I get a lot of newsletters in my email and most of them I receive out of free will. People often complain about the large number of emails they receive - maybe for a reason - but I personally see the newsletters I get mainly as a positive thing. This is because I feel that newsletters made by others are without a doubt the best way to learn and get inspired.
If the newsletter is a cake, the content is the filling and the layout is the whipped cream on top. Who would want only whipped cream in their cake?
Most of us get a lot of newsletters in our email daily, and we have learned to skip the unimportant content and focus on the parts that interest us. Going through my own emails I have encountered recurring things that make me delete a newsletter quickly with no mercy. In order for me and other newsletter designers to avoid the shortcut to junkmail, I will elaborate on some recurring weaknesses in newsletters.
1. Too much text
Even though the marketer or communicator would have a lot of great things to elaborate on, it is important to remember the noble skill of summarizing. The tasks at work nowadays are hectic and the readers of newsletters don't have the time to immerse themselves into every sentence of the letter. Rather think of a newsletter as a teaser, from which the reader picks up an interesting part and reads more about it on a blog or other web medium.
2. Poor targeting
Possibly the most common reason for deleting a newsletter is poor targeting. If the reader gets an immediate "this doesn't concern me", it is very unlikely that he or she would read the letter much further. Many different means can be used for effective targeting, such as getting some background information on the subscription page, CRM integration, reader surveys and content filtering. Also marketing automation offers an excellent chance for targeting communication, personalization and correct timing.
3. Not enough emphasis on content
Bad quality content can be due to the content creator having an unclear vision of what interests the recipients. It can also be due to inefficient or otherwise unfit means for content creation. A newsletter exposes the weaknesses of content marketing more mercilessly than other channels because it a) is very easy to delete or remove b) competes for the reader's attention with all the other emails c) is personal for it is sent to the recipient's own email box. All these above-mentioned things can also be seen as possibilities instead of viewing them in a negative way.
Fast tip: if you are responsible for composing newsletters in your company, get your colleagues involved in the process by asking for their comments before sending the newsletter. This also ensures that you avoid typos and other "easy mistakes" that you yourself easily become blind to.
4. Not enough emphasis on layout
With good graphics a newsletter can really stand out from the crowd. How often do you come by a newsletter with professionally shot and approachable images or graphics with some personality? Surprising graphics can also catch the reader's attention or even give the letter a humorous edge. The old phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" holds true in newsletters and should be taken advantage of.
5. Technology fails
The next metaphor is an apt one about newsletters: if the entity is a cake, the content is the filling and the layout is the whipped cream on top. Who would want only whipped cream in their cake? Technology is the sponge of the cake and it shouldn't be burned even though it remains hidden. Working technology is a prerequisite for all the other parts of the newsletter to operate how they're supposed to.
6. Content always in the same form
I receive newsletters from a certain place and their content truly interests me, but to get to the content I always need to download a guide. I have on few occasions thought is it wrong to want (just sometimes!) to read an interesting article just by clicking a link, instead of filling out a ten-point form to download a guide. Even though validating leads and gathering contact information is important, I would say that the rule of thumb is, that the way the content is brought to the readers should vary from time to time. By doing this, you always learn something new and see what works best.
The difference between the element of surprise and misleading is often very small. On the other hand it's good to lure the reader in but beware of making empty promises. The feeling that you've been mislead sometimes arises from the notion that the newsletter and the landing page don't correlate in layout or in mobile use. Overall it pays off to make note of (and test!) the whole path the reader of a newsletter goes through after opening it, from the first click to the landing page, all the way to individual actions.
8. The novelty disappears
It's typical that newsletters that have been put effort into content-wise, initially get a good or even great response. We are curious by nature and a brand new newsletter arouses our interest. The challenge is to maintain the readers' attention and high opening and clicking percentages one letter after another. Planning ahead especially helps in this, and also that the content is produced well in advance.
Planning ahead ensures that all the activities support the company's long-term goals. Email marketing should be viewed the same as the production of the company's customer publication, for example: sending dates and the last dates to leave any content are settled well in advance. With careful planning the whole process stays in control ja the end result has quality and has been made professionally. I recommend every content marketer to come up with a content calendar of some sort and that it's updated when ideas come up.
9. Poor heading
According to Econsultancy's newly published report marketers think heading is one of the most important elements of a newsletter, but only a few try out different versions of headings. A/B testing of newsletter headings is a feature in the most advanced email marketing tools and should definitely be taken advantage of in newsletter communication.
10. CTA missing/badly presented
Rules of thumb for using CTA (Call-to-Action):
- Place the most important thing you have to say at the top
- Make the most important CTA to stand out (playfully "BOB", Big Orange Button)
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Source: Econsultancy: How 304 email marketers split test their subject lines