Let Customers Help You Build Email Newsletters

by Nov 8, 2017Content | Social Media | Email, Blog, Strategy | Entrepreneurship

Some people like to think creating email newsletters is easy. Just choose a topic, type it up, add a picture, throw in a button, and let ‘er rip like some recipe for spaghetti sauce. If only it were that simple.

Sure, you can do all that… but your email newsletters aren’t going to be any good.

The truth is, like many thing, you get as much out of your emails as you put into them. And trust me, it’s worth putting the time in. Email newsletters are a crucial part of the sales cycle. If you have a contact’s email, it means they’ve expressed some level of interest in your business or product. They may have given you their email in order to download a white paper, to request a demo, or you may have met them at a trade show. Emails allow you to give these people additional information or offers that will hopefully bring them closer to making a purchase.

You aren’t going to do this with a crappy email. Building solid, consistent, and engaging emails that will actually give you a good return for your time and effort takes time, experimentation, and reviewing data.

However, the information most important for building an email that will be opened, read, and acted upon can’t be found with a Google search.

Your customers, and more importantly their feedback, is what should guide all of your decisions on email design, layout, content, and everything in between.

Here’s where to start.

Mobile vs Desktop

It’s no secret we live in a mobile-dominated era. More often than not, folks are getting information, visiting websites, and checking their email with their phones and tablets. But, is that true for your customers? You might be surprised.

In a recent audit of our own email newsletters, we found that only 16% of our readers accessed our emails on mobile. Given our typical audience, this came as a bit of a shock.

But, why does mobile vs desktop viewing matter?

How people choose to view your email newsletters should greatly influence the appearance and content. If the majority of views are coming from mobile, you would be wise to stick to a shorter, simpler, or more condensed format that is more easily digested on a smaller screen. If the majority of views are coming from a desktop, you have a little more freedom to experiment with longer-form content and different kinds of links like blogs or videos, since readers will likely be at their desk when they read it.

Constant Contact includes this information in their reporting tool, so it’s a lot easier to gather than you might think.

When to send

Every audience is different. They have different schedules and habits that influence when they are most likely to check their inbox.

Some audiences are easier to peg than others. For B2B audiences, for example, readers are likely to be swamped with emails, meetings, and appointments all day and not have the patience or desire to check emails after work. Therefore, you want to hit them early, so when they check their email first thing in the morning you are there. Any later than that and they may not see your email before it gets buried.

Who is your audience? You may be able to make assumptions or educated guesses as to the best time to reach out to your email list. However, gut feelings will never beat cold hard facts. Use your knowledge of your consumers as a starting point, but don’t shy away from experimenting with different send times.

A/B testing is another good method to determine the right send time. Create two duplicate emails and send them to different halves of your list at different times. Then, compare the open and click through results to see which one did better. This information will guide you to the outcome that leads to the largest possible audience reading your email newsletters.

What to send

Who knows better about what they want than your customers?

The type of content to include in your emails is another area of newsletter design that many people often use assumptions for in their decision making. But, like the saying goes: “when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.”

Never focus on one individual topic for your email newsletters. Expose your readers to a range of topics to get a good assessment of their interest levels on each subject matter. From there, you can look at the performances of each email based on those topics. You can decipher trends based on what topics peak your readers’ interests the most. Going forward, while you still want to mix up your content, you can use what you’ve learned as your point of focus on future campaigns.

Another important note on content is it isn’t universal. For example, our client, Randall Beans, gets strong results on social media from posts about Open Spigot Farm (a farm in Tennessee they have dedicated to organic-only produce) as well their trademarked “Powered by Beans” posts, which are focused on portraying beans as an essential component in a healthy and adventurous lifestyle. We decided to test out this kind of content on several email campaigns and got very little interest and interaction.

While Open Spigot Farm and “Powered by Beans” content are strong performers on social media, the newsletter audience is far more interested in receiving recipes and coupons. What works one place won’t always work on the other, and the only way you will find that out is by trying different strategies and deciphering the data.

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