How to create a compelling email newsletter
Email marketing campaigns are one of the most effective ways to keep customers coming back to your website. Emails are also a cost-effective way to keep in closer contact with customers and build brand awareness and loyalty. There's a simple reason why - emails let you talk to your customers long after they have left your site and moved on to other things.
What follows is a selection of best practice ideas from email marketing veterans at companies of all sizes.
Create a Compelling Email Newsletter and Send it Regularly
Small businesses are using a variety of ideas to develop interesting, useful and fun email marketing campaigns. Many businesses lay out their emails as newsletters and market them as such. This format can give a friendlier feel and do a better job of building the customer relationship. Good newsletters feature any or all of the following:
Special offers and prices
Clever, unique information. This can transform your message from a simple sales pitch to a resource which your customers will find genuinely useful
Reasons to come back to your website. Tease customers with hints about new information on your site, using the email to entice them back
Advice about new products and services. Use the opportunity to get your reader excited about new developments
Personality. The more your company has a personality which comes alive in its emails, the more chance you have of clients buying in to your offer
There's plenty more excellent advice on structuring your newsletter here.
Market it Well
Too many businesses market their newsletters by saying nothing more than "join our email list." It's hard to imagine that thousands of people will sign up with so little to persuade them. Here are some of the tactics to encourage people to join your mailing list:
Tell your customers and prospects what valuable information or offers they'll get. It sounds ridiculously simple, but often businesses forget to set out their stall properly. You wouldn't sign up to a service without knowing what it entailed; newsletters are just the same.
Include links to prior newsletters. Consider putting links to old newsletters on your website so people can see what they'll be getting.
Give customers and prospects plenty of chances to join. Put invitations to join your email list all over your website. Make sure there is an invitation on the front page. When a customer has entered an email address for any other reason (e.g. placing an order), have a box allowing them to join your email newsletter with just one click.
Make it easy to join your list by limiting demographic questions. Each question you ask will reduce the number of people who sign up. It's a difficult trade-off because demographic information can help you target messages better. The ideal solution is to limit the number of questions you ask during the sign-up process, but follow up with questions in a later email once your readers are comfortable with the service. Many firms offer customers special rewards such as discounts for sharing their personal information. However, customising messages based on demographics requires a fairly sophisticated email list service, so you may want to keep the questions during the sign-up to a bare minimum to increase your list.
Sign people up offline. Have a place in your storefront or office where people can write their email address and join.
Welcome them with the most recent newsletter. Each time a new customer joins your list send a welcome email that includes the most recent newsletter. Most list management services can be set up to do this automatically.
To HTML Or Not to HTML?
Should you create your email newsletter as HTML or as plain text? Most list services allow you to send HTML messages, enabling you to add graphics and use multiple fonts, so it will look more like a professionally printed publication. The downside to HTML is that it can annoy customers and take forever to download, especially over slow modems; plus it can be time consuming to create an HTML newsletter.
But the upside is compelling. The visual possibilities with HTML can make newsletters more pleasing to the eye and much easier to scan. They can make you look more professional. The ideal solution is to offer both. Some email services can identify the customer's email program and send HTML or plain text messages accordingly. Alternatively, you can offer customers a choice. If you find it too time and resource intensive to offer both, start with text and graduate to HTML as your list expands.