A newsletter can be an incredibly powerful distribution channel.

For an ecommerce business, it’s a channel you can’t ignore, and one you shouldn’t take lightly.

When writing, there’s the art of writing and the art of selling. In order to write a great newsletter, you have to know how to combine both.

Here are four fundamental things you should keep in mind when writing a newsletter your audience wants to read.

What will you find in this article?

Define your newsletter’s goal before writing
Your subject lines should work as hard as your email
Your design counts (but no design is better than no email!)
Add a personal touch
Summary

Sounds good? Let’s dive in.

Define your newsletter’s goal before writing

It seems obvious: you want your newsletter to sell your products.

But it might not be that straightforward.

Sales isn’t a one-step process, and your newsletters won’t be a one-step click guiding users straight down your sales funnel. You should choose an entry point on your sales funnel, and design your newsletter to direct your readers to it. That means writing it for that level of awareness and need.

Some newsletters might work to guide people to your content, some might be promoting sales, some might be driving traffic for your website, some might be for a specific campaign or partnership: each should have one call to action (preferably repeated more than once if your email is long).

Some newsletters might work to guide people to your content, some might be promoting sales, some might be driving traffic for your website, some might be for a specific campaign or partnership: each should have one call to action Click To Tweet

Defining your newsletter’s goal will help design content geared towards that audience.

Some common newsletter goals are:

  • Building brand awareness and loyalty
  • Sales and promotions
  • Directing traffic to the website
  • Company news and updates (this includes terms and conditions)
  • Promoting contests
  • Email retargeting campaigns (an example of this might be abandoned cart emails)

Check out these three different past newsletters from the online Microsoft Store.

The first is a general sales email, promoting several successful releases across genres on their store. This would be good to drive customers who are intrigued, who want to see a new movie on demand, who perhaps haven’t bought before and now have a compelling reason, as well as former customers who will be happy to be updated about new arrivals.

Microsoft Store giving several options in their newsletter
This email gives customers several options to choose from, not focusing on one particular genre. (Source: Microsoft newsletters)

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The second is promoting a very specific product. This may have been sent to a smaller list of subscribers, gamers only or console users only, maybe people who were interested in this particular kind of game. The call to action is not driving people to the overall store, but to purchasing the game itself.
Microsoft newsleter focusing on one product delivers a clear message
This newsletter, in contrast, only focuses on one product and one genre, and the call to action is much more focused. (Source: Microsoft newsletter)
The third newsletter is very different.
Microsoft newsletter without commercial aspect
This newsletter has no ecommerce aspect at all, with no immediate product features. (Source: Microsoft newsletter)
Not at all sales-oriented, this is Microsoft doing the equally important work of showcasing its corporate values through its available channels. This is for brand awareness, building loyalty and reputation.

Its click-through rates might not be as high, but its consumers will take notice, especially as climate awareness grows.

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Your subject lines should work as hard as your email

Just as it doesn’t matter how brilliant your products are if nobody comes into your store to shop there, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your newsletter is if nobody opens your emails to read them.

Just as it doesn't matter how brilliant your products are if nobody comes into your store to shop there, it doesn't matter how brilliant your newsletter is if nobody opens your emails to read them. Click To Tweet

Just as the first step is getting customers through the door, the first step is getting customers to open your emails.

The good news is, marketers have studied the science of subject lines and revisited it over and over, with each new iteration of tech, so you don’t have to.

First, sweat the small stuff and count your characters. Campaign Monitor listed email subject line display length limits on mobile by device.

The subject line display limits can vary across devices, and portrait and landscape. (Source: Campaign Monitor)
The lowest limit is as low as 41 characters. Work within this limit when drafting your subject lines: remember, if the kicker to your headline is cut off by the screen, it might as well not be there at all.

Also, keep in mind that just because you have 41 characters, doesn’t mean you have to use them all.

Second, give customers a reason to click. The other important thing is that your subject line provokes some kind of emotion in your readers. They’ll either be clicking because they’re eager to find out what’s inside, curious about the question you’ve posed, excited about the offer available or something else.

For more inspiration and reading on email subject lines

Your design counts (but no design is better than no email!)

There’s a reason people work so hard at newsletter templates, or have galleries with hundreds of designs separated by industry. It’s because the design fundamentally affects how people interact with your email.
Gallery of newsletter designs on Wishpond
Newsletters come in all shapes and sizes, but all good newsletter designs have one thing in common: they’re geared towards being appealing to readers. (Source: Wishpond.com)
Longer newsletters should have repeated call to actions in the same style, in clear differentiating colors. Sales newsletters should be short and simple. Welcome emails are usually bright, friendly, to the point and very on brand.

That being said, don’t get so stuck on your design that you never send out your newsletter. If you find yourself spending weeks and weeks tweaking headers and footers, it might be time to bite the bullet with a simple plain text email campaign, and build from there.

Plain text emails can be a design in and of themselves, and (sometimes they’re their own strategy).

A plain and clean email strategy is better than no email strategy.

For resources to help create your own email newsletter design:

Add a personal touch

Email personalization can make a dramatic difference in terms of the performance you can get from your email campaigns. From your open rates to your click throughs, people respond best when they’re spoken to as an individual.

Email personalization can make a dramatic difference in terms of the performance you can get from your email campaigns. Click To Tweet

Of course, that doesn’t happen without effort.

We know segmentation can seem like an unnecessary step at the outset. It means asking your customers to fill out a few more fields (like their name and interests), or keeping records of their activity to best tailor your newsletters to suit their needs. Sometimes, it seems easier just to send one email and be done with it.

Like anything else, though, the effort you put in is what you get back. Jordie van Rijn, a marketing specialist, states that 77% of ROI comes from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.

If you’re not convinced putting effort into personalized email marketing works, ask Zumba Fitness.

The marketing team at Zumba managed to see a lift in conversions (and customer happiness) with an exceptionally well designed video email campaign.
Putting extra effort to customize videos with their recipients’ names to promote a conference, and giving them the information they needed and compelling content about the conference, their efforts paid off, with a 50% open rate and fans sharing their campaign on social media.

According to Marketing Sherpa, one fan shared, “Just … I mean JUST as I was laying here debating & thinking I WASN’T going to the convention this year, I got an email with my name in it! Lol. #SmartMarketing #Zumba #2014ZINConvention #MightGo.”

Summary

These are only the basics in helping you build a newsletter that converts, and there’s a whole world of resources, tips, tricks, and case studies out there. However, there’s no real replacement for finding your own voice and what rings true and resonates with your audience.

Sales or no sales, remember that your newsletters are just that: letters. Make sure your subscribers enjoy the read!

Author bio:

Farahnaz (you can call her Farah) is a content marketer at Wishpond, with a background in journalism and a love for digital marketing, travel and dogs. You can find her on twitter @FarahColette.

 

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