10 Rules to Create Drool-Worthy Email Newsletters

Q: Isn’t email marketing DEAD?

I get this question A LOT, because I tend to steer our customers away from social media, toward more traditional marketing methods that put them in the drivers’ seat. This includes email marketing! Yes, these days all of our Inboxes are flooded. But this does not mean that email marketing is dead.

My customers have great products, important information, valuable tips, and excellent deals for their customers. How can we get that information to our audience when they are most receptive to it? When done correctly, an email newsletter can be incredibly high ROI. It’s a relatively simple way to communicate with customers, drive traffic to your site, and increase conversions.

Here are our Top 10 Email Marketing Rules of the Road to help you get started.

1. Be Laser-Focused
The more targeted your email newsletter is, the better reception it’s likely to get. Rather than throwing everything but the kitchen sink into a newsletter, decide on a common topic or idea. Why are you sending this message now? Why to this list of people? Consider this before crafting your newsletter.

2. Have a Clear Value-Add
What is your email newsletter about, and what value does it provide to your list? Why should they spend any time at all reading it? The goals of your newsletter is to gain credibility by educating entertaining your audience. You won’t give away the secret sauce – that’s what people pay you for – but do provide insights they can’t get anywhere else. Give them interesting topics to bring up at the next cocktail party. Provide funny or entertaining content that could go viral. You also must put some time into selling your newsletter. Create a subscribe landing page with a thorough description of what your newsletter will contain, how often it will be sent, and what benefits it will provide. Include a link to a sample newsletter to entice people to subscribe.

3. Personalize It
Instead of blasting out the same content to everyone, create different buckets for existing customers, prospective customers and/or past customers. Identify their interests based on what they hired you to do, their business interest or something else. Then, personalize your content based on what you know about your customers, including such key factors as demographics, interests, buying history or behavior patterns.This is called “segmentation.” The quickest way to get people to hit the “unsubscribe” button is by sending irrelevant content.

4. It’s All About Them … But Ask for the Business
One of the first rules I learned as a fledgeling salesperson was to always clearly ask for a prospective customer’s business. People love to buy, but hate to be sold. In keeping with this, your email newsletter will hold your audience’s interest when it’s primarily about their needs, solving their pain, answering their questions or providing valuable information. But it’s OK and expected that you will promote your products and services, or “ask for the business,” somewhere within the newsletter. Otherwise, why send it? When they understand your clear position as a market-leader and industry expert, they will want to be asked for their business and will gladly buy from you when the time is right. If they see you as a charlatan, scammer or spammer, they won’t. So make sure the pitch doesn’t dominate the newsletter, and is contextualized. Instead of an email that’s all about selling a product (feels spammy and scammy), create an educational tidbit that naturally leads your audience to your solution. Then, include a Call to Action for your specific product or service.

5. Rock Your Subject Line
Q: How is the majority of my time spent doing email marketing for clients?

A: Brainstorming on the perfect subject line!

This might surprise you, especially if the subject line of your bi-monthly newsletter is “ABC Company’s Newsletter – April.” The bottom line is, you could spend hours crafting the perfect email. If it has a boring or unclear subject line, you’ve wasted that time because it will never be opened.

Can you be clear about what your email contains, convey what benefit it will provide and be personal, interesting, clever, funny and/or eye-catching in 50 characters or fewer? A study by Experian shows that emails with personalized subject lines are 29% more likely to be opened, so consider using a “First Name” field or other hyper-targeted wording based on your list’s segmentation. Avoid words and punctuation that could flag your email as spam, such as “free,” “act now,” “limited time,” and excessive exclamation points and dollar signs. It looks spammy, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

6. Simplify
Your email newsletter isn’t a self-contained experience like a novel, short story or film. You don’t want it to end there. It’s just the beginning, with your goal to get readers to go somewhere else: to your product page, to make a purchase, to a landing page on your website to learn more, even to forward your email and share the message, creating a hyper-targeted referral. So don’t spill the beans. Use concise copy that leaves them wanting more. Keep the design clean, uncluttered and easy to scan. And by God, get those clicks to your website.

7. Send Yourself a Test & Pull it Up On Your Phone
You’d be surprised at how many people create newsletters on a laptop or other device, and never double-check that their content is legible and functional on a variety of devices. Almost half of all emails are opened on smartphones, so make sure your email works for these users. “Optimized for mobile” sounds scary and complicated, but simply means your email should work on a phone. It should open easily, all the buttons should work and be the right size, and the content should be brief and in a readable font and size.

8. Analyze Your Results
If you’re using an email marketing system like MailChimp, Constant Contact or similar, you’ll have access to post-send metrics, which are great to help you dial in your approach and improve your results. For example, the email open rate tells you how effective your subject lines are, bounce rate is a reflection of the quality of your email subscriber list, and click rates measure engagement with your newsletter content.

9. Habituate It
I have email newsletters that I actually look forward to, even get excited about receiving. The Skimm hits my Inbox daily at around 6am ET. Marie Forleo sends me her latest episode of MarieTV every Tuesday around noon. Both of these newsletters provide content that I care about, that educates and entertains me, that’s fun and gets me thinking, even that I rely on. The best email newsletters are able to create this level of excitement for their audience. In combination with great content, I think the key is consistency, or creating a habit. Frequency, day of the week, and time of day all matter in setting expectations and creating drool-worthy email newsletters.

10. Trial & Error
Best practices like the ones I’ve covered here are a great place to start, but the only way to determine exactly what works for your customers is to use A/B testing, a fancy word for “trial and error.” Test everything you can think of—CTA placement, color, content, links vs. buttons, subject line length, content, tone, use of images, animation, video … #allthethings … but be sure you only test one element at a time for clear “yes” or “no” results.

Looking for great advice on your email marketing campaign? MarketIQ can help. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your campaign.

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