When someone signs up to your email newsletter regard it as one of the biggest compliments you will receive in business.
But watch out, winning people’s trust and business via email is getting harder.
Greater regulation, concerns about privacy and our frenetic Attention Economy means you will need to deploy all your communications nous to cut through the media noise.
Email content must be grippingly relevant, consistently compelling and provide the recipient with awesome value
There’s a lot to love about email - if done right. For a start, you have vastly more control over email than social media, which is subject to the vagaries of algorithm changes.
>> In his new book, The DIY Newsroom, Stuart Howie compares media channels. Go to diynewsroom.com for more information >>
With email, we can say what we like, when we like and to who we like. The ability to target, track and improve what we do makes it a primary channel for most organisations.
According to Forbes, the average user checks in on their personal email up to 15 times a day.
More than 105 billion emails are sent every day, and this is set to explode to 246 billion before 2020. In 2019, almost three billion people on the planet will use email. That means more digital noise and a growing challenge for would-be communicators.
Email newsletter content will need to be grippingly relevant, consistently compelling and provide the recipient with awesome value. Solving subscribers’ problems and giving them helpful insights will be critical to success, but at the most basic level it means giving them substantial product discounts and making them offers too good to refuse.
The biggest trend is our increasing reluctance to give away our data, including email addresses, to those with who we don’t already have a significant relationship. Do I need to mention Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and a host of other incidents where consumers’ information was used and abused?
Under the General Data Protection Regulation, anyone distributing email to European recipients must ensure subscribers have opted in or face penalty.
The Radicati Group found 17 per cent of emails sent in Australia is spam - and many of us would agree users need more transparency and protection from digital information services.
Understandably, people have become more discerning and, in the email balance-of-trade stakes, statistics show that people are more likely to unsubscribe than to subscribe in Australia.
The best approach then?
The aim is to make your newsletter a welcome drop-in, and to give the subscriber a break from, and not add to, their digital load
Consider these 7 Golden Rules of Email Newsletters:
1. Be strategic
Here’s a bunch of questions to answer. Why do you want to distribute a newsletter? How will you distribute it? Who are your audiences? How will you target and track subscribers? What content do they want? How does a newsletter fit into your media ecosystem? What resources do you need to provide great newsletters? Ponder this stuff and document it. It’s your starting point, and certainly one to return to regularly.
2. Make the format scream you
In general, take the Goldilocks approach. Not too long, not too short. But there’s really no one-size-fits-all approach. You’ll almost certainly want to make your newsletter visual. Promote your premium content, such as video, embed links and explore how to give your audience something for nothing. Offers work a treat. Copy the best. In my book, The DIY Newsroom, I note newsletters produced by the likes of Qantas, AFL and ANZ bluenotes. Draw on your own newsletter habits and what content hooks you in.
3. What’s the frequency, Kenneth?
I always get asked about this. Don’t be over ambitious at first, instead focus on being consistent. Each edition should be equally rich in the information you provide - and then consider the frequency you can deliver and the resources you will require. Lock in whatever you decide into your content calendar. For the smallest organisations, a monthly newsletter might be appropriate. But if you want to become a true influencer, and have the right mix of content, you could make it fortnightly, weekly or even daily. The main thing, back to point 1, is to be strategic.
4. Create communities of interest
All businesses, once they define their deeper purpose, have a story to tell. Email is a conduit to creating a heartfelt connection between what you do and identified audiences. This often goes begging. I think about my local council. I have not received one newsletter from my council. But I’d be interested in receiving a host of information from them - and they could create amazing connections for locals around their libraries and reading, parks and gardens, indigenous activities, local history, and other shared interests. Sheesh. Local government does amazing stuff. Tell me about it.
5. Bland, boring and banal is an audience killer
Tell your stories in engaging ways, just like a newsroom. This is done by crafting content, not aggregating the ordinary. This takes work but the final product is worth it. Use newsletters to promote the content you produce elsewhere; video, news segments, live streams, surveys and results. Tell people stories. But understand that as soon as you go in for the hard sell - PR puff - that, unless your prospect is ready to buy, it will be goodnight Irene.
6. Be useful
Do all you can to be of service to your customers. Help them to live a better life. Help them to connect with like-minded people and organisations. Enlighten them. Broaden their thinking. Become an authority in your area of expertise, and people will follow. Actually, no, become the authority.
7. Analyse, improve, promote
You get great analytics from newsletters, the data is fantastic. Use it to improve. And as you do, promote yourself within the organisation. Shine a light on the great work of your company and its leaders, but be unabashed about telling them how you struck a blow for them in the Attention Economy.
Email is a big contributor to making us feel overwhelmed. Your aim is to make your newsletter a welcome drop-in on the recipient, and to give them a break from, and not add to, their digital load.
And, remember, when someone subscribes to your newsletter, be nice to them. You’re privileged to have them.
* Want more direction about how to take a multi-channel communication approach without going bonkers? Check out Stuart Howie’s new book, The DIY Newsroom.
Stuart Howie is a Canberra-based communications consultant. He has worked with organisations, private and public, in Australia and New Zealand, helping them to discover, shape and tell their stories. He is the author of The DIY Newsroom, which won Social Media Book of the Year at the Australian Business Book Awards. Stuart has worked in media, publishing and communications for more than 30 years as an executive, editor and strategist.