It’s safe to say you are likely subscribed to a variety of email lists from clothing stores and media outlets to professional associations and other companies you do business with. Email marketing is among the most cost-effective and trackable tactics that business owners can utilize, thanks to the fact that most of us are glued to mobile devices and email 24/7.
Think about which newsletters you open and read regularly. What do you like about them? Is the content tailored well to your interests, and does the brand consistently send information that is relevant to you? You can incorporate those strategies into a newsletter for your company.
An effective company newsletter accomplishes the following:
- Creates a consistent touchpoint with clients, prospects and other target audiences
- Keeps your company top of mind at strategic points in time
- Provides a platform for educating and entertaining your target audience about your products and services, people, industry and operations
Where do you start when creating a newsletter? Focus on the format, content, frequency, list quality and measurement.
A quick and effective format begins with a newsletter title and a short intro about what the reader will learn, followed by a series of short headlines with briefs that encourage readers to click through to your website for more detailed information. This setup is designed to be easy to skim on any size of device. The last thing you want are lengthy articles that will likely lead someone to hit the delete button since most of us are pressed for time.
You can use a variety of programs to create a newsletter template that looks professional and aligns with your company’s branding. MailChimp offers a free version of its service for your first 2,000 email contacts. These services also provide basic analytics to help you track the success of your newsletters.
Newsletter content should include a balance of educational content, business development content and company news. In some cases, you may want to entertain your readers as well. It’s important to lead with education or entertainment, and to “sell” your product or services as a secondary goal or call to action.
Copy should include a clear directive for the reader. For instance, you can encourage readers to “read more about XYZ” or “sign up for this special event.” The more specific the action, the better. This text should link to your website or a custom landing page.
Great newsletter content will be for naught if your email subject line doesn’t encourage the reader to open your emails. Your subject line should be short, actionable and descriptive of the type of information the reader will receive.
The frequency of your newsletter distribution depends on the amount of relevant content you have to share. One month you may have a new product or service launch, a notable business partnership and a few blog posts to share, while another month may be quieter in terms of company news and content. That’s ok—it’s better to hold off on sending a newsletter until you’re sure you can provide your contacts with information they will find useful.
As you send more newsletters, you may need to adjust your frequency based on analytics and subscriber feedback, such as open rates, unsubscribe rates, clicks and website traffic.
Email List Quality
When it comes to your email list, quality wins over quantity. You want the people who receive and engage with your newsletter to have the potential to convert into long-term customers. It’s almost never a good idea to purchase a list. Purchased lists are typically outdated, untargeted and do not follow “opt-in” best practices. They can lead to a large amount of unsubscribes, which could ultimately blacklist you from your email marketing provider. In fact, many providers ban paid lists in their terms and conditions.
While it can be a slow process, it’s far more effective to grow lists organically. Make an effort to keep track of all customers, prospects and professional contacts in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software so your email lists are always up to date and include people your company already engages with.
After sending your newsletter, it’s important to track analytics to determine performance and to help you shape your newsletter strategy going forward. You should monitor email opens, clicks (including which links received the most and least clicks), bounces and unsubscribes for each email you send.
About one week after sending a newsletter, pull a report that shows this data. Is it an improvement upon your last newsletter? Which content received the most engagement? Can you increase that type of content for your next newsletter?
You should also compare your newsletter performance to industry averages to see how your efforts stack up. You can find a list of average analytics for a variety of industries on MailChimp’s website.
Keep in mind that open rates, click rates and other data for email campaigns may seem extremely low—the average open rate for MailChimp’s list of industries hovers between 15 percent and 25 percent, and click rates between 1.25 percent and 5 percent.
As you finesse your newsletter over time, you may find that adjusting different variables works better for your specific brand. It’s important to regularly test tactics that could increase engagement, which could be anything from adding more images and reducing copy to changing up the subject line or reducing the frequency of sends. The brands you subscribe to didn’t become successful in email marketing by sitting idly by, and neither should you!
Image courtesy of joethefarmer.com