E-Newsletter Best Practices to Engage Your Audience

By Karl Anderson

06/02/15

As long as there’s been email, there’s been email marketing. After all, it’s instantaneous, there are no printing or airtime costs, and it reaches your target audience directly. But the drawback, of course, is that readers frequently ignore email advertising or see it as unwelcome. Even a marketing message that simply highlights a special promotion can seem like spam to someone who doesn’t explicitly request to receive such communications.

If you’re reading this blog post, though, it’s likely because you want to do more with your online marketing. You want to engage your subscribers and build an active community. And you want to let them know that you have the expertise and solutions to guide them to their own success and well-being. This brings us to the e-newsletter, a proven communication medium that aims not to advertise, but inform.

One of Touchpoint’s advantages in the world of custom content is that not only do we write, edit, and design original content, but we also help clients distribute those stories. In the case of e-newsletters, we work with our clients to develop and manage mailing lists, and then we run the whole process, sending out communications and analyzing the response. This information can tell us which individual stories generated the most interest, and it provides valuable insight about subscriber preferences. What matters most to them, and what’s not catching their attention as much? And how can this data be leveraged for even greater results going forward?

To excel at e-newsletters, here are three goals we recommend:

  • Give your audience something of value. When you provide your audience with thoughtful articles, engaging stories, and helpful advice, it gives them something to look forward to on a recurring subscription basis. If you’re like most email users, you receive an excess amount of email that delivers very little value in terms of content. It’s too focused on promoting services or products for sale, or it’s information that isn’t in line with your interests. Naturally, you delete the email messages or even unsubscribe from the mailing list entirely. That’s why, as a sender, you want to prioritize your readers’ genuine needs and interests, and make a connection.
  • Be strategic, but also concise. In general, delivering the right amount of newsletter content is both an art and a balancing act. You want to give your readers in-depth research and reporting and provide helpful information, but it’s also important to be succinct, featuring writing that effectively communicates in digestible amounts of text. This is especially important on the “front page” of the e-newsletter. One of the formatting strategies we use for some of the e-newsletters we produce is to have a short intro for each article that links to the full story on the company’s webpage. Not only does this make the newsletter design cleaner and easier to read, but also it directs traffic to the website, with its many customer-oriented features.
  • Educate much more than you promote. If you’re a business, of course you ultimately want to encourage customers to buy from you. More than likely it’s why you’re trying to get their attention in the first place. Readers do understand that motivation, but at the same time they’re simultaneously bombarded with advertisements and offers from all over the place, to the point where they tend to tune out. Hubspot recommends making your e-newsletter content 90 percent educational and 10 percent promotional, though in most cases we would contend that direct marketing shouldn’t really be the focus of a business-to-consumer newsletter at all. Instead, the goal should be sharing relevant topics, showing that you understand the industry and community in which you operate, and sharing genuinely helpful solutions and support.

Email newsletters may not be a new concept, but with the right approach, they can help you better communicate with your audience, more clearly understand their interests, and strengthen your role as a vital resource in their community.