The Secret To Improving Your Customer Newsletter

June 4, 2018

Email newsletters are a way to provide customers targeted information about services and new offerings. However, with so many emails coming into the inbox, operators can find it difficult to ensure their newsletter is read. It's a common problem. Here are four tips from the team that deliver the daily Today newsletter on how to get a newsletter through the daily email purge.  

Deliver something relevant 

In publishing there is a saying, "content is king." In digital newsletters, the same is true – there must be information that is useful, interesting, informative, humorous, etc., or no one will read the newsletter. To make content relevant, think about the audience, for example facility managers, human resource managers, and even administrative assistants. What are they trying to do? Build a better culture? Save the company money by shopping deals on office coffee? Getting more service duties off their plate? Reducing turnover with greater employee benefits? The newsletter needs to provide input on one or all of these topics that may be relevant to the reader. Strategies include featuring a short paragraph and link to an existing article about benefits in breakrooms or a company profile. Provide a place for the latest promotions that the customer could take advantage of or testimonials about a line of service the customer may not know the operation offers.   

Do avoid overly salesy wording, however. It won't fool anyone. Operators should promote themselves, but through news about their employees, volunteering, community actions, research that shows the benefit of what they offer, testimonials, new product news, etc. These will be more effective.  

Keep design and content readable 

Ensuring a newsletter is readable sounds easy, but can be difficult. People will be reading it through different email providers and devices. Even using a link to a more consistent online version still results in issues, as various web browsers will display content differently. The only way to get close to readability is by having testers and an adaptive template. Create a newsletter and look at it on every different device and browser you can find. Send it to friends and colleagues at different companies and ask them to send you a screenshot of what they see. Tweak and retest. Once the final stage of testing has been completed, and it looks acceptable on all devices, use the completed newsletter as a template, changing out photos and copy, but leaving the basic design the same to ensure a reliable, readable newsletter each time.   

Balance content with appealing graphics 

This is another challenge of digital media. In print, graphics are used to catch the eye, make text more attractive and illustrate main ideas. In emails, it is difficult to use graphics in this way. Many email programs don't load photos until an email address has been "white" listed or added to the contact list. Emails that consist of only or mostly images are flagged as spam. However, all text emails will not do as well. A page of text looks overwhelming and gray to a reader, so needs to be broken up with space and color.  

Effective use of graphics includes using headings and different colors to break up sections. Often catchy headlines with a bit of a teaser are the best way to present content. Include links back to the articles, blogs, videos, or original source.   

Because this is a newsletter that will be sent regularly, the hope it that the reader will add the email to their safe sender list, or similar, so graphics will display. This is powerful because a picture is still worth a thousand words, so add photos to the newsletter, with alt tags (which is the text that displays when a photo image does not).  

A word of warning about photos however -- respect copyright laws. Those flyers taped to a wall at the gym or small coffee shop that show the word "iStock" or "Thinkstock" running through the image are in violation of copyright laws. Don't get into a thousand-dollar lawsuit or fine over a $12 Thinkstock photo. There are also free photo sites, such as Pixabay. When searching for images on browsers, such as Google, ensure you are using the correct setting to get free photos. One examples is:  Google Images > Tools > Usage Rights > Labeled for reuse with modification (or just "labeled for reuse" if you don't plan to modify it).   

Actually track and review data 

Probably the most overlooked portion of newsletters is data. Email programs created for sending out customer newsletter curate a variety of statistics. Here are the top three used by open rates, how many people actually opened the email; clicks, how many people clicked on a link (and which links/content had the greatest number of clicks); and forwards, how many people sent the newsletter to someone else.  

The open rate shows the newsletter's following – how many people think it is so relevant, readable and graphically appealing that they open it each time it comes. This can be skewed with preview panes, but we'll assume even those people are at least glancing at it. Be sure to note that an average open rate of 15 to 25 percent is actually quite good. Many people sign up for a newsletter, but because of spam filters that put them in junk folders or busy schedules, don't open the newsletter. That's okay. As long as they don't opt out, they might open it someday, so keep them on the list.  

Reviewing the clicks translates into interest by the reader, and is a great measure of the types of content that should be included in future newsletters. If the email program also offers a heatmap, it can be interesting to review as well. This takes every element in the newsletter and provides a number of clicks per element. It shows if people click more on the images or text for a newsletter as well of certain areas of the newsletter over others. Take all of it into account to further tailor the newsletter content and graphics.  

The number of readers that forward the newsletter to someone is an excellent indicator of quality content and a winning newsletter. It is so full of great information that customers are actually promoting their service provider to others. To benefit from the forward, ensure logo, taglines and contact information are also on the newsletter.  

Don’t be afraid of trying different things with newsletters. Often it takes trial and error to really hit on the right balance for the audience. It is time well spent, however, since one newsletter can reach hundreds of people.