5 tips to improve your e-newsletter

The story is the same: a group of people sitting around a table, wondering how to stay fresh in the mind of their target audience, while engaging them in a new way- and simultaneously, reaching out to new prospects. The answer? An email newsletter, of course!

What usually fails to be mentioned in this brainstorming session is that e-newsletters are increasingly common. Dozens often end up unread or in the “junk” folder. But done right, an e-newsletter can have a return-on-investment of 4,300 percent. This is significantly above any number typically achieved with social media. Sound tempting? Although this isn’t an extensive list, here are a few tips to help increase your chances of landing in an inbox, rather than a junk box.

1. Evaluate

If an e-newsletter isn’t right for your marketing, don’t waste your time on one.

This is easier said than done. But examine your audience; who are they? What else are they reading? How do you currently reaching them? Will an e-newsletter help reach them? Then research- what are others in your industry doing? Can you compete? Can you offer something different?

And then turn that microscope on your organization. Does an e-newsletter work with where your organization currently is? Do you have the resources to invest in an e-newsletter? Does this method of communication align with your organizational goals?

Hopefully, answering these questions will not only tell you if an e-newsletter makes sense for your business, but also, what the goals of the medium will be (hooray for benchmarks!) and a sense of the content required.

2. The content is never just about you

Thanks to numerous privacy and spam-related legislation, a lot of your e-newsletter subscribers will likely have some sort of awareness of you when that first email lands in their inbox (or junk folder). But let’s try to turn that awareness into something that resembles love.

Ditch the self-promotion- for the most part. If all you’re doing is peddling your latest wares without context or trying to build a relationship with those who have trusted you with their email address, chances are, they’ll tune out fairly quickly. Instead, create that context. Add blog posts, photos, tips, how-tos, industry news, reviews, upcoming events- anything is timely, relevant and adds value. Take your audience to the next level with information that allows them to be champions for you- rather than you marketing to them. That aside, when you have big news, or something exciting to share, do it.

3. Make it easy to opt-in AND out.

When you have a newsletter, let the world know. Most web-based platforms (MailChimp, Constant Contact) allow integration into social media so that you can post your newsletters and have potential subscribers sign up from their chosen platform. You can also add an e-newsletter signup to the front page of your website- most web-based platforms will provide widgets, plugins or code so it’s easy to integrate and (hopefully) make it easy for potential subscribers to get on your list.

If it’s easy to opt-in, make it just as easy to opt-out. The harder it is for someone to unsubscribe, the easier it is for them to just label your e-newsletter as “junk” or “spam.” While this may not seem like a big deal, having emails sit in a spam box can cause difficulties for future e-newsletter deliveries, as well as impact your open and click-through rates.

4. TEST TEST TEST

Once you’ve created your masterpiece, don’t just send it out. First, send a test email to yourself (and better yet, one or two others) with a critical eye. This is where all the great content you’ve written really matters. Is the layout, colour scheme, picture size(s), etc. correct? Check it in different browsers, different sized monitors- does it work across multiple platforms? Do all the links work? Most importantly, did you proofread the content?

Once you’ve proofread and edited your masterpiece, put measures in place to track your success and test analytics. Most platforms will allow you to experiment with different subject lines, sending times and more to make sure that you are reaching the greatest number of subscribers with your material. Other analytics (such as open or click-through rates) can be checked after the email is sent to verify if your theories are correct.

5. Subject line

First impressions count, and a good subject line can be the difference between an open email, and one that’s discarded. Many marketers will try to increase familiarity by maintaining a consistent subject line from day to day, or week to week, or whatever their determined consistency is.

While this is one approach, it’s easy to argue that these subject lines get old. If an email is (or at least, appears to be) the same, or similar each time you receive it, then what’s the rush to open it? And if you’re sending out your e-newsletter, you want it read, and read fast; which is what makes it so important to have a compelling, creative subject line each and every time you send an email. And if you want to test out a few ideas or formats- go ahead! That’s what testing within many of those email programs are for.

Dawn Cattapan

Dawn Cattapan is an arts administrator, active yogi and the interim Director, Orchestra Operations & Tours for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Passionate about the power of the arts to transform communities and bring people together, she’s held roles with the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, City of Toronto, The National Ballet of Canada and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She can be followed on Twitter @dcattapan.

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