Jennie Ambrose

How to create a perfect email newsletter in 10 key steps

Figure out your newsletter’s goal

Far too often emails are created without consideration to the overall aim of the campaign. First of all, figure out the newsletter’s goal and how it’s incorporated within your wider marketing strategy. You may want the newsletter to generate additional traffic to your site, be directly responsible for an increase in conversions, simply to generate leads. Nailing down your objective will be the first step to creating a successful email newsletter.

Determine your target audience

You’ve selected the overall goal for the email but who will you be sending it to? Just because you have a mailing list it doesn’t necessarily mean you should be sending the email to everyone. Be selective; consider your goals and think carefully about who should receive the email. Don’t be scared to segment your data. Consider creating multiple versions of the email to send to different subsets if required. The more targeted and relevant you can make the email the higher the likelihood it will be a success.

Gather your content

With your goal and audience decided the next big decision is what information you are planning to send. Ultimately your chosen goals will most likely dictate this but there may need to be a balance of informational and sales focused content. Will there be a single minded focus to the email or a broader range of information? This will all need to be decided before the email is written and designed. Trying to shoehorn additional content in or remove redundant information further down the line (although possible) will more than likely to cause headaches.

Invest in great Copy

Although it’s not a hard-hitting piece of direct mail, the copy you write for a newsletter is still incredibly important. It only takes a few seconds to scan an email and click delete so it needs to be engaging and as interesting as possible. Whilst “good” content is rather subjective, giving your subscribers a reason to read and click on your email should be the main priority. In essence, don’t be tempted to produce it on the cheap, invest in great copy. The engagement level depends on it.

Along with the content you’re trying to promote consider including personalisation. Try to make a customer feel like the email is just for them rather than something which is being sent out to everyone. They’re more likely to read something if they think you know who they are. Another thing to consider whilst writing the copy is the subject line for the email – this along with the sender name will be the first thing the recipient reads. It should grab the reader’s attention and leave them in no doubt that they want to open the email to see what’s inside. To boost your open rates even further consider using symbols within the subject line to grab attention in crowded inboxes.

Design your template

With the copy written, next is design. The first thing you need to do is decide on the type of email you’ll be building. Will it solely be a desktop or mobile email or will it be responsive? In some instances there are pros to having a single platform email, however, as mobile and tablet penetration continues to increase year on year realistically your email should probably be responsive. If it is going to be responsive ensure consideration is given to both the desktop and mobile views. There’s no point in making it responsive if it compromises the overall user experience when viewed on a mobile device. Make note of the most important elements within the email the call-to-action, for example – and consider how they will work across different devices. Ensure buttons are big enough for even the pudgiest of fingers!

Set up tracking

Tracking should be thought of as an integral part of creating an email newsletter. Regardless of how you plan on measuring the success of the newsletter, understanding a customer’s behaviour whilst they are viewing your email is imperative. If you are sending them to your website, track what they do when they get there too. Ensuring you have a robust, comprehensive set of tracking links in place will give you the ability to utilise tools such as Google Analytics to great effect and could help you make decisions about both your next email and your website.

Test different browsers and email providers

Once the email has been built, a thorough testing procedure should be undertaken. Don’t rely on a single test file for the email. Just because it works for you it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for everyone. Test the email in numerous email providers and browsers and bear in mind that there will be technical limitations to some of these so concessions may have to be made. Using a service such at Litmus is always a good option as it can illustrate how the email will render across devices as well as browsers and email providers which is essential if your email is to be responsive. Only when you are 100% happy with the test files should you consider sending the email. This process may take a while to complete but there’s no point in sending out the email if some of your customers are only going to see a broken, non-functional email.

Send the email

Once you have tested the email and are sure the email will display as intended, the next step is to send it. Careful consideration should be given to when the email is distributed. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and think about how they’re likely to engage with your email. It may be that you want to test a few different options such as day of the week or even hour of the day. However, remember only test one variable at once or analysing your results will be a nightmare. Once you’ve made your decision click send and wait for the opens and clicks to roll in.

How to measure success

So you’ve sent the email, waited for interactions and collected the data. What’s next? You’ll probably want to assess the overall goal of your email to see if the campaign has been a success. However there are a number of additional metrics, which should also be monitored to determine the overall performance of the email. You should review the sent and received figures, the opens and clicks and in turn the open rates and click through rates. You may even be able to review conversion or revenue data depending on the nature of the site/content. Other metrics that shouldn’t be overlooked are the bounce and unsubscribe rates. All aspects of the results should be reviewed in order for a comprehensive overview of the performance to be formulated and measures of success gained.

Act on your findings

The final step on the road to producing the perfect email should be to go right back to the beginning and start again, but this time incorporate lessons learned from the first send. Was there a specific subject line which worked well or one piece of content which outperformed the rest? The key to continued success in email marketing is learning how your customers interact with your emails and aim to improve them one little bit at a time. Only then will you be able to create the perfect email newsletter.