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Creating Email Newsletters & Email Marketing Campaigns

Submitted by admin on Fri, 09/24/2010 - 09:24

Email newsletters and email marketing campaigns are a very effective way to stay in touch with your customers, prospects, associates, and other contacts. Email marketing tools have made it easy to design, manage, and track your newsletter, but below we’ve included a step-by-step process to help you with all the things that the tools can’t do for you.

Step One: Know Your Audience

The first step requires you to figure out your sources of email addresses to which you’ll be sending your stellar email newsletters. Here are some common groups you will want to include in your mailing list if you haven’t already:

  • People who have signed up to receive your newsletter through your website(s). These people signed up expecting content that is at least on par with what they saw on your website. So, make sure you’re sending them information that is relevant to what they saw when they signed up.
  • People who have contacted you through email or through your website. Whether these people have left feedback on your website or inquired through your contact page, for some reason you have their email addresses. Chances are that if they’re invested enough to contact you, then they are at least willing to hear what you’ve got to say.
  • Your business contacts. Business people are always trying to keep abreast of new information, products, services, tools or advice and would likely welcome the chance to read about what you’re doing, especially if it pertains to their respective businesses or professions. So grab that stack of business cards on your desk and start pulling out email addresses.
  • Friends & family. Your friends and family are probably going to be the most agreeable to receiving and reading your email newsletters, so don’t underestimate the importance of this group. These people are also make great focus groups. Don’t hesitate to send an initial test email to them and get feedback on how to improve your email newsletter.

Tip: With the exception of the first group of email contacts, you should send an initial “opt-in” message to all of the contacts on your list to make sure that they know how you obtained their email address, why they are being emailed and how they can unsubscribe from your mailing list if they want to. This message follows email marketing best practices. Many email marketing services will suggest that you include this message, but if your particular service does not, you can manually add this message to the top of your initial email newsletter as a short paragraph.

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Step Two: Write a Kick-Ass Email Newsletter

What you write and how you write it will greatly affect the success of your email newsletter campaign. Good newsletters have good content. They have just the right balance of promotions, factual news and advice. And they are sent regularly, but not too often.

Nobody wants to hear, “Hey, we’re having a sale!” every week. At some point, your readers will tune out. At some point they’ll realize that you’re telling them something they already know. They may say, for example, “Oh, you’re having a sale on bras again? Well, you’re always having a sale on bras, so I don’t really care.” Wouldn’t it be better if you told that person why she should buy a particular bra? Maybe that it improves posture or has amazing, new anti-sweat technology. Now that would be a newsletter worth reading.

Even if the point of your newsletters is to motivate people to buy your product, your email newsletter should never be all about you and what you’re selling. They should be about what you have to offer to the readers of your message. Coupons don’t cut it. Often (and ironically) it’s the bigger businesses and corporations who feature the worst email content and bombard recipients with salesy language and over-promotion—virtually glorified coupon books.

Pretend that your email newsletter is an extension of an online publication. It actually should be an extension of your online publication. It should be written and designed as if it could appear in a trade magazine, a newspaper or even a blog. All of these publications incorporate valuable, thought-/action-provoking content and a design that doesn’t overshadow the message. You should not be visualizing a coupon book, catalogue or flyer when thinking about your newsletter.

Good Content

  • Tells readers something they don’t already know
  • Avoids overly promotional language
  • Uses simple, non-jargon language that anyone can understand
  • Displays your expertise on subject matter
  • Has a conversational tone
  • Asks questions and gives answers
  • Is brief and concise
  • Takes readers down the garden path and through the chain link fence (Readers need to be compelled to read on/click links/move from their inboxes to web pages that affirm the content given)

Link to your website, product page, etc. You can make your hypertext say anything you want. Use this as an opportunity to spice up the language. Instead of saying “Click here,” say “Calculate your savings”, "Use Our New Product,” “Shop Clearance Items,” etc. Use assertive command language here.

Avoid being marked as Spam at all costs. What most people don’t know is that your email newsletter might be marked as spam even if you’re writing relevant content. The point is to be as relevant and interesting as possible. Here are some reasons why people have been known to mark a legitimate email newsletter as Spam:

  • If you send too many emails, you can get marked as Spam.
  • If your content is boring or uninteresting, you can get marked as Spam.
  • If you aren’t giving your readers the content they expected, you can get marked as Spam.

Ask for feedback. If you’re losing subscribers and you don’t know why, or if you’re not getting as many opens or clicks as you’d like, just ask your readers what they’d like to read about. An important action that email marketers neglect is asking your readers to participate in the content that’s being generated for them. Ask them what they want to see in the next issue. If you have a forum, link to that. In other words, try to give readers who might have otherwise opted out, a chance to opt in to the content you’re providing by contributing to it.


Step Three: Design a Kick-Ass Email Newsletter

This step requires you to visualize your email newsletter with the correct goal in mind. Your design should be based around quality written content, not stale, uninteresting or trite concepts.

Avoid making your newsletter look like a piece of junk mail, a cheap piece of paper, packed with promotions, which you can spot from miles away peeking out of the corner of your mailbox and begging to be thrown in the trash. Printed junk and email junk looks virtually the same. You’ve got one shot to appeal to your email recipients. If they don’t like your email, they can easily throw it in the trash (“junk mail” folder) and block you forever.

Look in your own inbox at the emails you open, read and still subscribe to. What do you like about them? What do they do right?

A Good Design:

  • Lots of whitespace
  • Clearly labeled sections
  • Short paragraphs
  • Very few pictures
  • Use of bolded words, differing text sizes, etc. Looks good (legible, easy to scan) even if pictures are blocked
  • Looks good in multiple email programs and browsers
  • Brief enough so that the reader doesn't have to scroll down much
  • If they have to scroll down to figure out what it's about, chances are they won't
  • Clearly marked unsubscribe and forward buttons
  • States what the newsletter is going to cover at the very top

Do not replicate a web page in your email marketing campaigns. If you are web-design savvy, you may be tempted to over-design your email campaigns in an attempt to make it look almost exactly like a web page. A growing number of people are actually doing this—their newsletters are packed with content, links, flash images, etc.—and it’s terrible. Why? Email is still a very personal medium of communication, which most people use to send short, personal messages and recommendations that often still take the form of good, old-fashioned letters. Instead of engaging in content overload, give people nuggets of information, quick hits that summarize all of the info they are too busy to find on their own.

Your email marketing company should have templates that are specifically made for email newsletters (as opposed to postcard reminders and promotional emails, which they should also have). You may want to test the effectiveness of different layouts. Try sending a few newsletters using a different layout each time. Again, get feedback or use tracking and reporting to gauge what people like and are willing to open/read.

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Step Four: Send a Test Email Campaign

This is a valuable and important step that many email marketers neglect. Remember, you only get one first impression. If an email recipient blocks your message or marks you as Spam, you’ve lost an email contact forever. Knowing that, take these precautions:

  • Test your email marketing campaigns on friends or colleagues who haven’t seen it and don’t know what it’s about. Get their input. Ask them what draws their eyes, what they notice, and whether they feel compelled to read more or react in a certain way.
  • Test how your email looks in different browsers/email programs. Also, test how the email looks when pictures are blocked and only text remains. The text and whitespace should be attractive enough to draw the eye and keep people reading.

Email Newsletters & Email Marketing Campaigns Conclusion

Once you send your email campaign out to your readers, it isn’t the end. You’ll want to use your email marketing program to track opens, clicks, bounces, and a host of other details that will help you to shape your next email campaign. But hopefully, after careful planning, writing and testing, you’ll be improving on an email newsletter that started on an unprecedented high.

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