In a 2007, Marketing Sherpa published a case study showing that ConAgra Foods generated 34.25% more product sales from consumers who subscribed to email newsletters, as opposed to consumers who did not.
The ConAgra case study was yet another example of how well-known brands are using email newsletters as a way to grow sales and improve marketing ROI.
In my 20 years of marketing experience, I have come to learn that there are 8 essential traits of an effective email newsletter. Each one brings something new to the table and increases your odds of generating leads and revenue from your newsletter subscribers.
Let’s get to it. Here are the 8 Essential Traits of an Effective Email Newsletter:
1.) You have a predictable distribution schedule.
Predictability is going to play a big role in how effective your newsletter is. People are busy. According to the Radicati Group, the average American receives over 100 emails a day. So why make them guess? Or worse, confuse them?
If your newsletter is unreliable, coming in on no particular schedule, it’s going to get lost in the mix. When they know it’s coming in on Monday mornings or the first Friday of the quarter, they will eventually come to expect its arrival. And if you have valuable, useful content and an aesthetic design, they may even look forward to receiving it.
The frequency (weekly, monthly, etc.) of your newsletter isn’t necessarily important. Choose the schedule that works for you and feels natural for your industry.
2.) You’re sending it to a targeted audience.
Like everything in business and life, you need to be intentional about your email newsletter. Each part of it has to have a purpose. Why are you sending your newsletter? What are your goals? How do the photos and content you select appeal to prospects?
When you decide which demographic to target, you can form the rest of your newsletter to influence that group’s feelings about your company. And you want them to feel good about you, right? So if you’re an RV dealer specifically targeting people who are interested in travel, share pictures and stories from your own clients about where they’ve gone and how their RV has helped them get there, along with some top-5 lists of great resorts or restaurants in popular travel areas.
That’s just one example, but having a specific targeted audience in mind helps you mold your marketing message so it is highly relevant to your subscribers, which makes it much more compelling to them. The more relevant your marketing is, the better your results will be.
As far as how to choose your target audience, there are a number ways to go about this. We advise that first you look at your own current crop of customers and find out who THEY are. There are sure to be correlations, the key is simply to find out what they are. Once you understand the people who’ve already chosen your business, you’re more likely to have success by targeting people similar to them. This is a great place to start.
3.) You offer useful, valuable, and shareable content.
When it comes to your newsletter, it’s kind of like the fairy tales taught you — it’s what’s on the inside that counts. As I mentioned earlier, people get ridiculous amounts of emails on a daily basis. If they’re going to take the time to read your newsletter, they need to get something out of it.
You can offer prospects and customers industry tips or insights. You can tell them some new or little-known benefit about your product or service. You can even share photos and insights from your own life, so long as it’s interesting and subscriber-focused. That should be the bottom line of all your content: make it subscriber-focused. It needs to help them in their everyday lives. That gives them a reason to look forward to the next email. Great content builds trust with prospects and customers alike, and causes them to want to share your content. That’s the best kind of marketing there is.
Here’s a couple examples of great email newsletter content:
- An auto-repair business warns prospects of the kinds of car troubles that most often catch people by surprise, but can be avoided if caught in time.
- A dental hygienist breaks down the seemingly endless variations of toothpaste and explains which ones are best for which situations.
It’s a good idea to brainstorm content ideas at the beginning of every month, or every other month (if you come up with enough good ones). Here are a few good ideas to start your next brainstorming session. Come up with a few items for each.
- Problems that can be solved by your product/service
- Behind-the-velvet-rope content — little known facts about your product/service
- Seasonal or timely content that relates your product/service to current events
4.) You have an ever-expanding readership.
Just because your audience is targeted doesn’t mean it can’t grow. If you’re targeting new prospects, find a way to get email addresses from them regularly. Continually adding new subscribers gives you more and more opportunities to generate revenue from your email newsletter.
You can do this by adding all the prospects you already have to your email database. Then, add a subscription form on your website. Website visitors can give you their email address to subscribe to your email newsletter if they like what they see. These prospects are opting in to your newsletter, so they’re already interested. Maybe they just need a few emails to push them to make the leap from prospect to customer. Also, maybe mentioning that you offer newsletter-only special offers may increase sign ups!
Don’t forget to ensure your receptionists and sales team routinely ask for email addresses. This is a great practice for building your database as well.
5.) You provide company news and updates.
According to a survey of email newsletter users done by the Nielsen Norman Group, over 60% of newsletter users rate company news as VALUABLE content for an email newsletter. Basically, that means that a majority of users generate more revenue and click-thru traffic from their newsletter when they feature news about their company or new product promotions in the newsletter. That means this is win-win. Not only are you using easy-to-gather content that will increase the trust and affinity prospects feel for you and your business, you’re actually generating more clicks to your site! And that’s what you want out of a newsletter, right?
Keeping subscribers plugged in to your company’s latest news maintains a stronger connection with them and leads to more sales.
Ideas for what to feature in this section: Staff accomplishments, personal milestones, new products or features, fun work/office happenings and more!
6.) You don’t forget special offers and subscription incentives.
Special offers are always attractive to prospects. Use them to your advantage. Feature some discounts or bonuses that are exclusive to your newsletter subscribers. This motivates customers and interested prospects to subscribe, so they can get access to valuable reader-focused content and special promotions at the same time. Special deals also keep subscribers looking forward to the next email.
Be sure to offer something that carries a high perceived value for your customers but a low actual cost for you. For example, many of our medical clients offer free x-rays because the machine is already there, and there’s very little time or labor involved in taking the x-rays. Yet this is a service for which they could potentially charge around $100. High perceived value and low actual cost — it’s virtually perfect.
7.) You link back to your site frequently to drive traffic.
So, you have a form on your website leading website visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. Now you need links in your newsletter to lead subscribers to your website.
Your newsletter should accomplish two goals:
1) Offer valuable content to encourage loyal reading.
2) Drive traffic to your website.
Look at the topic of each newsletter and find opportunities to link to landing pages for relevant products and services. This gives you natural ways of connecting the great content you offer to the great products or services you provide.
8.) You give as many contact opportunities as possible.
You need to give subscribers every opportunity to contact your company. This means featuring contact information prominently, so it can’t be missed. Include your phone number, email address, mailing address (if you have an office location) and social media links. This information makes your company available to prospects should they have a question for you or an interest in a particular product or service. You can feature it right at the top or in your email signature. Just make sure it is easily visible to readers.
Does your newsletter have all 8 of these elements? Each one brings a certain marketing benefit to your newsletter, so be sure you have all of them working for you. If you don’t have a newsletter yet, I recommend you get started right away. They really are a great way to generate more revenue by maintaining your connection and building trust with prospects and customers.
Here Are Your Next Steps Towards a Killer Email Newsletter:
- Set a schedule you can stick to consistently with your email newsletter.
- Define your target audience (unconverted prospects, current customer, prospects who would be interested in a particular product or service, etc.)
- Brainstorm a list of content ideas to write about in your upcoming newsletters.
- Add all leads into your newsletter email database.
- Make sure your newsletters include the important components we discussed (Company News, Contact Info, Website Links, etc.)
So what are you waiting for exactly? Get to it!
Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a $20 million, full-service marketing company based in Clearwater, FL. She wrote the book on postcard marketing, and built her company from the ground up without any outside investment capital. Download her complete 95-Point Total Marketing Checklist today!