5 Commandments of Good Email Newsletters

Rulers
09.20.2011By

So you want to start an email newsletter? Congratulations! Email is one of the best channels you can use to connect with your community. Outside of needing a person’s email address, there are a few additional considerations you’ll need to work out before pressing “send.”

1. Know Thy Audience

Who are you sending your email to? This plays a huge role in how you craft the information in the email. The better you know and understand your audience, the more value you can provide them through your email marketing. This may mean that you’ll want to segment your list. For example, say you are a nonprofit that addresses a variety of different issues. If you provide subscribers the option to receive emails based on which issues they’re interested in, then you can better tailor the content in the email to that group of subscribers.

Note: Subscribers that opt-in to your email newsletter tend to span the horizon in terms of awareness of what your organization does and their involvement in what you do. Your challenge will be providing valuable content that bridges this spectrum.

2. Manage Thy Lists

List management is key for audience segmentation. Most email marketing platforms only house email addresses. This often means you will need to figure out another system or tool to manage individual contact information–such as addresses and phone numbers.

The more you can finalize your email marketing strategy before you implement it, the easier your life will be when it comes to list management. Some email marketing tools help you clean your list and others do not. Be sure to read the fine print on what your tool does and doesn’t do so that you can plan accordingly–and keep subscribers happy.

Note: If you’ve recently met someone who is new to your organization, a great way to invite them to get more involved is to forward them a copy of your latest email newsletter along with a personal email inviting them to subscribe as a way to stay informed and to get more involved.

3. Liven Up Thy Content

Email newsletters can easily become a list of links. To avoid this trap, be sure each email newsletter has a specific call-to-action. When you go to design your email template and layout your content, prioritize (1-X) which content, links and sections of your e-blast you want to get the most attention. This will help you flush out your template design and better focus your content.

Once you have a clear call-to-action and you’ve prioritized the sections in your e-newsletter design, you can fill in the content. Newsletters should provide a comprehensive snapshot of the past month, quarter or campaign, but they should also be focused. Some popular sections of email newsletters include relevant news headlines, new research, reports and resources, and upcoming events. If you want to get really fancy, try conducting some A/B split testing to see which version of your email newsletter receives more traction.

Note: To get good content ideas, subscribe to other email newsletters from organizations you admire. Learn from what they do–you’ll be sure to find more than a few new ideas.

4. Follow the Rules

You don’t want to have your emails marked as “spam” and thrown into the gauntlet. To avoid this problem, there are some best practices that have become like rules that you should follow. One example is the CAN-SPAM Act which was instituted by the government in 2003 to cut down on misleading emails from commercial entities. If broken, an organization is penalized in the form of a fine. In general, the CAN-SPAM Act has become one of the best guides around email marketing best practices. Some items nonprofits should note include:

  • –Provide the opportunity for an email recipient to opt-out of the email list. The option to opt-out must be in every email message and must be provided to all individuals receiving the message.
  • –Provide a valid physical postal address of the organization sending the email.
  • –Let subscribers know who the email is coming from and use a subject line that is not misleading as to the actual content in the email.
  • –Honor opt-out requests in a timely fashion.

Note: Learn more about what the CAN-SPAN Act means for non-profits.

5. Plan Thy Delivery

Though this tip is listed last, don’t wait until the end of planning to think about how often you need to send your email newsletter. It could be quarterly, monthly or even weekly depending on the specific goal and content. While you think through delivery items, you’ll want to spend some time setting up and testing the logistics of your email newsletter delivery.

Note: Before you send your email newsletter, send a test to yourself and a couple of others from your organization to make sure all is smooth sailing. You’ll also want to test your email template to make sure it’s readable across all email clients. Email on Acid and Litmus are two such tools that can help you do this.

What email newsletter tips and tricks have helped you?

  • http://twitter.com/EmailonAcid Michelle Klann

    A fantastic article indeed! Many people don’t realize how technically challenging it is to develop an email that renders correctly in all email clients. Here’s another free resource for email developers: http://www.emailology.org  – The science of looking good in the inbox :) 

  • http://twitter.com/EmailonAcid Michelle Klann

    A fantastic article indeed! Many people don’t realize how technically challenging it is to develop an email that renders correctly in all email clients. Here’s another free resource for email developers: http://www.emailology.orgu00a0 – The science of looking good in the inbox :)u00a0

  • ChuckaStoneDesigns

    Really enjoyed this article, great tips and tricks.  Shared on FB & twitter & plan to put a bunch of your suggestions in place as I start ramping up my business in my new area!  Thanks!

    • http://www.fly4change.com/ Alexandra Bornkessel

      Happy to hear the post was helpful! Let us know how these ideas work out for you. Perhaps you’ll have some additional tips to share!

      Cheers, Alex

  • ChuckaStoneDesigns

    Really enjoyed this article, great tips and tricks.u00a0 Shared on FB & twitter & plan to put a bunch of your suggestions in place as I start ramping up my business in my new area!u00a0 Thanks!

    • Alex Bornkessel

      Happy to hear the post was helpful! Let us know how these ideas work out for you. Perhaps you’ll have some additional tips to share!nnCheers, Alex