Did they click any links? Did they respond to a call to action? Taken together, all of this analysis can help you fine-tune your content and continually improve the performance of your e-newsletter.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about e-mail newsletter marketing.