How to create an email newsletter customers will love

Connect with customers and close sales with this highly effective tool

by Alice Bredin

Social media gets all the attention when it comes to marketing, but evidence suggests that email still gives social platforms a run for their money. A study from McKinsey & Company found that email is nearly 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook® and Twitter® combined. And more than three-quarters of consumers say they prefer email for receiving opt-in marketing messages, compared to just 6 percent who prefer social media, according to research from eTarget®Media.

A newsletter can be a good way to harness the power of email to strengthen engagement and close sales. Use these tips to launch a compelling email newsletter or to refresh an existing one.

Decide whether you need a newsletter

Though email newsletters can be a highly effective marketing tool, they are not for everyone. Before you start drafting content and scouring stock photo sites for the perfect image, take a moment to consider if your business could truly benefit from one. Think about your goals and how a newsletter might help you reach them. If you are hoping to increase foot traffic, for instance, could highlighting promotions or events in a newsletter help you advance that goal? Or, if you run a service business and are looking to increase sales, could including short case studies of satisfied customers be useful?

Equally important is to ask yourself whether you have the time and resources to produce an e-newsletter on an ongoing basis. While there is no hard and fast rule as to how often it should be sent, once or twice a month is a good frequency to shoot for, at least in the beginning. Start less frequently and build up as your time allows.

Focus on your audience

Though your email newsletter will be a promotional tool, it’s important to keep your readers front and center. Think about the kind of content they would want most from you. For an accounting firm, this might include tax planning tips or explanations of how certain business scenarios may impact taxes; for a gardening center, it might include answers to common gardening-related questions. Talking with your best customers may give you ideas. You could also include a note in your newsletters asking customers to let you know what they’d like to read about.

Creating a publishing calendar can be helpful for planning newsletter topics. Along with incorporating customer feedback, you might choose topics according to season or to align with upcoming initiatives or events.

Make it easy to read and digest

No matter the content or focus, you want your e-newsletter to be easy to consume for time-strapped readers. This typically means breaking content into short paragraphs with subheads that are easy to pick out as a reader scans the email. Bulleted or numbered lists are also helpful for presenting information. If there are places in which you’d like to provide more details, consider providing links to related content so that the newsletter stays short. Try to keep this practice to a minimum, though, to keep readers focused on your content.

Be mindful of mobile

According to a 2015 study by Yesmail, mobile click-to-open (CTO) rates have jumped by almost 30 percent since 2013, while desktop CTO rates have declined by 18 percent. This means your e-newsletter needs to be device agnostic. In other words, it should look as good on a smartphone or tablet as it does on a desktop. A few widely regarded best practices for mobile-friendly design include avoiding large images that require scrolling, shortening your subject lines, and including clickable links that allow readers to jump to different sections quickly. Test your newsletter on different kinds of mobile devices to be sure it looks good and is easy to interact with.

Measure, measure, measure

As with any other marketing effort, it’s critical to measure the success of your email newsletter. Platforms such as MailChimp, Constant Contact®, and AT&T Email Marketing include built-in analytics that can provide a wealth of insights. A few useful analytics are:

  • Clickthrough rate (CTR): Similar to online display ads, CTR implies engagement; a reader must actively click on a link to complete the action. Email CTRs vary by industry, but anywhere from 5 percent to 9 percent is typically considered good.
  • Bounce rate: An email bounce occurs when a message does not reach its intended recipient. While this can result from using invalid or outdated email addresses, it might also happen if an email is marked as spam. If your bounce rate is high, these tips may help you lower it.
  • Open rate: As its name implies, the open rate refers to the percentage of delivered emails that were actually opened. As people need only to open an email for it to count, this metric may be higher than your CTR. If it is significantly higher, consider making your newsletter content more actionable to increase your clicks.

Also consider other indicators of whether your e-newsletter is helping you reach your objectives. For example, if you’re hoping to increase foot traffic, take note of the number of in-store visitors you receive in the days following a newsletter push. You might also train your employees to ask customers what brought them to your business to see if you can correlate an increase in visits with your newsletter.