I read an interesting article from Jakob Nielsen (a well-known web usability expert) recently on email newsletters. His team has been researching newsletters since 2002 and their most recent research shows some interesting changes since then.
I highly recommend reading the whole article if you’re at all interested in email newsletters but here’s three points that stood out for me:
“It is still good practice to communicate the basics about the subscription at the time of sign up, to set expectations and help customers feel informed.”
You can do this as part of the subscription box (see my sign up box for example where I say I send a weekly newsletter) or as part of your initial email like this one I got recently:
Either way, make sure that you set an expectation and deliver on it – don’t for example say you’re only going to send out a monthly newsletter and then bombard your readers with a flood of emails for a week.
LACK OF PERSONALISATION
Take a look at the newsletters you receive that you like, vs the ones you don’t like (and probably don’t even open anymore). Are lack of personalisation and a feeling of ‘being an number rather than a name’ some of the reasons you don’t like some of them?
“In our research, many users disliked information that was not tailored or specific to their interests. Many times, these types of messages were considered spam and this attitude illustrates the increasing importance of personalization in marketing emails and newsletters.”
As a small business owner you may not have access to the same ‘personalisation’ tools as the big guns but you can certainly still add some small touches to your messages such as:
- including your readers’ first name in your emails to them
- not sending them messages to buy a product / service if they’ve already bought that product or service from you
- letting people know they can hit reply and that you (or another actual person) will reply to them. I remember the first time Chris Brogan replied to an email from me – I nearly fell off my chair in shock! But it certainly cemented in my mind that he walks his talk.
- if you’re offering a special deal make it as personal to the individual as you can
But be careful! It can be tempting to try and personalise messages by forcing subscribers to divulge a large amount of information about themselves up front (age, interests, address, marital status, job title etc).
Unless you’ve already established a relationship with them, or that information is absolutely vital for you to provide a service to them, then I highly recommend NOT asking for this information. It is creepy and most people will either put in junk information or not bother completing the sign-up form.
Stick to the basics – first name, email address – initially and work on getting more personal information as you deepen your relationship with them.
“…[W]ith the growth of mobile connectivity, a new emphasis is being placed on file size: many users have to pay for the amount of data they consume, plus download speeds can suffer in areas with poor connections. So we must still be aware of the download time of our newsletters and the amount of data being transferred over mobile networks.”
This is important to note – it is very tempting to include masses of high-quality images, gifs and perhaps even videos in our messages but we have to remember that the people on the other end may be paying (and in Australia paying quite a lot) for the ‘privilege’ of receiving our words of wisdom.
If your message does require the use of these tools, then I recommend putting a couple of text paragraphs and perhaps one image in the newsletter, with a link inviting people to view the rest of the message online.
This gives them the option of visiting the site immediately or waiting until they’ve got access to less expensive data for downloading.
There’s a lot more in the article and I do highly recommend checking it out for more information on how email newsletters can be made more relevant to your subscribers. But if you don’t have the time, then keeping communication; personalisation and message size in mind will go a long way to making sure your email newsletter doesn’t get lost in the crowd.
Need more help with implementing newsletters in your business strategy? I’m currently booking clients through to October 2017 with a reduced consultancy fee of $125 / hour.