Newsletters Done Right
By Joe Dysart
If you're thinking about starting or enhancing an e-mail-delivered newsletter for your custom business, you're in good company. Artfully designed and managed e-newsletters have the potential to maintain real relationships with customers and prospective customers. "Newsletters feel personal because they arrive in your inbox‚ you have an ongoing relationship with them," says Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen. "The positive emotional aspect of newsletters is that they can create much more of a bond between user and company than a Web site can."
Surprisingly, a study undertaken by Nielsen's prestigious NNG Group also found that many subscribers are reluctant to "unsubscribe" to a commercial newsletter—even when they no longer read the mailings regularly. The reason? Many subscribers develop an emotional attachment to a newsletter over time, and they are reluctant to sever that relationship, according to Nielsen. The NNG study comes on the heels of a similar report released by Internet market research firm DoubleClick late last year, which found that consumers and others are much more likely to respond positively to e-mail than more traditional advertising, such has direct mail.
Specifically, DoubleClick found that 37.3 percent of all promotional e-mail was opened by recipients. Business products and services e-mail had the highest open rate at 47.3 percent, followed by travel and consumer product and services at 42.5 percent. Perhaps an even more telling, 8.5 percent of all promo e-mail prompted recipients to "click-through" on a link embedded in the e-mail for more information on a product or service. Most Web sites of any size or stripe would salivate for a clickthrough rate like that.
The problems found in many—if not most—newsletters are legion. Frequency is the first consideration; too much correspondence is usually a turn off, no matter who's sending it and no matter what is being said. For most C-businesses, newsletter mailings are updates on what's new and newly available, and while subscribers have already shown their interest in this information, ask yourself if they need to hear it every week? Content is also an obvious point—e-mail is correspondence, not publishing. A reader should be able to quickly and conveniently absorb your message, and if your message is enticing enough, click through for more information. Too much information in a newsletter means an investment of time and effort on the part of the reader. Newsletter content should be progressive—that is, just enough information to warrant a click for further information, which ideally is on your Web site, rather than in the newsletter itself.