When you hear the word “newsletter,” what do you think of?
I bet you picture a weekly or monthly pamphlet full of relatively humdrum articles about the goings-on within an organization. Sure, they sometimes contain some interesting information that’s pertinent to you (the customer), but for the most part they don’t really add much to your overall experience or relationship with the company in question.
In that sense: Yes, the newsletter is dead.
Back when email was still a novelty (you know, back when hearing “You’ve got mail!” was actually cause for excitement), companies could essentially deliver anything to their customers’ inboxes and all but guarantee these messages would be opened. Those days are long gone. Nowadays, a mediocre newsletter is either going to be ignored, deleted, or immediately sent to your customers’ spam folders. So, a more accurate statement would be: Newsletters aren’t dead, but your chances of profiting off of a poorly-made one certainly are.
On the other hand, an exemplary newsletter can do wonders for your company in terms of increasing engagement among your customers and keeping them connected to your brand.
In this article, we’re going to discuss everything that goes into creating an intriguing, engaging, and effective newsletter. Along the way, we’ll provide examples from the companies that have not just kept the email newsletter alive – but allowed it to thrive.
A Quick Look at Some Stats
Though we here at PostFunnel have never steered you wrong, we understand if you need a bit more proof that focusing on developing your newsletter is actually worth while.
So here ya go:
- According to the Content Marketing Institute, over 80% of marketers utilized newsletters to deliver content to customers in 2016. The whole “newsletters are dead” thing just isn’t true; four of every five marketers out there use them.
- DreamGrow found that 77% of consumers prefer to receive promotional content via email (as opposed to social media and other methods).
- According to Pardot, in 2015, 60% of marketers agreed that email is a “critical enabler of products and services” – up from only 42% in 2014. It seems a decent amount of marketers have come to their senses in recent years!
All this being said this is all assuming your newsletters offer highly engaging and valuable content to your audience.
5 Steps to Creating a High-Quality Newsletter
You can’t just throw together a newsletter, ship it out to your audience in a massive email burst, and expect to see positive results.Your creation and delivery needs to be strategic and methodical if you want to even have a chance of getting eyes on your new content. So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to make this happen.
#1 Provide Value
Above all else, your newsletter absolutely needs to be of some value to your audience. While this might sound pretty obvious in theory, it might not be so in practice. When you think of the “dead” newsletter, you’re probably thinking of the ones that include weekly updates about goings-on within a company, reiterations of previously-mentioned news, and other superfluous information that, quite frankly, doesn’t matter much to the audience in question.
What we’re getting at here is:
Don’t just send a newsletter just to send a newsletter.
Have a major announcement regarding a sale, a change in services being offered, a fun community event, or something else that directly affects your customers? By all means, let them know. Changing internal processes? Made a bunch of new hires? Generated a huge profit over the last quarter? Yea…your customers probably don’t care. These things might be worth a small mention in addition to the above announcements, but they don’t warrant the sending of a newsletter.
Another thing to consider here is how often you send your newsletter. As we alluded to above, sending a weekly newsletter is pointless if the news is the same from week to week. The content you deliver should dictate the frequency of your newsletter – not vice-versa. While you should determine a delivery schedule, you shouldn’t feel the need to stick to this schedule if it means sending out subpar newsletters.
Take a look at this newsletter from Storq, a retail company that provides maternity-related products:
Whether created in-house or curated from third-party companies, the content delivered by Storq’s newsletter would clearly be of value to any expectant mother both at the current moment and as they begin their journey into parenthood.
The takeaway here is:
Your newsletter isn’t about you; it’s about your audience. If they can’t find value in it, you might as well have not created it in the first place.
#2 Be Intentional
You should always have a reason for delivering your newsletter in the first place.
(And, remember: This reason shouldn’t be “It’s Tuesday. We send a newsletter every Tuesday.”)
Now, while your main goal is to deliver content that your audience will find interesting and valuable, you also want to ensure that your company gets something out of the engagement, as well. Obviously, if your newsletter includes coupons or other discounted offers, your goal is to get people to take advantage of the offers (i.e. to buy your products). But, even if the newsletter simply includes educational or informational content, you still want to ensure your readers end up clicking through to your actual website.
In the above example from Callaway, we see a mixture of newsworthy content from the world of golf, as well as profiles of the clubs used by hugely successful golf pros. In the middle of everything (right near the fold), there’s a call-to-action asking readers to click over to Callaway’s full website. While most of the people who click over to the actual site will most likely finish reading the story and move on, the chances of some of them ending up on Callaway’s product page is much higher than if the newsletter didn’t include the CTA smack dab in the middle of the page. One thing to keep in mind:
Your newsletter should rarely (if ever) focus solely on hard sales.
You can certainly announce upcoming sales and offers to your customers via your newsletter, but this should be secondary to providing value to them.
#3 Be Concise and Focus on Design
Check out the following newsletter from email marketing company Litmus:
A single headline and paragraph. A two-minute video. Three calls-to-action (each of which are quite unobtrusive).The people at Litmus clearly know their readers are busy and have better things to do than wade through endless blocks of text while trying to figure out what this newsletter is all about. Additionally, the design isn’t overwhelming – nor is it underwhelming (so I guess it’s “whelming”? It provides the necessary information in a logical and seamless manner, presented with the perfect amount of whitespace to keep the reader focused on the center of the page.
Your newsletter should be straight and to the point.
If someone wants to learn more, they can easily click through to your full webpage. But, if they don’t have the time to do so, you at least want to ensure they get everything they possibly can out of your newsletter with a single glance at their screen.
#4 Provide Delivery Options
In the interest of providing relevant and valuable content to your readers, you should provide them with options regarding the frequency of delivery and the content included in your newsletters.
Regarding timing, some of your readers might want to receive weekly correspondences from your company – but others might find such frequent engagement bothersome, and opt to only receive communications from your organization on a monthly basis. Regarding content, some of your customers might actually want to receive nothing but announcements about sales and offers, while some might favor educational in-house and curated content. Still others might prefer a mixture of the two. In either case, you eventually want to consider the needs of specific customer segments within your overall customer base when creating and delivering your newsletters.
For an example of the effectiveness of providing options to those who receive your newsletters, check out this story on how the people at the New York Times made it happen. Now, this will take a bit more effort on your end – and it might not be quite as feasible for smaller companies with a limited budget (I’m assuming your company isn’t as huge as the New York Times…yet, at least!). But it’s certainly something to consider as your company grows, and as you move forward in your content creation initiatives.
Speaking of making improvements…
#5 Measure Effectiveness and Make Improvements
As with all marketing campaigns, there are a ton of metrics to keep track of how effective your newsletters are in terms of increasing engagement and bringing in return customers.
Let’s quickly run through some of the most important metrics to consider:
- Open Rate: The ratio of people who opened your newsletter compared to the total number of people you delivered it to
- Click-Throughs and Click-Through Rate: The number of people who took the action you intended for them to take, and the ratio of these individuals to those who opened your newsletter in the first place
- Conversions and Conversion Rate: The number of people who went a step further and completed the subsequent intended action on the following page, and the ratio of such compared to those who clicked through (Ex: After clicking on your newsletter’s CTA, your reader is brought to a product page. Did they make a purchase, or did they bounce from the page?)
- List Growth: The amount your list has grown compared to a previous point in time, expressed as a percentage (Ex: If you had 100 subscribers at the beginning of a month, and 125 at the end, your list has grown by 25%). In order to sustain your mailing list, you generally want your list to grow by at least 25% every year.
- Unsubscribe and Spam Report Rates: Your unsubscribe rate explains what percentage of your readers have decided not to receive your newsletter any longer, and your spam report rate refers to the percentage of your readers who have actively reported your correspondence as spam
Aside from this quantitative data, you can also send surveys to your newsletter subscribers from time to time to gauge their interest in receiving correspondences, as well as to see what type of content they find most valuable.
Depending on what these metrics show, you might decide to make changes to your newsletter to increase audience engagement and improve the effectiveness of your campaigns. In doing so, you’d want to consider tweaking your newsletter’s:
- Subject lines
- Copy (both quality and quantity)
You also might want to look at your delivery schedule – both in terms of frequency of deliver, and timing. You may find that your newsletter generates more engagement when delivered at, for example, 8:00am on Monday as opposed to 12:30pm on Friday, and in turn decide to schedule deliver for Monday morning.
When making these changes, it’s important only make one change at a time, and allow time to pass before reassessing.
Once you begin to see changes in performance – either positive or negative – it will be much easier to say with relative certainty that the tweak you made is the reason for such a change.
One last thing to consider is using A/B testing: sending different versions of your newsletter to different individuals within the same customer segment. Again, this will help you determine which is the best course of action moving forward (as you’ll likely see more engagement with one version of your content than the other).
In any case, you should always be hunting for ways to improve the content of your newsletter. Remember: the reason the kneejerk reaction to the word newsletter is usually a sigh or a groan is because the modern consumer is used to receiving newsletters that…well…stink. The good side of this, of course, is that by delivering a newsletter that’s full of value to your customers, you’ll almost surely stand out above the sea of mediocre content they’re used to receiving.
Just make sure you stay afloat.