How to Get More out of Email Newsletters

holiday email newslettersWelcome! We’re in the midst of the holiday season. That means the time to get those email newsletters out and into the inboxes of your customers is NOW. But before you hit “send” on that email marketing campaign, take a quick look at the recommendations below to make sure you’re getting the absolute most out of it. You may remember that yesterday our friend TJ McCue broke down 30 useful email marketing apps, now it’s time to worry about how to write them.

Here are 6 things to consider and watch out for:

Be Intimate: One reason email marketing is a great sales tool is because it allows business owners to connect with customers on a more personal level. Because people have opted-in, you already know they want hear from you and learn more about what you’re about. Use the opportunity to start a worthwhile conversation with them. Talk in the first person instead of a cold third. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your company so they feel more connected to it. Share information that you’re not putting on the site. The more “special” and “insider” you can make the newsletter feel, the better the response you’ll see. If you’ve ever read one of Chris Brogan’s newsletters, you know the great lengths he goes to create that close-knit community vibe. His emails are written like a letter to a friend and its helped his audience to really connect with them.

Make sure it’s readable: I know, goes without saying, right? You’d think. But how many newsletters have you attempted to read where there was dark text on a dark background? Or where half an article was cut off due to bad formatting? Or maybe they have the text too tightly scrunched together that no one out of high school has the eye sight to read it? Maybe the email just stretches on and on for pages and pages with no end? Before you actually send out your newsletter, shoot yourself a test copy to make sure it’s readable, that everything is in its proper place, that there are images to break up all the text, and that it’s something you’d want to see in your inbox if you were the customer. It’s one small, but very important step.

Pay attention to branding: Whatever email app you decide to use, make sure it leaves you with plenty of opportunities for branding and customization. You want people to know exactly who the email is from the moment they open it. That means your logo should be prominent, the colors and overall feel should reflect your site and your contact information should be easy to find. The more recognizable your email newsletter, the more trust a customer is going to place in it. It will seem less like marketing and more like information from a friend that they already know and remember. If you’ve ever seen Yelp’s newsletters, they do an excellent job with branding.

Be consistent: Whether you’re opting for a monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly newsletter, make sure you stick to a consistent publishing date so that people know when they’re coming. Your readers should know when to expect your next issue and be waiting for it. This may mean experimenting a bit to determine the frequency that your community prefers. Once a month may not be often but once a week may be too overwhelming or hard for them to keep up with. Some simple testing should help you find your community’s sweet spot. Whatever you decide on, stick with it.

Create an engaging subject line: You will live and die by your email subject line. That, along with your brand name, is what will determine whether or not someone opens your email and even sees the information you’ve put together. The goal of subject line is to grab your readers’ attention, get them to open the email, and to set the promise for what the rest of the newsletter will be about. If you need help writing engaging subject lines Copyblogger, Problogger and even my own company, Outspoken Media, may be able to help. The links posted mostly deal with blog titles specifically, but the general purpose and tips are the same.

Look professional: The little things add up. If you can’t spell ‘entrepreneur’ then I probably won’t trust your newsletter article on how to be a good one. If you send your newsletter out with bad links, then I wonder how much attention you’d really pay to me as a customer. Your newsletter doesn’t have to be super fancy, in fact, sometimes it’s the simplest newsletters that make the greatest impact. However, it doesn’t have to show that you care enough about your customers to make sure all the little things like grammar, typos, formatting, links and images are all properly in place.

Those are my six tips. Anything I missed?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

14 Reactions
  1. Lisa rocks! Not just because she shared my post and twitter handle, but because she thinks about the small biz owner reader. Here at SmallBizTrends, that’s the driving question – what helps the small biz owner grow their business. My list post about the email marketing apps you should look at doesn’t give the why, the how that you need and Lisa stepped in to fill the gap. Thank you, Lisa.

    In my projects, I point to some of the same resources and completely agree with her six points. I work on email messaging daily and use MarketingSherpa’s terrific reports for guidance, too. They are not inexpensive, but they give a plethora of tips. We link to the exec summary of the 2010 Email report. Worth scanning, for sure.

  2. Sending a test email before sending to the whole list is great advice. I’ve received plenty of unreadable emails in my day and have caught numerous errors in my own test emails. And I would also recommend sending test emails to a couple different email clients, say one to Gmail and one to Outlook so that you catch formatting issues that may only be showing in one.

  3. These are fine suggestions for how to write a newsletter. Also consider the goal: driving traffic and making a sale. Here are my suggestions:

  4. Excellent post along with @TJMcCue’s list of email apps. I agree with your suggestions and ideas, and will be sending my clients to ready your post; you’ve put it all here in a nutshell.

    One other tip, for those who are also involved in social media, especially solopreneurs. Consider including links to your various social networking profiles, to allow your newsletter readers to contact you, or find out more about you, wherever They hang out. Or at least include links to those sites you use for business. This might not work for some businesses, but one of my clients uses for his newsletter. When I check the reports, it is interesting How many people click on those links, not just to the website, blog and cool article links in the newsletter.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    I love your articles. You shoot from the hip. I am intimate with that style.

    Anyway, I am going to disagree with something you said;

    “Make sure you stick to a consistent publishing date so that people know when they’re coming.”

    I think that eNewsletters should come out monthly, but not at the exact same time. I do mine “around” the same time, sometimes even a week or so earlier or later.

    I feel that as long as it’s delivered “monthly” as I have promised to my opt-in subscribers, it’s ok.

    The Franchise King

  6. Robert: I agree with your tip on sending a test email to yourself first. How about mix it up and add some splash with e.g. a link to a video message?

    Anita: Are you planning to start sending out a small biz newsletter in the future?

    Lisa: Thanks for the tip regarding helping us with headlines and stuff that grab our attention.

    Have you an idea how much people are reading newsletter nowadays? What’s a good open / click rate percentage of your newsletter? How often should you send out a newsletter? (When you have news to provide…)

    • Hi Martin, we send out a couple newsletters right now. One is for The other goes out to our radio show list from Amanda is the Newsletter Editor and does a great job with them. 🙂

      – Anita

  7. I would also encourage people to do a little research into the best times to send an email. Quite often, after lunch gets a higher click through rate than first thing in the morning.

  8. Thanks for the tips Lisa.
    They’re always incredibly useful.
    I do have a question about how a newsletter and a blog can work together.
    In reading your six points they could equally apply to a blog as well as a newsletter.
    One of the issues that we have at the moment is getting people back to our site to read our blog so we have found that if we take the best of the blogs posts and include them back in the newsletter it brings people back to oue site and then they often stay and read a few more of the blogs posts.
    I know that if someone is regularly reading the blog then it may become a problem but at this early stage of our development it seems to make sense to do it.
    This seems to violate the point about making sure the newsletter has fresh content that is not included on the site.
    Is it wrong then to do this?

  9. Thank you Lisa! At my age, reminders are very helpful and this page is bookmarked.

    Happy Holidays to All

  10. Great tips, we send tons of emails throughout the year and your article is spot on! Thanks!

  11. I need information.