You can’t land on a site without the offer to subscribe to some kind of newsletter-and with good reason: newsletters can be a great source of product sales revenue and traffic, not to mention a great way to keep in touch with the community gathered around a particular topic, lifestyle or product. But no matter whether a small or large company, or a blogger, there are 3 key aspects to all successful newsletters that help maximize traffic and profits, and keep readers entertained, interested, and willing to open the next newsletter sent to them-instead of that pesky “spam” button.
Content: Know Your Audience and Know What Newsletters are For
It is surprising the number of newsletters out there on the Net that do not speak directly to their readers in a way that is personalized and relevant. Some masquerade as interesting content upon signup but land in the inbox resembling one big advertisement to buy products that a reader may not be interested in. Others have great headlines and teasers to get a reader to click into a landing page, but have nothing compelling to offer once there. The worst offenders suffer from a marketing efficiency practice that lumps newsletter content into “lifecycle marketing” that is tied to a particular product or subscription, so serial repeat customers will get the same content over and over again, which, ironically, tanks retention.
When used effectively, newsletters are a great tool to engage readers and potential customers into a long-term relationship, and in many cases, prompt community participation. However, when used ineffectively, they can become a one-way ticket to the spam box, putting you in the black with ISPs who ultimately control your deliverability and weakening a site or product’s brand.
Here are some best practices to get in touch-and stay in touch-with the reading audience:
- Ensure continuity in content style and tone-the same messaging that prompts a reader to subscribe should be similar to what is received in the inbox.
- Make sure the landing page content is as compelling as the teaser that leads a reader in. There’s nothing more damaging to your brand perception than a reader clicking into a landing page, only to be disappointed by what is there.
- Ditch the lifecycle notion in favor of a constantly refreshed content model to build reader loyalty based on quality, current content. Experiment instead with segmentation (sending different versions to different types of readers so that the content will be targeted more precisely to the reader needs)
- Test your content to determine what is compelling to your readers. Do your readers prefer short and sweet or longer and more involved? Do they prefer a more flippant or young tone, or is it the voice of an older expert that they seek? Conversational style, or traditional authoritarian-or a mixture? When in doubt, you can also ask for feedback directly in a survey or on the site.
- Study the best in class competitors in your same market-what appears to be working for them? What do you like about their newsletters?
Design: Look and Feel is Equally Important to the Content
The most compelling and relevant content in the world can look like spam or unprofessional tripe, unfortunately, so keep an eye on design. For the smaller business, consider hiring a designer. For the larger business, make sure that the design is “fresh” without straying too far from your branding. The design should be eye-pleasing on a first glance, inviting the reader in, and should complement the copy.
Here are some design best practices:
- Color theory and placement rules apply-choose pleasing, complementary tones, images and fonts that are easy to read on screen, and yet are still well designed enough to look of professional quality. Make sure the fonts are uniform.
- Photos and other graphics should complement the copy, not compete with it. (Note: Be sure that you have adequate licensing to use the photo.
- Hyperlink both photos and titles to relevant landing pages for easy access to the heart of the content. A newsletter is not the main dish-it’s an appetizer.
- Be aware of design dimensions and code that are viewable in multiple browsers and on mobile devices. A rule of thumb is to stay in the 600-636 pixel range for width.
- Display your logo at the top of the newsletter; it should complement your site or product branding; a newsletter, just like a mail piece, is a direct extension of your company-every point of contact with a reader or customer/potential customer matters.
Frequency: How Often is Too Much?
Daily e-mails from the same company or site can be a drag on a reader. Not only do e-mails clutter the inbox enough to fire up that itchy-trigger spammer-finger just to clear the way to more relevant mail, but it can make your site appear desperate and salesy. But unlike straight promotional e-mail, newsletters carrying compelling content have the power to stay in the inbox for well beyond the usual time before hitting the trash.
- A good rule of thumb is no more than once per week for a newsletter format.
- An unsubscribe option is an absolute must. Beyond that allow an opt-in and opt-out feature at the time of signup and unsubscribing that allows a reader to specify how often he or she would like to receive your newsletter. At this review, the right format for writing of the article will be provided. Along with the positive reviews, feedback should also be made available to the person for in and out feature.
- Regularity coupled with an inoffensive frequency builds relationships with readers. The best practice is to send on a particular day of the week, say Mondays, or to time it with a regular date on the calendar, say the first of the month. Over time, a reader comes to expect your newsletter to arrive and will be more inclined to open it and interact with its content.