By Sharon A. M. MacLean
I’ve published well over 50 blogs this year and those about e-newsletters still hold a favoured position among followers.
Your e-newsletter continues to anchor the trifecta of the blog and landing page that drives traffic to your site. It’s true that e-newsletter open rates are dropping an average of 1 percent per year, but for now, emailed newsletters rein. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project http://www.pewresearch.org has yet to declare another tactic used more by all generations—from millennials (18 to 33) to elders (74+).
This week alone, I spoke with three clients who asked for a communications strategy that started with a newsletter, mostly because they wanted to stay in touch with their customers. They’re right to be concerned. The Chartered Institute of Marketing http://www.cim.co.uk advises, “There is no definitive answer to this question, but most sources say the answer is that it costs between 4 and 10 more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.”
The key here is to beware of attrition rates and the need to keep the sales funnel full.
The newsletter remains a beloved practice—business and organizations have been staying in touch with their clients and patrons for decades with this method.
Yet, we need to remember how reading habits have changed. At one time, I composed newsletters with an average of eight pages for customers and employees. Editorial meetings with department heads were held on a regular basis…reporter teams at branch offices were set up to feed copy into a central editorial location…editorial calendars were arranged to keep all of us on track…and still we scrambled to track down copy with photos from contributors who invariably missed their deadlines. The time and resources it took to write, edit and design, print, stuff envelopes and mail those newsletters was formidable.
Video shorts and podcasts add interest
Most people don’t want to read your e-newsletter that deeply anymore. They want to scan your e-newsletter and even watch a very short video or listen to a podcast; that’s it. So, the ability to restrain yourself from long explanations about your products or company policies is a waste of time. They also want stories to explain how your products improved their lives. Subscribers want to scan your content for calls-to-action or a news story; think e-bulletin.
Here are 9 best practices for your e-bulletin
- Keep your design simple. Make it a single column, and use black text on a white background for the body content. Resist patterns and graphics.
- Write about 500 to 600 words per item. If you need more than 500 words, link to an article on your website or a blog where subscribers can read more.
- Think about adding a 30-second video or podcast to capture attention since today we’ve got the technology to link media.
- Share. Design your social networking icons into the newsletter.
- Write as if to a friend. Your e-newsletter should use language that makes your subscribers think they are part of your company. It’s a good idea to have your e-newsletter arrive in customers’ in-boxes from a person rather than from a corporate entity. The days of “push” communications rather than “pull’ are over.
- Create a “Thank you for subscribing” email that pitches your website, blog, and social networks. Find an automated email system that allows you to create follow-up emails that are automatically sent to new subscribers. I’m excited to know that my own automated email system, Instant Customer, added a newsletter program to their myriad choices : for publishing content.
- Keep subject lines short and sweet. Years of research points to 60-characters or fewer for subject copy.
- Send one to three e-newsletters per month. If unsubscribers go above 0.5 percent, then lower your frequency.
- Mix up your release dates. Don’t always send your e-newsletter on Mondays at 10 am. Reading habits ebb and flow and your fans will create a library to read on their preferred schedule. Avoid becoming predictable.
Go ahead. Create a newsletter. It’s fun, too.