How Email Newsletters Can Fix Marketers’ Content and Trust Problems: Three Sets of Best-Practices

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Many companies and brands consistently make useful, informative content… which then merely sits on a website, hidden on a page that takes too many clicks to find.

Marketers who want to get more out of their content, including blog posts, need to properly benefit from their thought leadership by putting it in front of the right audience at the right time. Otherwise, it remains out of sight, out of mind.

How can marketers improve content engagement and views? Email newsletters.

Distributing your thought leadership, and content in general, via email newsletters has a significant impact on readers: It improves brand exposure and increases spokesperson awareness. Not to mention, newsletter subscribers engage more with the brand.

As a result, every company—from leading news publications to D2C brands to martech providers—offer subscribers personalized newsletter content. Consider the following stats:

  • Newsletters have an average open rate of 22%, compared with a fraction of that percentage for Facebook audience/ad interactions.
  • Greentech Media’s newsletter visitors spend 80% more time on site than visitors from other channels.
  • Vox’s newsletter readers spend an average of 110 seconds on the site, compared with just 40 seconds of Facebook visitors.
  • New York Times visitors are 2X more likely to become paid subscribers if they subscribe to a Times newsletter first.

Newsletters: The Cornerstone of Your Email Strategy

Newsletters are the cornerstone of a successful email strategy because they build trust among your subscribers.

But brands can’t simply throw content links in an email and hope subscribers get the hint. They won’t. Instead, marketers must make the newsletter enjoyable and engaging, using a more conversational tone with subscribers.

Emails bombard all of us daily, and they’ve been doing so especially over the past two years. Increasing competition for subscribers’ attention requires a reaction and adjustment from marketers hoping to get more out of content and blogs.

For example, at Litmus, the effectiveness of one of our top-performing newsletters, Litmus Weekly, suddenly decreased in 2020. Open rates and click-to-open rates slipped. It wasn’t driving the traffic it once did.

Since 54% of companies had increased email volume, we could have chalked it up to increased competition across the board and not changed anything. But we made some changes:

  • Optimized the reading experience by creatively encouraging readers to scroll through the entire newsletter
  • Injected our newsletter with increased personality and a company narrative/voice
  • Included the right content in the newsletter, not all of it

Now, metrics have climbed back up to previous levels and improved from pre-pandemic numbers.

How can you implement changes and improve your newsletter and content metrics?

Email Best-Practices for Optimizing Newsletters

Newsletters certainly differ from other emails, such as abandoned cart alerts or brand awareness campaigns. Each pursues a different goal. But many of the best-practices remain the same: Make a human connection; offer relevant information, content, and messaging; and ensure proper design techniques.

Here’s how to adopt those best-practices for newsletters.

1. Make a connection with your subscribers

As with other campaigns, an overarching newsletter goal is to connect with a target audience—a simple, yet often elusive, goal.

To be able to make a connection, you must understand what your subscribers want from you and what you want from them. To get the most out of newsletters:

  • Identify your primary goal and craft content to hit it. Newsletters can accomplish various goals or results: generate website traffic, increase app usage, etc. Picking one primary goal increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve it. It also helps ensure the use of one call to action; using more than one causes confusion and dilutes results.
  • Set expectations up front. Let subscribers know what to expect—the type of content, how often, etc.—when they subscribe to your newsletter through a welcome email. Also helpful: offering something of value right away, such as an “exclusive” report or free trial.
  • Keep your send time consistent. Subscribers should know when to expect your newsletter. For example, our monthly newsletter goes out on the last Tuesday of every month. If unsure of the right day and time to send your newsletter, test it. Send it on different days and see which generates better engagement.

2. Offer relevant information, content, and messaging

Putting on-brand, on-point, relevant content in your newsletters may seem the obvious thing to do, but plenty of marketers throw random links and graphics into an email to take up space and seem informative. Avoid that sort of mess. Instead…

  • Ensure a proper balance between educational and promotional material by offering different types of content to encourage engagement.
  • Give your subscribers context about what to expect if they click through—instead of using call-to-action buttons or phrases like “learn more.” Doing so also makes your email accessible for subscribers using a screen reader.
  • Provide stakeholders with a straightforward way to become a newsletter subscriber and unsubscribe if need be. Otherwise, newsletters may be marked as spam—which is harmful to your email deliverability and reputation.
  • Ask subscribers what content they want—if you’re unsure. But, most important, make it easy for them to provide feedback—else they won’t. Something as simple as a poll at the bottom of a newsletter works wonders.

3. Ensure a more enjoyable reading experience with design best-practices

Make newsletters easy to read and pleasing to the subscribers’ eyes, and do so with these creative and design-oriented tips:

  • Newsletters need a sense of content hierarchy and delineated sections to make the newsletter easily scannable. Use headlines and CTA buttons that stand out and catch the readers’ eyes. Also, make friends with whitespace. Using it effectively makes even the busiest newsletter easier to digest.
  • Include different types of imagery. Lean into illustrations, stock photography, and animated GIFs to keep subscribers visually interested as they scroll.
  • Keep the overall size of your newsletter under 102KB, especially if you have a high percentage of Gmail subscribers. Anything over 102KB is clipped in Gmail and may show less than half of the email.
  • If doing so aligns with your brand, look, and feel, use bold colors.

B2B brands tend to be less creative with newsletters, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

* * *

Marketers spend lots of time, money, and resources on creating content. Don’t let it go to waste. Use the power of email—and newsletters, specifically—to increase content awareness while driving traffic and engagement.

More Resources on Email Newsletter Best-Practices

Building Your Email Newsletter Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

How to Create an Email Newsletter People Will Clear Their Calendars to Read [B2B Forum]

Putting the ‘Letter’ Back in ‘Newsletter’: Ann Handley Talks Writing on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]


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