When we’re trying to reach our audiences with a connection they’ve opted in for, we’re competing with loads of advertisement emails, bills, notifications – the works.
How can we make sure we’re giving our audiences a newsletter they look forward to?
Before we get too far down this path, let’s define what we mean by an email “newsletter.” A newsletter is a regularly-scheduled publication, distributed to an opted-in audience, and targets those audiences with content they’re interested in reading about. After all, they opted in somewhere. A newsletter is not specifically a marketing email — the short kind with one big call to action button — although it will accomplish some marketing goals.
Newsletters keep open lines of communications with our audiences, and provide them value. More practically, they offer a way to ask things of our audiences. Whether your primary call to action is to donate, to follow on Twitter, or to contribute in some other way, a newsletter is a great avenue.
Let’s explore some time-tested best practices for making an organizational newsletter that people want to read, and then see what they look like in action with some real-world examples.
How to Blow Your Newsletter Audience’s Mind
It’s easy to say, “keep your emails clear and interesting to your readers,” but we can do better. Here are 10 concrete ways to ensure your next newsletter is an affair to remember.
1. Ask this question.
If I were unaffiliated with my organization, what would I like to see from them? If your response is “updates about their staff changes,” try harder. Unless of course your audience is your employees, in which case, that might be accurate. The content of your newsletter must provide some kind of value to your audience.
2. Give them something to do.
Always give your readers something to do next. The path forward. Don’t overdo it, though – too many calls to action will overwhelm an audience, and they’ll just toss it.
3. Keep it simple.
You can include a number of links in your newsletter, but highlight the main thing you want your readers to do.
4. Keep track.
We often use MailChimp with many our clients, and the tool has a pretty good reporting feature. You should learn from your successes and mistakes. Set benchmarks. Set goals.
5. Don’t overlook design (your competitors won’t).
As we’ve evolved to mostly HTML-enabled inboxes, we need to step up our collective email design game. Some services offer built-in templates, which is a great place to start.
6. But don’t over design, either.
You don’t need a lot of content in your header and footer. If you keep it simple, users will know who the email is from, but can focus on the main content.
7. Your voice matters.
Hopefully by now you know your audiences, and know them well. Speak to them the way they want to be spoken to. Not sure? Take to social media and do some research. What conversations are they having? Are they formal to their peers? Conversational? Is respect an important quality in their interactions? Do they make a lot of puns? Figure this out, and with using your organization’s authentic voice, craft your language with them in mind.
8. Make them responsive.
Many people read/skim emails first on their mobile device. Make sure they can easily read your email on any device they might have.
9. Lead with a subject line worth opening.
The subject line might be the only part of your email someone reads before deciding whether it is spam or not. Avoid words typically associated with sales. Use a spam tester to make sure you aren’t overusing words that trigger spam filtering such as “free.” Keep it relatively short (shoot for fewer than 60 characters). The more personalized or relevant the better. Not sure what works for your audience? There are a number of free tools out there, too, to help you test your subject lines.
10. Your “From” field matters, too.
Don’t have “email@example.com” as your “From” name. Make it personal. If you struggle finding a single point of contact to include as the From name, try “The Team at MyOrg,” or “Your friends at MyOrg,” something along those lines.