Your email newsletter provides a great opportunity to connect with current customers, past customers, and prospects. But not all email newsletters are made equal. Let’s talk about the things all successful ones have in common.
1. Personality. Your newsletter should sound like you. If someone picks up the phone and has a conversation with you and then reads your newsletter, the person shouldn’t experience a disconnect. The mistake many businesses make with their newsletter is providing content that “sounds professional.” Of course you want to be professional, but “sounding professional” is often a synonym for “snooze fest.” Your newsletter is an opportunity to show people what it will be like to work with you, so it’s important for your personality to shine through.
How to make it happen: If you’re writing the content yourself, don’t overthink it too much when you’re drafting. Choose a great topic and then write about it the same way you would talk about it with a client in person. In fact, you could record your answer (e.g. using the voice-to-text feature in your phone). That way, you’ll truly capture your voice. When you sit down to revise and polish the draft, that’s when you can make sure you’ve fixed any mistakes or removed anything that might be considered “unprofessional.”
If you outsource to a freelance writer, make sure the writer spends some time getting to know you and your company. A good writer will be able to capture your voice as well as your brand’s essence. When you’re reading the content the writer produces, ask yourself if it sounds like you and if you can hear yourself saying it. If not, have the writer revise it.
2. Clean lists. All the people on your newsletter list should have given their explicit permission. So if you met someone networking, it’s not OK to add that person to your list simply because you met him or her and you have the person’s business card. It is OK to add the person to the list if you asked the person’s permission and he/she said yes.
The mistake many business owners make is thinking that ANYONE who contacts your company or interacts with you should be added to the list. This is not true. Yes, your list will be smaller if you require people to opt-in. But wouldn’t you rather have a smaller list filled with people who are eager to receive your newsletter rather than a huge list filled with people who ignore your newsletter?
How to make it happen: Provide multiple ways for people to opt-in to your email newsletter. Consider having…
- A sign-up page on your website, one that outlines the value people will receive from joining your email newsletter
- A question on all forms asking people if they would like to sign up (and providing yes, no, and I’m already a member options)
- Periodic reminders on social media that you have a newsletter (post a link to the sign-up page)
- A moment when you ask people as you’re networking. It should be a natural part of the conversation. Perhaps at the end of a successful meeting, you mention you have a newsletter and then ask the person if it’s OK to add him/her to the list.
- A light box widget to grow you list. You’ve probably encountered them: when you enter a website for the first time, a box might suddenly appear over the content, asking you to enter an email address. While you need to be careful how and when you use these (they can be annoying to site visitors), they can also increase your list dramatically.
3. Welcome email for new subscribers. When people subscribe to your newsletter, two things should happen. First, people should be redirected to a thank-you page on your website so that they know their info has been successfully submitted. Second, they should receive an email that welcomes them to the newsletter list. And just like we suggested in point #1 above, this email should have personality (in other words, don’t use the default email copy that companies like Constant Contact offer…customize it).
How to make it happen: Most email vendors, like Constant Contact and MailChimp, provide an easy way to send a welcome email. All you have to do is customize the content and the look and feel so it matches your brand. Take the time to do this.
4. Easy and clear unsubscribe process. Not only is it good for people receiving your email, it’s the law. The CAN-SPAM Act requires that you provide an easy way for people to opt-out of your emails.
How to make it happen: Again, your best email vendors will have this mechanism baked right into their product line/templates so that you won’t have to think about it. It will be automatic.
5. Valuable content. This seems like a no-brainer, but let’s back up and define what we mean by “valuable content.” An email newsletter that simply regurgitates what’s on your website is not valuable content. A newsletter that’s constantly hawking your wares is not valuable content. No, valuable content means exactly as it sounds: it provides something beneficial to the reader, here and now. If people take the time to open your newsletter, give them information they can use, something that makes them grateful they opened your email.
How to make it happen: Ask customers what sort of information they want from you. You can do this when you’re talking with them, through social media, through customer service calls, etc. Then, deliver. If they want tips on how to use your product, give them a newsletter filled with tips. If they’re looking for inspiration in the form of eye candy (i.e. pictures), give them pictures (perfect for people in visual businesses, like design/build firms, photographers, and artists). If they enjoy hearing success stories, share those. Once you’ve had a newsletter going for a while, you’ll get a sense through the analytics about what content gets the most click-throughs and opens. Study what works and replicate that.
Your valuable content, of course, means nothing if you don’t have an engaging subject line that compels people to open the email (and remember that to abide by the CAN-SPAM Act, the subject can’t be misleading, either…it needs to deliver on its promise). Need help? Check out our article on how to write engaging email subject lines.
6. Mobile mindset. You want your newsletter to be easy to read, and we’re not just talking about the words you use. You want it to be visually pleasing as well. Since more and more people are reading their emails on smartphones and tablets, make sure that whatever newsletter template you’re using displays well on multiple devices.
How to make it happen: The best email vendors are providing more mobile-friendly templates. If you’ve been sending a newsletter for a long time (over three years), you’re probably using a template that wasn’t necessarily designed with mobile in mind. Don’t fret. First, do a “test send” of some past newsletters and see how they display on different smartphones and tablets. Are they easy to navigate? Easy to read? If not, consider using a template that’s mobile friendly. Note: the design might not be as robust, but as long as the content is compelling, it sounds like you/your company, and there’s some branding (like a logo), you’ll be good. What you don’t want to happen is have your newsletter click-through rate dramatically decrease because people don’t have the patience to navigate an email that doesn’t render well on mobile devices.
Do you send an email newsletter? Can you think of any other “must-haves”? Share in the comments.