Email newsletters remain highly relevant even in the social media age, according to a survey conducted by BredinBusiness Information. Some 79% of survey respondents reported that email newsletters were still relevant while 97% rated email newsletters as an important or very important source of business management advice.
In terms of content, the survey shows that email newsletter readers prefer industry news and “how-to” articles. About 86% of respondents look for industry news frequently or occasionally, followed by technology (78%), and sales and marketing (73%). On a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (important), the survey shows, how-to content rated 3.6, slightly ahead of case studies, perspective pieces, product information and offers, and company news.
BredinBusiness Information conducted Marketing Online to SMBs August 28 to September 4, 2009 and based its results on responses from 381 principals of U.S.-based businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
Our experience with enewsletters parallels that research and has uncovered the following best practices for enewsletters:
Stick to the schedule. Of all the best practices, this is the one that counts. Regularity trumps creativity. Every time. Set a schedule and get the newsletter out on time. We tend to graciously or comically acknowledge schedule breaches when they occur, as they inevitably will.
The BredinBusiness Information survey shows that readers prefer enewsletters on a weekly (42%) and monthly (27%) frequency. Our own experience suggests that weekly newsletters must contain highly relevant, almost essential, content in order to retain readers.
- Use a consistent sender and subject tag line.
- Make sure the sender is recognizable to your audience—the BredinBusiness Information survey indicated what “who” a newsletter is from is more important than “what” the subject is.
- Keep the subject line is compelling and short.
- Write one main article that provides the most information.
- “How-to” articles
- Review of industry trends
- Top 10 tips
- List of resources
- Answers to common client questions
- Interviews with associates
- Review of a book/resource we use
- Include a “personal touch.”
- Editor’s note
- Fun/creative section
- Using 25% of the newsletter for business promotion is OK.
- Promos for services
- Weave business success stories into articles/tips
- Write for click-through.
- Include links to other relevant information from all sources, including research reports and other information you drew on in writing your article.
- Add relevant links to your website and offers for better tracking and conversion.
- Design with email reading habits in mind.
- Keep the overall design simple for easy readability
- Put highest value links near the top (easier for readers to take desired actions)
- Move images below the fold (readers with image blockers won’t see blocks in preview pane)
- Guide the eye by using design elements to make an email or enewsletter “scanable” by the reader.
- Consider the email preview pane as most readers see an email in Outlook’s preview pane, so make sure the most important information displays there.
- Avoid clutter: you only have six seconds at most. Focus your message on what will compel a customer to read and take action.