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Web Design, Web Development, Branding - Madison, Wisconsin

“It’s the cockroach of the Internet,” said Jason Hirschhorn, chief executive of the digital curator ReDef, in a recent New York Times article. “It’s a great place to get in front of people who are interested in what you have to say.”

What is this “cockroach of the Internet” that’s touted by media mavens and welcomed by consumers?

Surprise, email haters! It’s email newsletters—“the 40-year-old technology that is not going away for very good reasons.”

Email is a medium that has not only survived against all odds, but has thrived. More than 838 billion marketing messages were delivered in 2013! A Quartz study found 60% of global executives read an email newsletter as one of their first three news sources they check daily—more than twice as high as news apps.

An email newsletter done right can be a very lucrative marketing tool for your business. Follow these best practices and watch your email newsletter thrive.


10 email newsletter best practices

  1. 1. Align your newsletter with your business and marketing goals.

    First things first. Does an email newsletter make sense for your business? Define how it will help you meet your goals—whether they be to create brand awareness, generate leads, demonstrate thought leadership or whatever. If it doesn’t align with your goals, consider other avenues.

  2. 2.

    Develop a quality, opt-in list.
    As with traditional direct marketing, it’s all about the list. Your list should be comprised of people who volunteered their emails because they want to hear from you. Never buy an email list. Most reputable ESPs (email service providers) require an opt-in list, and your results will be better for it.

  3. 3.

    Set expectations.
    Let subscribers know when they sign up what to expect. What sort of content will you deliver? How often can they expect it? If you have multiple audiences or topics of interest, consider creating multiple newsletters.

  4. 4.

    Optimize for mobile.
    The Science of Email 2014 by HubSpot and Litmus reports 47% of all emails were opened on mobile. That’s huge. It has also been found that 80.3 percent of mobile users do not tolerate or engage with email content that is not optimized. Many ESPs offer responsive email templates as an easy way to optimize for different screen sizes. Other optimizations include images that load quickly, concise copy, bigger fonts and calls-to-action that are easy to click.

  5. 5.

    Hook readers with your subject line.
    Your subject line is the headline that draws readers into your email. It should be concise (rule of thumb is 50 characters or less) and descriptive. Persuasive or intriguing. Being clever usually doesn’t work. Consider using action verbs. Overall, know how to talk your audience. Recent research suggests that words and characters previously considered spam triggers actually have little of no effect on deliverability.

  6. 6.

    Create concise, compelling content.
    Your content should deliver on the promise you made when your reader subscribed. Remember, it’s a newsletter, not a promotional email. Content should be informative, valuable and entertaining with minimal self-promotion. Copy should be short, easy to skim and written in the right tone. Focus on a prominent, direct call-to-action that links back to your site. And, don’t forget to proofread!

  7. 7.

    Design for impact.
    Most people prefer HTML-based (rich-text) emails. Your design should be visually compelling but not overloaded with imagery. Try to use a consistent format that becomes recognizable to readers. Optimize for both html and text formats as 36% of people still prefer plain-text emails. (Make sure you manually edit your text email for readability rather than rely on the auto-generated version.) Finally, use your ESP’s preview tools to ensure your design renders correctly in different email clients and devices.

  8. 8.

    The more targeted your emails are the more successful they’ll be. You can segment your lists and personalize emails based on demographics, past purchases, company role, interests, web pages visited, email links clicked and more. Just don’t get creepy about it.

  9. 9.

    Abide by the CAN-SPAM act.
    The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial email, with each violation subject to penalties of up to $16,000. Get to know the law because even if an agency handles your email marketing, your company will be held responsible if your emails break it.

  10. 10.

    Test, measure and iterate.
    Don’t rely on industry benchmark data as a measurement of your success. Findings such as “best day of the week to send an email” are not absolutes. Do your own testing to see what works best for you. Use analytics to measure your results against your business and marketing goals as well as past emails.

Long live the email newsletter

Need help creating an email newsletter? Contact Greenleaf Media. We’ll make sure your newsletter enjoys the longevity of a cockroach—without its pesty nature!