Anatomy of a Great Email Newsletter

On January 11, 2011, wrote:

No matter what Facebook says, E-mail is not going to go away. And neither will E-mail marketing: in fact, according to a recent survey, more dollars are expected to be spent by businesses and marketers this 2011 on E-mail campaigns.

We certainly hope that some money goes toward studying the anatomy of a great E-mail newsletter. Why? Because E-mail is one way – is still one of the best ways – to effectively capture attention in the age of information overload and short attention spans. Oh, and because 94 percent of all Internet users read E-mail. That’s higher than the percentage of Internet users who turn to search engines to find information.

Let’s check out the body parts of a sexy, irresistible E-mail newsletter – the kind that doesn’t go straight to a recipient’s trash folder.

Your company name. One of the most common mistakes that E-mail marketers make is the assumption that people will remember who they are. Well, instant recognition (or remembrance) doesn’t happen too often. That’s why it’s better to use your brand name or company name when filling out the “From” field.

An irresistible subject line. Engage your recipients from the get-go by choosing a subject line that makes it hard not to click and read the actual E-mail message. This means you should avoid talking like a used-car salesman, because hardly anyone ever pays attention to a used-car salesman. Need tips? Check out our guide on writing irresistible subject lines.

Your recipient’s name. Your E-mail newsletter should be personalized to include the recipient’s name, and not just his or her E-mail address. It may not seem like it matters, but using actual names instead of the usual “Our Valued Guest” or “Dear Username” impresses upon your reader / subscriber base that you do care about who they are – and that you don’t forward tactlessly or “spammily”.

Consistent branding elements. Obviously, an E-mail campaign consists of several messages sent out at regular intervals. It’s important to tie these all together by consistently placing branding elements, like a logo or a well-designed header, in every E-mail message. Don’t confuse your recipients with a schizophrenic newsletter campaign!

A Call to Action. Remember Marketing 101 class? Yes, the notion (and importance) of having a clear, concise, and compelling “Call to Action” still applies here. If you’re sending out E-mail newsletters, don’t just limit yourself to great copy and eye-popping design. Draw them to your site. Let readers know what they can expect once they click through. Put your “Call to Action” above the fold – meaning, the portion of the page that can be seen without having to scroll down.

A picture or a video. It’s not exactly necessary, but you know what they say: a picture paints a thousand words. What more if it’s a set of moving pictures? A picture or a video in your newsletter can certainly do wonders for visually engaging your readers. (Check out our guide on video E-mail marketing.)

Options for viewing. There’s a wide variety of E-mail clients out there, and not all of them will accept your E-mail newsletter in its original format. (Some of them might disable your images, too.) So give your recipients several options and add links like “View with images”, “View in web browser”, and “View mobile version”. If you’re unsure how to optimize your newsletter for various clients and platforms, let an E-mail marketing provider like MailChimp do it for you.

An opt-out link. E-mail works as a permission-based marketing platform precisely because it’s permission-based. If a recipient wants to opt out, let him or her do so with a click of a button. Don’t worry. An opt-out link doesn’t mean you’re tempting readers to unsubscribe; it only means that you value their privacy, and that you’re a marketer who plays by the rules.

Your privacy policy, or a link to it. This is necessary for the same reasons as above. Feel free to paste the whole text content of your policy at the footer of your message. But if you don’t have enough screen real estate, make sure you at least add a link.

Your contact information. Provide more than one way for recipients to reach you. Show them you’re eager to hear from them. It’s good to have a physical mailing address in there, as well as a telephone number, but feel free to include your social media information, too: your Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn account, YouTube channel, and more. Avoid adding the phrase “Don’t reply to this message”, though; the goal is to encourage communication, not to block it.

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