Chapter 5 Newsletter strategies

Newsletter strategies and marketing refer to a process in which a company provides a subscriber list with informational and product-based emails. This list can be composed of existing or potential customers. It’s convenient receiving emails about what someone is interested in without actually looking for it. This is the beauty of newsletters. However, people also tend to make rash decisions, committing to something which eventually grows tiresome. They may be interested in the first couple emails, but depending on the quality of every following email, they grow more picky. This is a frequent outcome from most newsletters, regardless of subject or context. The point is to keep it fresh, well structured and interesting. If your newsletter consists of repetitive content, it won’t be of much use to neither you or the reader. There’s always that one email in your inbox the customer is going to read sometime in the future and just keeps postponing it. That’s the classic failed newsletter, because the receiver is interested in its subject, but not persuaded to actually open it. An interesting contribution to this problem can be if the email is focused on selling rather than informing. You are welcome to talk about yourself and your business to a certain degree, but if you focus entirely on selling and advertising your products, it can get a bit dull.

A newsletter has several benefits and uses. Firstly, it can provide a greater insight into your business and educate the reader about details you haven’t had the chance to show. This can be done directly through descriptions of features, or more indirectly by providing general information from the industry you are in. We have previously mentioned some examples, such as the nurture email, which indirectly is a form of promotion. The newsletter can do the same by providing information not specifically targeted at your company, but rather the industry surrounding it. Newsletters also serve as relationship builders as they tell the customer you are not always focusing on yourself. A 10th email listing your “new and improved” features will not be exciting. Putting it in clearer perspective, would you go out with someone who constantly talks about themselves? Sure, this doesn’t directly compare to business, but the point still stands: newsletters best give the impression that the customer is important, not just you, the company. By providing information the reader can use outside of your store, you are distancing yourself from a typically repetitive email communication. Unique and, dare I say, friendly emails makes all your future ones that much more effective. Plus, if you choose to include a promotion of some sort within the newsletter, it often has a greater response when delivered to the active reader, as opposed to a direct promotion email which often won’t be read.

Timing is important - that goes not just for newsletters - but not of critical importance. No need to spend too much time or nerves trying to figure out the perfect moment for sending your emails. Just pick one and stick to it. Much like with social media, there are countless studies about the perfect time of day to provoke the most interaction from your audience. You can probably assume that reaching out to someone will be most effective during the time of the day when they are online, usually after work. But as long as you don’t reach out at 2 AM, you’re good. The only time you should be focusing on is your weekly schedule. The general rule which applies to most articles, emails and videos is to get them out on a regular basis, meaning if you set your posting day to be Monday, then be sure you don’t miss a single Monday of the year. Humans are creatures of habit, which is a feature you should use. Of course, it can be tricky to implement that habit if you post rarely. For instance, nobody will get used to a bi-weekly newsletter unless they’ve received it for several months in a row. On the other hand, the weekly approach is a great idea as the recipient will get accustomed to it faster. Most of us plan weekly, and it’s casual to remember what happens every Monday or Friday. I, for instance, know a magazine which comes out every Friday. And on every Friday when I’m in town, I wonder if it’s out yet whenever I pass a newsstand. Meanwhile, if it was a bi-weekly magazine, I’d sometimes have to guess if it’s coming out this Friday or next.

As for the more specific timing, you can send out newsletters based on your customer’s interaction patterns. For instance, sending a notification and welcome email after the user has signed up for the newsletter increases the likelihood of being opened. One might say it’s a subconscious approach, helping to solidify the customer’s interest. This is why it can be a good idea to put a time limit on subscription confirmations, telling the user their newsletter confirmation link will expire soon, provoking them to do it as soon as possible. It makes the reader familiar with the format and solidifies knowledge and expectation of an upcoming event. Next time she receives the email, she will be more likely to remember where it’s from and that it’s something she expressed interest in.

The construction of newsletters spans from one end of the spectrum to the other in simplicity versus complexity. For ecommerce, however, you’ll find your newsletters mostly leaning to the simpler side. Newsletters still carry the label of overpacked emails which take ages to read, and that’s fine if you’re talking about novels or discussing a philosophical point of view with your customer. In ecommerce there isn’t much room for that. A simple format goes a long way. If you want to include various topics or article summaries within, keep them short. It’s fine for the newsletter to be long, as long as reading it won’t take long, if that makes sense. Paragraphs upon paragraphs feel consuming even at a single glance. If you cut them apart however, list several headlines and make the content skimmable, it no longer feels as time consuming.

A good newsletter should be perceived as informative and not sales driven. Newsletters and other nurture emails of your campaigns provide the recipient with the knowledge about your brand and why you are an expert or even superior to the competition. For instance, you can write an email about the composition of certain products, their quality and what makes them unique. There is a great deal of information you can provide other than the link to the item and its price. With several brands at your disposal, you can even discuss their stories. In the end, if the email is helpful, anyone would be inclined to listen.

A call-to-action often comes at the end of an email, but newsletters can differ. There is probably a greater number of people who will read the start of the email than the end, especially in case of a more elaborate email. Put a call-to-action at the front then, giving the customer a clear message of what you want them to do. People tend to treat emails like stories: they build up momentum and give the final push at the end. Unfortunately for newsletter, most readers don’t view them as emails. They want to get the information and close or delete them as fast as possible. In conclusion: put a clear call-to-action towards the front, and then continue with the details.

A unique approach can definitely be beneficial as it provides the recipient of your newsletter with something unique and fresh. You will probably start relying on a specific style in most of your emails, which is natural and good, but you also want to switch it up and keep it interesting. We mentioned a simple format before, which is a good strategy, but you can change the expected by providing an occasional newsletter which highlights your most important posts or products.

Establishing the effectiveness of your newsletter is critical in determining the perfect strategy and fine tuning your emails. After all, in any procedure, it is important to isolate the effective components, but it is even more important to isolate the ineffective ones. Firstly, you need to establish certain goals which are to be achieved, and to pay attention on how your progress towards those goals is. A logical start is to increase your recipients, which is measured by tracking a list of subscribers. The key is to establish how many of those subscribers are loyal and still interested. After all, when clicking the “Subscribe to Newsletter” button, people don’t know directly what to expect, and may choose to opt out eventually. One of the simpler methods to establishing the subscriber which ignores your emails is the open rate. Further along this particular funnel, you should measure the amount of interactions received based on the newsletter. If you included the aforementioned call-to-action in your email, you want to know how many people it actually influenced. In the end, the key goal of any business is a purchase, which is also measured based off of how many of your subscribers read your newsletter and made a purchase because of it.

As we said, establishing the effectiveness is key, and in doing so, you can isolate the negative parts of your newsletter strategy. If you noticed a significantly lower interaction rate after having sent a very elaborate email about the latest products, try with a simpler approach. If that approach shows an increase and proves to be a wiser choice, stick to it! Further along the line, you can experiment with other various features like the amount of images, the order, style and content of the headlines, the size of links, the overall style of the email or even the greeting line. You’d probably think that if so many ecommerce companies, or companies in general, have gone through this, they must have met the same result. For instance, a simple, friendly and informative newsletter sounds about right. So why not just copy a template another business has made and use that? Personally, I refer to this type of situation as a paradox. It is very much like any marketing strategy in general. Once a marketing strategy is known by every business in the market, it tends to grow weaker and a new strategy must emerge. In essence, this eliminates the idea of a strategy which is written in stone. There are, of course, certain strategies and tools which are exceptions. In terms of emails and newsletters, a template is repeated by every business and the customer base grows accustomed to a specific format, it’s very easy to recognize when a completely different business sends an email of the same style. It’s extremely easy to see, even though most wouldn’t look for it, and it’s very common to run into a promotion or a newsletter of the identical style. Just in my inbox I can already see emails which follow an identical template, and I can almost imagine “insert name here” in the email. Granted, this won’t push away a customer, and the template will work in providing the customer with all the information they may be interested in, but the potential stands unused. In our previous examples, you saw many emails which have been written with a general style: some text, and image or two and a call-to-action. Meanwhile, one of those emails was a giant image with a handful of words. Immediately you think: “This is something different.”