7 Common E-newsletter Pitfalls to AvoidBy
A lot of my time recently has been spent reviewing and advising clients on e-newsletters. While many businesses are not quite ready to embrace blogging as a marketing and communication tool, e-newsletters are becoming a common part of a company’s complete marketing and communication package.
Here are seven common mistakes businesses make when starting an e-newsletter:
1. Failure to get permission. I am really hoping that this one should go without saying these days, but you cannot add people to your mailing list without getting their permission first. Building a list may be a challenge at first, but using ethical methods will always produce better results. You can add people who you have established as contacts (via some previous communication) as long as you provide them with a clear means to opt-out of future mailings.
2. Using your regular email client. Raise your hand if you have ever sent or received an email where a large number of recipient email addresses were in the To or CC fields? I see a lot of hands!! Apart from the fact that it is bad manners to broadcast your contact list to the world, you have absolutely no reliable way of tracking your newsletter campaign’s effectiveness if you send it out via Outlook.
Email marketing services such as Constant Contact, 1ShoppingCart and Aweber, give you tools to track your campaign’s effectiveness. You can see how many people received it, opened it, when and what they clicked on, and you have the ability to manage opt-in, opt-out, and bounces. One client we converted to Constant Contact (from Outlook broadcast) in August of last year is still singing its praises four campaigns later. (Shoestring Smarts has a good article on the major email marketing service providers)
3. Lack of focus. Before you send out your first e-newsletter, you need to have a plan. What is the primary purpose behind the e-newsletter? Are you aiming to inform, sell, drive traffic to your site, or a combination of the three? Set up a rough editorial calendar so that each issue has a primary message and each article or excerpt works to reinforce your focus and/or brand.
4. Lengthy copy. With a printed newsletter it is much easier to define copy length – columns, text boxes, and pages help draw the boundaries for us, but electronic media boundaries are not as defined. A web page could keep going as long as we can keep scrolling.
- Craft your headlines carefully and break your copy up into quick reading blocks.
- Include just the “teaser” paragraph in the e-newsletter – bring the reader back to your web site for the complete article. (Bonus – you get more information about what your readers are interested in using this method)
- Use subheads and bullets to increase readability
- Don’t forget to add an image or two
5. Image blunders. When you send out an e-newsletter, the images need to reside somewhere on the web in order for your readers to actually be able to see them. E-newsletter newbies often make the mistake of linking to images off their desktops or copying and pasting them into the body of the newsletter. You must either load the images onto your web server or if you use an email marketing service you can upload the images to that server. The URL of the image must be the full URL, not just the image name.
Another common image blunder is using image files that are too large. An image on the web looks no better at 300 dpi than it does at 72 dpi. The only difference is in the file size. Optimize your images for size and your readers will thank you.
One more tip – be sure you give your readers a link to view the newsletter on the web or better yet, a text only version which can be helpful for those getting their email on a mobile device.
6. One hit wonders. In addition to having a focus, you need to have an idea as to how often you will be sending your e-newsletter out. You need to allow sufficient time between issues for you to gather/write quality information, but you need to be sure you don’t wait so long between issues that your readers forget about you. Don’t forget to let your readers know how often they should expect to hear from you.
7. No call to action. This has got to be the absolute, number one pitfall I have seen businesses stumble on. Don’t just leave your readers with a pretty email message – offer a coupon, deal or other compelling reason to visit your website, purchase your product, hire your company, or simply pick up the phone.
By avoiding these pitfalls, an e-newsletter can become an ideal customer relations and sales tool.
I’d love to get your feedback on this topic! What makes or breaks an e-newsletter in your opinion?