As a business owner, we’ll bet you’re constantly looking for ways you can boost sales, cultivate customer loyalty and increase brand and company awareness. But on top of everything else you have to accomplish day-to-day, it can be tough knowing where to begin.
Beginning a rewards program? Seeking customer feedback? Offering deep discounts and interesting incentives?
While these are all great ideas, there may be one you haven’t considered (or have been putting off!), an email newsletter.
We know, we know. We heard your sigh.
It’s yet another thing you need to add to your already overwhelming to-do list. And a newsletter might sound to you like a tired, outdated form of marketing. But we assure you: old school, it’s not.
Here’s the thing: having a regular newsletter (we’ll touch more on that “regular” part in a bit!), just makes good business sense. Email generates $42 for every $1 spent, which is a 4,200 per cent ROI. This makes it one of the most effective options for business owners out there.
Still hesitant? Don’t be! It’s not as complicated as you might think.
Here, we look at the top seven ways to ensure your newsletter is a success, and that you and your team produce something people won’t just want to read, but maybe even look forward to.
Know That it’s a Balancing Act
Take a second to think about the newsletters that come to your inbox every day. What do you like about them? What don’t you like about them?
Chances are pretty high that if a company is just sending you email after email that’s simply an attempt to sell you something, you’re going to lose their interest pretty quickly.
The same thing goes if companies take the bulk of a newsletter and use it to talk about how great they are.
Now a newsletter that teaches you something? That’s something else altogether.
This is why it’s important to remember the 90/10 rule: 90 per cent of your content should be educational and just 10 per cent should be promotional. While we’re sure you’re fantastic, it’s important to go easy on self-love in newsletters.
If readers are getting something out of your emails, they’re more likely actually to take the time to read them, and that small bit of promotional content will have a much greater impact.
Need an example? Let’s say you own a lawn care business. Write down the top 20 questions clients ask you. “How often should I mow my lawn?”, “When and how often should I be feeding my lawn?”, “Should I aerate my lawn?” Etc. There! You now have 20 topics you can write about! And it’s content your readers will find not only engaging but useful, as well. To pack an extra punch, offer a discount related to whatever you covered earlier at the end of the newsletter.
We promise: not coming on too strong with a big sales pitch is going to be way more effective and readers will come to look forward to your newsletter because they’re actually getting something out of it.
It’s a win-win.
Remember Minimalism Wins
Have a lot to cover in your newsletter? While it’s great you’ve got a lot to say, the truth is that your subscribers don’t necessarily want to take the time to read it all.
Newsletters should be to the point and feature a minimalistic design. You don’t want them to spend all their time reading your newsletter, after all. You want them to head over to your website where they can finish reading the article you’ve spent so much time writing on your blog, and then navigate around your website to learn more about your company and the services and/or products you offers. In other words, it should be actionable content.
It’s just as important to leverage the power of whitespace when it comes to the design. Also known as “negative space”, whitespace is empty space around the content and function elements of a page. The basic role of whitespace is to let your design breathe, giving it more of an opportunity to stand out.
According to this article, it has many benefits. For example, it can lead to improved comprehension and can guide the user through logical grouping. It also invokes imagination and can add emphasis.
If you find you have a lot of content you’re trying to squeeze into one newsletter, do your best to restrain yourself. Either break up the content and space it out amongst future newsletters or leverage your social media channels more to showcase that content.
We promise: by trying to fit everything in, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not letting the content stand out.
Make the Subject Line a Great One
Ultimately, you’re looking to get your readers’ attention, and it all starts with a great subject line.
The secret is writing a subject line that you love, and then re-writing it. Again, and again, and again. Why? Well, it’s simple, really. You want to compel your readers to click and start reading, and oftentimes, you need to experiment with a few different options before finding the one that’s the best fit.
A few best practices: First of all, keep it short. With most of today’s emails being read on mobile (46 per cent, in fact), you want to keep the character count to a minimum.
You’ll also want to tell them what’s inside, so readers know what they’re getting into. Remember, their inboxes are being bombarded with emails every minute, so they want to know what they’re going to read before they open them.
Be succinct, don’t mislead, and do your best to create a little sense of urgency. Just do yourself and the audience a favour, and avoid using all caps and going overboard with exclamation points. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being yelled at.
It’s a lot to do in one little subject line, isn’t it? That’s why it’s so important to take the time that’s needed to make sure it’s right. Write a few that you think will work, and then ask some people you trust for honest feedback. We know, it might seem like a superfluous extra step when you’re already so busy, but it’s worth it. See what works – and what doesn’t – and then use that feedback to guide you.
On that note…
A/B Test Your Subject Lines
So now you’ve narrowed down your subject line to your top favourites. That’s great! Now the trick is to trim them down even further to your top two.
They’ll be the subject lines you use to experiment with to see what works best. It’s called A/B testing, and it certainly has a purpose when it comes to your company’s marketing. (It’s important to note that A/B testing can be done not only with subject lines but also with the actual content in your newsletter. But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick with focusing on the subject line for today.)
When you test, make note of any patterns that jump out at you. Do readers seem to prefer subject lines that are longer or shorter? Do they seem to like subject lines that inject a little humor or that have a more serious tone? (Just remember to always stay on brand!). Does your audience seem to like questions or statements? Are there any punctuation trends you can spot? Does your audience like emojis, or not? Give your subject lines a careful, critical eye and you might be surprised at what patterns you can spot.
If you need some help getting started, there are some super-handy tools out there that you might find useful.
Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator is a popular one you can try. It’s super easy to use, and the popularity of the tool speaks for itself!
Another great tool is Answer the Public. Also simple to use, it generates a ton of ideas within seconds.
Test for the Right Frequency
We know your days are already full, so this might be music to your ears: frequency matters. Depending on your audience, that frequency might mean monthly or bi-monthly. It could, on the other hand, mean weekly or bi-weekly.
We know you get it: the point is to find what works for your audience and then stick with it. (We told you at the beginning we’d come back to this, and here we are!). Don’t start a newsletter with great intentions to get one out weekly, and then skip a week or two only to come back again. Readers like predictability. And if subscribers sign up for news and updates, that’s what they want. Don’t let them down.
If you’re unsure where to begin, aim for at least monthly. It’s a good bet that this is a safe goal; one study showed 61 per cent of users prefer receiving a promotional email at least once a month.
Proofread Your Work
So you’ve spent all this time coming up with the perfect content, strategizing the best subject lines, and crafting the perfect content. You’ve given it a good, thorough once-over, used spell check, and now it’s good to go, right? Not so fast!
We can’t stress this enough, so we’ll say it three times for good measure: Proofread, proofread, proofread! It ensures your audience focuses on your message, not your mistake.
Grammar and spelling errors make you come across as unprofessional, broken links make it look like you don’t care, and incorrect facts make it seem as if you lack attention to detail. All can be deal-breakers when it comes to small businesses. Not to mention it can just be plain embarrassing.
To proofread like a pro, here are some tips for beginners:
- Read your work aloud. Sure, you might feel a little silly, but you’d be surprised how many mistakes you can catch when you hear how something sounds as opposed to just reading it;
- Take a break. Once you’ve finished writing, step away from it for as long as you can. While deadlines make it tricky, I aim to always sleep on my work so I can come back and read it with fresh eyes the next day;
- Print it out. While reading things through on a screen is fine, printing it out is even better. I’m always amazed at how many little errors I catch when I print out a hard copy to review;
- Get a trusted colleague or friend to review your work. Nothing beats a second set of eyes or two. Get someone you trust to give your work a once-over. You can be guaranteed they’ll find mistakes you’ve missed;
- Verify names, dates, times, etc. The devil is in the details, as they say, so make sure you go back through your work to double-check everything is correct.
- Leverage online editing tools, such as Grammarly, for a final once-over.
Hire a Professional Writer
Let’s say you’re good at a lot of things, but writing just isn’t one of them. That’s okay! We can’t all be good at everything, after all.
But if there’s one thing we know to be certain, it’s that the Internet isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and social media and email marketing are here to stay.
If you simply don’t have time to craft content, you lack a discerning eye when it comes to spelling and grammar, or you just plain and simple don’t like writing, you should consider hiring a professional writer.
Oftentimes it can be hard for business owners to write about their own business; they’re too “inside” of things to think objectively, and that dreaded “Writer’s Block” can become an all-too-real thing when you’re facing a keyboard.
Professional writers have a keen ability to take pieces of information and organize them in a way readers will find interesting and engaging, whereas you might struggle to put together a couple of coherent sentences.
Professional writers can also help you come across as more professional. They not only know how to write compellingly, but they also know how to research, put pen to paper (so to speak) edit, and proofread.
If you’re still hesitant to write to hand over the reigns, know this: a professional writer – who will know how to craft content that converts – can help increase your leads and get results. They can use words to evoke emotion, to inspire action. They’re masters of persuasion when it comes to their craft, and that can help lead to more business success.
If you find yourself overwhelmed or unsure about your decision to begin a newsletter in the first place, take a deep breath. Know that you’ve made a great business decision; they’re a fantastic way to reach current and potential customers. As someone once said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”