We all know that consistently reaching your audience is essential in modern marketing. If they don’t ever see your brand, they won’t think of you when a need arises – they’ll go to a competitor instead. Regular digital newsletters can be a great solution for this. Consistent, valuable messages sent directly to a customer’s inbox keeps you in the front of their mind so you’re the first person they think of when ready to buy.
I often see small businesses publishing regular digital newsletters and at first I get excited. I think, “Oh wonderful! They’re using the tools accessible through modern technology to reach their audience directly – this is great for them!” But then I open the message and my heart just sinks. Here are a few of the biggest mistakes I see on a regular basis, especially among small business owners:
There is no organization – I can’t tell what they really want me to read! I feel like I’ve suddenly jumped into an ADD world, and it grates hard on my brain. I wind up reading none of it.
The layout itself is jumpy - there’s clearly been no real testing to make sure content doesn’t break their template, and it adds to the disjointed, ADD feeling that makes readers click away even faster than they clicked in.
A wall of text – let’s be honest, we’ve become an image-obsessed society – use it to your advantage and sprinkle in some visual narratives.
Typos galore! – this is my biggest pet peeve. I know we’re not all English majors here (I’m not either), and most of us can’t justify the cost of having someone else write our content. But when you’re sending a message directly to an audience you want to see you as professional and trustworthy, it’s worth taking a few minutes to re-read once (or twice!) to make sure it’s as clean as possible and your fingers didn’t get ahead of (or behind) your brain while typing.
The Solutions and Why They’re Important
We are a society of skimmers. On web pages, a viewer will on average only spend 7 seconds deciding if a page is worth their time - if they can’t find what they’re looking for in that time, you lose them. With inboxes that are constantly inundated with SPAM, this time can be even shorter with emails. So make sure your content is easy to skim, has valuable content, and is organized with bite-sized blocks of content and clear headers. Strong hierarchy is one of the first lessons of design and typography!
- Be consistent. If your readers know what to expect, they’ll look for their favorite parts of your email every time you send.
- Use headlines to your advantage. Have a standard for your headers and sub-headers, and use them with catchy phrases to let readers know what’s coming in the lines that follow.
- Get to the point. Make sure to draw readers in right away, and avoid rambling. Readers want to know what you have to say, but they won’t give you all day to say it.
- Post the most important messages toward the top of your newsletter – if a reader is disinterested in the top, they’re not likely to read through to the bottom.
- Write too much. Think magazine, not novel (or think of publishing a small chapter, not the whole book). If you have a long article, include a teaser and a “Read More” link that connects to the rest published online.
- Cram too many stories into one eblast. Save some of that content for next week! A good rule of thumb is no more than 3-5 topics or ‘stories’, and there should be variety of types (and length!) to these topics (see using a template below).
- Jump from one topic to another. Make sure to group similar information together so there’s a flow to the message. This does not, of course, exclude having a ‘theme’ to a particular newsletter.
Use a Template You Can Stick To
If you’re sending a regular newsletter that your audience counts on every week (or month), have a strong template that you can stick to every time. It may include a feature story, a testimonial, an offer, a bio (one of your clients, idols, or staff). Have a set length for each of these elements and stick to that, too – white space is a great design element, but you don’t want to lose readers in poorly planned gaps, either!
Working with a professional eblast designer to assess your needs can do wonders to keep you on track. They’ll sit down with you, go through your goals, and provide something that will pull everything together with professional consistency that will last for the long-haul. These templates should be flexible enough to house a variety of content, but rigid enough to keep you on track for your audience’s expectations as well as your company’s branding.
Images Are Your Friend!
“A picture is worth a thousand words” has become something of a worn-out cliche, but with the advent of Instagram, Pinterest, and even recent trends on Facebook, it’s clear our society is drawn first and foremost to eye-catching images, with headlines and text following after. Use it to your advantage! Lead with images that tell a summarized narrative, and follow with words that expand more on the story.
Proofread (or Hire an Editor)
Ok, honest moment: how many times do you reread an email before clicking send? I’ve found myself rereading something as many as three or four times just to make sure all the typos are out and the whole thing flows. Even if I only make one change, I read the whole thing from top to bottom again (and yes, sometimes even then I find a mistake later on, but at least it’s fairly rare).
Some people would say that takes too much time, but isn’t a few seconds worth the value of keeping solid credibility with your readers? And the public expects an even higher quality from eblasts than regular email – it’s an ad versus a conversation – so they tend to be less forgiving here.
If you don’t feel like you have the time to really pick through the details to make sure everything is picture perfect, hire a professional! Or at least ask a friend with impeccable spelling and grammar to read through before publishing.
Hiring an eblast professional to manage your content distribution can be helpful, too, but make sure you know their background. Most designers will take the content you send them and distribute it as-is, and are generally not responsible for editing unless you have specifically hired them for that service, as well.