Your E-Newsletter: A How-To Guide

January 22, 2008 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

Boss: “Oh no! Traffic is down 20% on the website! Quick – send out a e-newsletter.”
Marketer: “But, sir. We just sent out one a 2 days ago.”
Boss: “You’re right! And there was a 40% click-through rate. So get to it!”

Sound familiar?Well, there are some simple rules for writing e-newsletters. Here they are, free-of-charge, in no particular order, except for the first one:

  1. Your e-newsletter costs resources.
  2. Never send a newsletter without a call-to-action.
  3. “The 9-second rule”
  4. Keep the number of links low.
  5. Match your website.
  6. Make your newsletter un-archivable.
  7. Text versus picture balance.

And it’s not a rule, but there is a #8…. the Frequency Quotient.

1. Your e-newsletter costs resources.

You may be saying to yourself, “Yes. It costs money to use a service like Constant Contact or JangoMail.” You are right, but I am talking about a more theoretical resource- it’s called Consumer Tolerance. The best example of someone not understanding Consumer Tolerance is GMC. Remember the baseball playoffs? Do the words “This is ourrrr countryyy….” send you into a blinding rage? If so, GMC has exhausted all of your Consumer Tolerance.

Your customer, if they are loyal and high-value, probably has signed up for your newsletter. This is a person who wants to hear from you every once in a while about what you’re going to offer them to keep them as a customer.

In order to keep this customer, you have to make your conversations with them high-value. (Make no bones about it, your newsletter is part of a larger conversation – ever talk to someone who never gets to the point? Do you want to keep talking to them?)

When you do a good job and keep the conversation progressing, you have earned additional Consumer Tolerance points. Your customer may be more apt to tolerate a screw-up. If you do a bad job with no real advances in the conversation, you’ve lost Consumer Tolerance points. Your customer may be more apt to not tolerate a screw up.

If you remember no other rule besides this one, you’ll be ok.


2. Never send a newsletter without a call to action.

Here’s an example of a newsletter without a good call to action.

marketingprof

What is this newsletter asking me to do? Sign up for a service? Go to the website? With so many things being said, nothing is effectively communicated.

Compare those calls-to-action with this one from Fender:

fender

In this newsletter, Fender has used pictures and clear text in order to get the message across.

With a quick glance at the e-mail, the user can decide quickly whether or not to participate in the “discussion.”

3. The 9-Second Rule

For the record, I do not have any empirical data on the 9-Second Rule; however, I do know that people are getting better at filtering out internet noise (ads, spam, etc).

At the very least, an e-newsletter must be targeted, clear, concise, and, most of all – sticky (definition from Chip Heath: “simple, unexpected, concrete… and more.” Video explanation.)

If the user’s eyes aren’t drawn to the e-mail immediately, you’ve already lost them. This includes making the “From” address recognizable, and the title clear.

4. Keep the number of links low.

Before you’ve even written a word, you already have between 2 and 5 links on your email:

  1. Link for the privacy policy.
  2. Link to unsubscribe.
  3. Link to remind you to add newsletter@youraddress.com to the address book.
  4. Link to the homepage.
  5. Link to forward the email to a friend.

You, as a marketer, should be living in a world of ROI. This means that you want to know exactly how much return you are receiving on your e-newsletter investment. Are people going to where you want them to go?

You do NOT want to give your audience so many options that they choose none. Send them through one (or two) channels and trust the market to take care of itself.

Yes, this is directly related to your call-to-action.

5. Match your Website

You spent a lot of time (and money) making sure that your CSS file optimized your site, and that your tabs load correctly, and that your pictures are compelling… and then you send out an email that looks nothing like your website??

Why??

There better be a good reason because when your audience opens your email, they expect it to look at least a little like you.

This is one of those rules where you can’t gain anything from following it, but you can lose a lot by not following it.

Take these two comparisons from Open Table and Site Meter.

Newsletter:
opentable

Website:
opentablesite

Newsletter:
sitemeter

Website:
sitemetersite

6. Make your newsletter un-archivable.

Coupons and exclusive newsletter-only offers are the best way to do this. Parroting your existing content is the worst.

Your newsletter readers are special – treat them that way.

7. Text versus pictures balance.

No one has time to read your 1,000 word dissertation, ESPN.

Use a balance of pictures and text to achieve your goal. Some Outlook users will never download those fancy pictures your embedded in your email, some will.

Understand how your audience uses your newsletter and adjust accordingly.

espn

The Not a Rule – – 8. The Frequency Quotient

This is a formula equal to the number of newsletters times quality of conversation.

Audience Strength = Newsletters*Quality of Conversation

If you find yourself interacting with your audience, you are on the right path. If you find that the conversation is one-way, you probably should slow down and reconsider your message. There is no formula for determining how many emails you can send out. I simply use the old adage, “less is more.”

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