Newsletters are an effective, unobtrusive way to build a relationship with your subscribers. Salesforce’s blog reports that 82 percent of consumers open emails from companies.
Newsletter subscribers are also more likely to linger on a company’s website. Annemarie Dooling of Vox Media notes that their email subscribers spend an average of 110 seconds on their site, while their Facebook users only spend 40 seconds.
Newsletters don’t just build trust and credibility, though—they also drive sales. The National Client Email Report for the DMA UK and Email Hub suggests that email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.
In other words, your newsletter is one of your most powerful marketing tools. It’s worth fine-tuning.
Maybe the open rate for your bi-monthly newsletter has plateaued at 20 percent, and you need to break through to a higher rate. How do you do that? How can you make your newsletter stand out from the stream of newsletters your subscribers receive on a daily basis?
Innovate without totally disrupting what your readers have already come to expect from you. Gradually incorporating the following design and content suggestions into your newsletter will help ensure you get more activity from your subscribers.
1. Improve Your Subject Lines
Your subject line is the front door to your newsletter. Write a dull one, and you’ve basically locked the door. A subject line can intrigue your subscribers, resulting in a click. Just as easily, it can encourage them to keep scrolling for something more enticing. Try using some different approaches to write more effective subject lines.
Be slightly cryptic
A little elusiveness feels playful and piques subscribers’ curiosity. For example, if your company has just received an award for sustainability, lead with something like, “We’re Green, and They Like It.”
Pose an intriguing question
Ask a question that many of your subscribers need answered. For example, a youth sports league might ask, “How Should I Approach My Child After Losing a Game?” Any parent who has ever wondered this, or thinks they might encounter this situation, will want to hear what an expert has to say.
Stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and trends and reflect this in your subject line. Not only will it catch your subscribers’ attention, but it will also up your credibility as a cutting-edge business.
2. Tweak Your Design
Design choices can also make or break your newsletter engagement. If your subject line is the front door, your design is the first glimpse at what’s inside. Make it attractive and welcoming.
Even if your subscribers don’t realize it, the quality of your newsletter design gives them a lasting impression of your company. A poorly executed template screams inexperience. An on-trend, professional email template tells people that you’re relevant and that you’re serious about what you do.
If your newsletter doesn’t incorporate at least a couple of these design elements, it may be time to make some changes.
Does your template use four or more base colors? If so, it likely looks a little dated. You should be striving for a simple, toned-down design with prominently placed images, lots of white space, and no more than three base colors.
Your newsletter should also stay brand-consistent, so make sure your fonts and colors match your other marketing channels, both online and print.
Make it scannable
Can your readers quickly scan your newsletter to find the topics that interest them? Make sure your articles use subheadings that describe what’s in the section that follows. Keep paragraphs short, around two to three sentences. And whenever possible, break content into bullet points or numbered lists.
Pulling a key quote from an article and highlighting it in a side box can draw a reader’s interest. At the very least, you communicate the main point of the article to scanners who might choose not to read the whole thing.
Ensure you’re mobile-friendly
Today, more people than ever are using mobile phones to access their email, so you want to be sure your newsletter is mobile-friendly. The easiest way to do this is using an email management system that automatically creates a mobile-friendly version of your newsletter. As a precaution, always send a preview of your newsletter to your own phone for a quality check.
3. Chop It
Does your newsletter regularly include five or more articles? Does it require scrolling, scrolling, and then more scrolling? Here’s the hard truth: most readers won’t make it to article three. If you have important information in articles four and five, it’s not going to reach your audience.
Think of your newsletter as a showcase for one main article and 1-2 shorter ones. This will help you pick and choose what goes into your newsletter, instead of just dumping all of your company’s news and promotions. Whittle your content down to whatever appeals most to your audience.
4. Try Video
Embedding a short video in your newsletter is a great way to engage subscribers. A HubSpot study found that 54 percent of consumers say they want to see videos from marketers. If you do decide to include a video, be sure to give it a heading or brief description that summarizes what viewers will see.
In the fiction-writing world, a familiar adage is “show, don’t tell.” In other words, show the reader what the character is feeling through their expressions and behavior, rather than just saying the character is angry.
This advice works as an endorsement for including video in your newsletter. Showing your subscribers what you want to communicate is almost always better than relying on explanation alone. That’s because, according to Pearson Education, 65 percent of people are visual learners.
5. Go Interactive
An interactive email invites your subscribers to engage with your company through the newsletter’s content. There are plenty of ways to make your next newsletter interactive. Here are two of them:
Poll or survey
Including a survey in your email tells your reader that their opinions are important to you, while also producing helpful marketing data. A short, one-question survey with multiple choice answers is likely going to get the most feedback. If you’re asking readers to click a link that takes them to a five-question survey, you might need to incentivize the action. Try giving them a coupon, free giveaway, or contest entry for clicking through.
Infographics are already an engaging way to communicate data visually. An MIT study found that the human brain can process entire images from the eye in as little as 13 milliseconds. So, try taking it one step further and make your infographic interactive.
This encourages people to engage with your data and can provide more information than a static infographic. To create an interactive infographic, you will have to hand-code the interactive elements; but it’s worth the effort if it draws in more subscribers.
6. Change Your Shoes
When you sit down to write a newsletter, you probably start by asking, “What does my company want to say this week?” It’s natural for you to be focused on company messaging, but that’s not always what your audience is looking for.
Try following a different train of thought: “What would my readers like to know this week? What would be helpful to them?”
Stepping into your subscribers’ shoes can change your perspective. Let’s say you’re running a baby safety product line, and you want to lead your newsletter with an article about a new product promotion. Step back and put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes. What might parents of babies be struggling with? What questions would they have about the product? What if you wrote a thoughtful piece about baby-proofing the bathroom? Or an article reviewing the five safest car seats on the market?
Lead with relevant and insightful information, and then drop in a short ad for your promotion. You’ll engage more readers while also upping your credibility. The more you become a source of helpful information for your readers, the more they’ll think of your company as an expert in the field.
7. Survey and Segment
For your content to truly engage your audience, you’ll want to curate content for each member of that audience. This generally requires a survey that captures people’s interests, then forming mailing categories to cater to those specific interests.
Let’s say you’re a furniture company. You can send subscribers a survey asking what kind of information they want to see in the newsletter. You could broadly categorize your newsletter topics as “Company News,” “New Products,” and “Design Tips”—make sure readers can check more than one answer in the survey. Once you collect the feedback, categorize each person who answered your survey and send them the content they’re most likely to read.
Keep in mind, though, that curating content for different interests will create more work for you. You’ll have to write different versions of your newsletter—but if it significantly increases your open rates, the extra effort may be worth it.
You may have heard that the marketing world has turned away from newsletters, but studies show that there’s still much to gain by sticking with the medium. Conclusions from the DMA National Client Email Report show that regular newsletters are classed as the most effective way of delivering email content to achieve campaign objectives.
Know that you won’t be alone in using a newsletter as part of your marketing plan. According to HubSpot, 93 percent of B2B marketers use email to distribute content.
That’s why you’ve got to stand out. Try out the seven design and content suggestions above, and you’re guaranteed to see a difference in subscriber activity.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Liz McWhirter.