The Quick And Easy Guide To Creating Quick And Easy Email Newsletters
How to improve your email marketing campaigns and get the results you want.
Introduction: As Effective As Ever
Email marketing is not the new kid on the block. But like an old action hero, it can still pack a mighty punch and be a ratings winner. Email consistently has the highest add-to-cart rate, average page views, and conversion rates when compared to the rest of the marketing channels. It’s no wonder the volume of messages sent each year continues to rise.
Marketers still rate email as the best channel for return on investment – after search engine optimization – according to Econsultancy’s 2013 Email Marketing Industry Census.
Did you know that 80% of responses to email newsletters occur in the first three days after sending the message? Email newsletters can be a quick and cost-effective way to reach your customers, leads, and subscribers. By providing a unique opportunity to nurture your relationship, email newsletters foster loyalty with current customers and trust with prospects, ultimately boosting the bottom line.
Newsletters have adapted to modern lifestyles: they can include social media links and can even change their appearance depending on if they’re being looked at on a smartphone or a tablet (called responsive email marketing). Yet for many of us, newsletters are like healthy eating – we know we should do it, but we don’t. Or, we know we could do it better but we stick with what we’re doing now because it’s what we know. Let’s break out of the comfort zone and dive into something new.
Know Yourself: Your Email Newsletter Identity
Your friends know you with your own personality, interests, style and even way of talking that define you. A newsletter is the same. It has its unique identity or branding. Just as your friends share common interests with you, your subscribers should normally be interested in what’s in your newsletters.
People like to know what they are getting, that’s why we often like go back to the same restaurant or café. You’d be worried if your favorite Italian restaurant suddenly switched to sushi the following week. But, to keep things interesting, they do offer weekly and seasonal specials. Similarly, your newsletters will vary but will have a common identity. Take a look at these emails from Target for an established, consistent identity.
Readers are reassured by a steady frequency (for example twice a month) and ideally, steady timing. It’s a bit like arranging to meet up with your guitar teacher every two weeks on Saturday at 2pm at their house: people like a certain rhythm and get to expect it. Exceptional events such as a store opening or new product launch can benefit from bucking the trend.
Bear in mind that any sudden changes may shock/disorientate your readers. Over time your newsletter will likely evolve. Any changes should be tested using a small sample of your database to make sure they work as well – or better – than your current version. After experimenting, changes an be rolled out for the rest of your subscribers.
More than consistent timing, your newsletter should be cohesive with your existing corporate identity: your logo, company colors, and communications writing style (chatty and relaxed or more formal). These should all be present in your newsletter.
Newsletters are a series of conversations over time, so before you start, get out a calendar. Plan out your main events of the year: sales, anniversaries (store opening, company founding) and general events such as holidays and festivities that lend themselves to seasonal marketing campaigns.
Take into account any seasonal effects on your product. For example, if you are a shoe store you’ll be concentrating more on boots in the winter, sandals in the summer, and maybe new sneaker releases in between. You identity becomes a product of what you have to say, and how you say it.
It’s worth taking the time to create this newsletter identity. Reinforcing it over time in each email will help solidify your readers’ trust in what they are getting. Think of it as quality assurance, to make sure your service (the newsletter) conforms to expectations and is thus fit for duty. The second a subscriber gets a glimpse of your email, they should have an idea what to expect (and be excited to check it out).
Know Your Audience: Segment, Segment, Segment.
Sometimes you’ll have a message to share that will interest all of your subscribers. Maybe you’re replacing your current best-selling product with a new updated version. This could interest everyone. But sometimes you’ll also have messages that will involve only some of your customers or, to put it another way, only part of your database. Maybe you’re opening a store in San Francisco: it’s likely only people in this geographic region will be interested in knowing. Simply put, you want to send the right message to the right people.
In general, the more the message is tailored to the recipient, the better they will react to it and the better results you’ll get. Avoid the one-size-fits-all message.
The quality of information you have on your subscribers will directly impact the efficiency of your campaign. The more information you have, the more power you have to slice and dice your database of readers from a heterogeneous mass into more homogenous groups of people. These groups can then get tailored messages according to their characteristics.
Basic demographic information such as: age, gender, birthday, geographic region, married, children etc.
For business customers you could also be interested in their job title, company name, sector and size.
For people for whom you’re lacking key information, you could do a targeted email campaign including a survey or form aimed at gathering additional data.
CUSTOMER ACTIVITY (or lack of)
A customer’s interaction with your company can be an easy attribute for segmenting. For example:
- Their previous product purchases: If you sell shoes, did they buy men’s, children’s or women’s shoes? Were they work shoes, sport shoes or going-out shoes? This tells you the type of products they are interested in.
- Purchase values: Are they a big spender with your store? Maybe they only purchase your low ticket items and there is room for growth.
- When was their last purchase? Last 3, 6, 9, 12 months? Over a year? Should they be rewarded for their frequent shopping, or do you need to reactivate an old customer?
- Have they connected with your brand on social media?
A word on activity and the frequency of your newsletters. Your readers may prefer daily, weekly, twice-monthly or monthly contact. In general the more actively the reader engages with your business (purchases etc.) the higher the frequency of newsletters they may prefer. Of course, as a rule of thumb, the only way to know is to test (and ask)! Key takeaway: break it down to build it up! Segment to find the best email for each person and the best results for your campaign!
The World Is Square
Businesses are waking up to the fact that the world is square. Well, to clarify, the email marketing world is rectangular (but that’s less catchy!). Square how, you may ask? Square in the following way: mobile devices now account for half of all email viewing (and the number is rising). Another growing trend is device-hopping; people are switching from one platform to another starting on a mobile phone, and finishing on their desktop or tablet. According to IDC, 87% of connected device sales by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones.
A typical U.S. multiscreen user consumes 7 hours and 24 minutes of screen media per day during a 5 hour and 14 minute period. Of that time, 34 percent is spent on smartphones; 33 percent on TV (second only to the UK); 23 percent on laptops; and 10 percent on tablets. According to market research agency GFK, more than 60% of people use at least two devices per day. More than 40% use at least three devices.
Cicso projects that by 2018, there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per person on the planet. So we know that smart devices are an integral part of our lives. Yet, over half of marketers aren’t designing their emails to render differently on mobile devices. Yikes! A newsletter that doesn’t look good and is difficult to navigate will often be discarded by the reader, or even classed as spam. It’s adapt or die, as Google reports 61 percent of users are unlikely to go back to a mobile site they had problems accessing. Better yet,
Dot the “I”s! Don’t forget that if a mobile user clicks on one of the call-to-action buttons in your email, wherever they are taken to needs to also be optimized for their device too! A responsive email newsletter doesn’t do much good if the website you are using to sell your product to the reader won’t work right for them.
Take Pride In Your Appearance. It Counts.
A newsletter is set out in a grid or block design, like in a magazine or newspaper, to make it easy to read. Email newsletter software will provide templates for you to customize according to your message. If you’re using an email marketing software like Mailify, and want to design you own template, various structural templates will be proposed for you to choose as shown below:
COMPONENTS OF AN EMAIL NEWSLETTER:
- Header: from line, from address, subject line
- Call to action
- Contact details
- Social media integration
- Website links
The header is made up of the from line, from email address, and subject line.
Depending on the personality of your company communication, the message could be from “Hank, Store Manager” (indicating a proximity to your readers) or anonymous like “Macy’s”. It’s important to note that studies have shown that a real name in the “From” field with your company brand, such as Eric at Mailify get better results than an anonymous mail because the reader recognizes you and that you are genuine. Your recipients see this:
Subject line: hired or fired
Competition for attention in your reader’s inbox is fierce. Like a headline in a newspaper, the subject line decides if the newsletter will be opened and read. It’s the written elevator pitch for your email. Ask yourself: what do you want to do with your mail? What’s your goal? Make the first 5 words count. Remember that over half of email marketing messages are read on the small screen of a smartphone. KISS (keep it short and simple) has never been so relevant. Depending on how the user is holding their phone (landscape or portrait) there’s more or less characters displayed.
The subject line should be short, clear and arouse enough curiosity in the reader to get them to open the mail. You could for example, ask a question. Your reader will open the mail if they want to know the answer.
Personalization – talk to me, not at me!
Always remember that email is a conversation – not a broadcast. Newsletters which are personalized with the person’s name either in the header or the subject line have higher click and open rates. However, personalizing both actually lowers the open rates. This is perhaps because spammers often personalize to trick people into a false sense of security and thus over personalization has become associated with them.
Talk about what is relevant to your readers, what will engage them. Why did your existing customers sign-up for your newsletter? The content should answer the question: what’s in it for me? Content of a newsletter can vary depending on your objective: a can’t-miss promotion, an announcement, a customer survey, etc.
Always read through and check for spelling mistakes. Try reading it from the bottom up, as your brain will be less trained to expect what is coming.
To be mobile-friendly, a minimum font size of 12-14 pixels is recommended with headlines at approximately 20 pixels.
In terms of content length, remember that less is more. Don’t overwhelm readers with huge newsletters with tons of information.
CALL TO ACTION:
Arguably the most important element of your email, the Call To Action (CTA) is essentially what you want your reader to do: discover (your latest product) download, buy, take a survey, come to an event, benefit from a promotion etc. Unsurprisingly a call to action often has an action verb at the start: such as the classic “click here”. Usually a good call to action button gets the subscriber on your site/landing page. Because of this strategic importance, they need to stand out, be highly visible, and entice the reader to click.
A bit like children offered too many desserts, overloading your subscribers with too many choices can lead to indecision and no action being taken! The CTA should lead or motivate the customers to a very specific action cosnsistent with the overall objective of your email. Some popular CTA strategies suggest having your CTA at the top of your email, and repeated again towards the bottom so readers that have read all the way down never lose site of what you want them to do. In addition, some marketers like to offer an aggressive “home run” CTA (buy now) as well as a secondary more passive call to action (learn more). Here are some samples of emails with clear and impactful calls to action:
Don’t forget, the “rule of thumb” has never been more appropriate than when it comes to mobile calls to action. Make sure your buttons can be easily tapped by a person’s finger if they are navigating on their smartphone. Generally button dimensions of at least 50 pixels are appropriate.
IMAGES: WORKING WITH THE RED X
Images are often a vital part of your newsletter: we all know a picture is worth a thousand words. However, it’s a real shame to work hard on putting your newsletter together only to have it get tripped up at the final hurdle: the wrath of your subscriber’s email client display settings. The sad truth is that some email clients (such as Outlook) block the display of images by default, leading the readers instead see a red X.
There are a few steps you can take to make the most of this situation:
- First, make sure to include an easily visible link at the top of your email for readers to view your email in their browser.
- Include alt text and make sure your email newsletter can be understood without images.
- Make sure your important CTA buttons are not images, but rather HTML buttons or text with a highlighted background (like “View Discussion” above).
- Provide alternative ways for the newsletter to be digested, like on your blog or social media pages.
Make sure your subscribers can quickly see the different ways to reach you: phone, email, address, and even social media. An unsubscribe link and physical address are actually legally required (see the Know the law section for more details). If you use an email marketing software like Mailify, a one-click unsubscribe link will be automatically inserted into your newsletter for you.
Include social media icons to add leverage and increase the reach of your message. Your readers will easily be able follow you on a social media site, simply by clicking on the link in your mail. Don’t forget the power of social sharing – letting users tweet or post your message easily is a great way to organically spread the word.
One way to make sure your branding remains consistent from your website to your email is to recreate a version of your website’s navigation in the newsletter. This gives readers an easy way to access select parts of your website, while helping them make a seamless transition from one to the other.
BONUS: AVOID THIS SPAMMY BEHAVIOR
- Anonymous “from” lines
- Excessive punctuation and $ characters $ in the subject line!!!!:)
- Buzz words like “free” “earn cash now” “make money online”
- YELLING IN ALL CAPS
- Do not use «cute» spellings, don’t S.P.A.C.E out your words, don’t put str@nge |etters 0r characters into your emails
Squeeze The Most Out Of Your Newsletters: Test
Every time you send an email newsletter campaign, it’s a great opportunity to see what works…and where you can improve. An A/B split test is when you take two randomly selected sample groups of your subscribers. The first receives the standard newsletter and the second receives a newsletter with a slight variation – all other elements of the email’s copy and layout are identical. That way you can see if the slight change gives better or worse results or has no effect.
For example, you might want to test 2 different subject lines to see which one draws the most engagement from your contact list. Mailify allows you to set the subject line for Group A and Group B, then determine what criteria you’ll use to determine the winner (opens, clicks, etc). Select how big you want your sample size to be (maybe 20% of your total list), and then how long you want to wait before you determine the winner (1 hour after test email, next day?). The software does the rest for you by calculating the scores and delivering your email to the winner.
Now you know that a certain type of subject lines gives you better results. Next time you can test something else, like perhaps the email design or the name you use as the sender. Each email newsletter is an opportunity to be better than the last.
In general, it is recommended that you use a minimum sample size of 100 recipients. The larger the sample groups, the more statistically reliable your data is. The people in these samples should be representative of the population of your list as a whole.
- From Line
- Subject Line
- CTAs (color, positioning, text, etc)
- Images and layout
- Message content
- Subscriber segments
- Time of day
- Day of the week
RENDERING: A DIFFERENT KIND OF TEST
Not all email clients were created equal. Your email is bound to look different depending on the program and devices being used by each recipient. An email newsletter service like Mailify will help you preview your email on multiple email services and devices to ensure each of your recipients feels the love.
Know The Law
We can all benefit from respecting our readers lives, so that newsletters are a professional and pleasant experience and not associated with spamming. Respect the rules and your subscribers will know that your newsletters are legitimate. Disrespect the legal requirements and you run the risk of fines as well as damaging your reputation. There are variations in what is required depending on where you’re sending from and who you’re sending to.
In the United States, the CAN SPAM Act of 2003 (updated 2008) regulates commercial email. From a broad perspective, the law requires:
- A legitimate header relevant to the content of the mail
- A valid “from” address
- A physical address and phone number for the publisher/advertiser
- A subject that accruately portrays the content of the email
- An unsubscribe/opt-out mechanism
- Unsubscribes must be processed within just a few days of receipt
- Unsolicited advertisements or adult content must be labeled as such
Know Your Results: Measure, Track, Adapt
By nature, email marketing and email newsletter campaigns provide marketers with a wealth of actionable statistics. It’s easy for us small business marketers juggling too many things to take these statistics for granted, never really diving into what they mean and how they can be improved. Metrics like unsubscribe rates, opens, clicks, and even social shares provide invaluable insights into the mindset of your readers.
Take care to compare your results over time, constantly make improvements, and squeeze the most out of every email marketing dollar.
Conclusion: Get Mailing
Having an email database with leads and customers is a fantastic marketing communication resource that cannot be ignored. Now that this guide has provided you with an overview of best practices regarding how to create email newsletters, the results are out there for the taking.
If you send the right message to the right people, you will engage your readers and improve your relationship…and your bottom line! With technology like responsive email newsletter software available, there is no excuse for not being able to engage your subscribers whenever, wherever.
Ready To Get Started Creating Email Newsletters?
Sign up for a free trial of Mailify to hit the ground running with your email marketing and email newsletter campaigns. With all inclusive access to features like automatically responsive email templates, A/B testing, inbox preview and live support, you’ll have everything you need to quickly and effectively start creating great email newsletters.