Email series, part 2: How to set manage structure and content

Few marketing methods are more powerful than well-executed e-newsletter campaigns. But how do you do it right? In part 2 of our series, we look at the structure and content of your e-newsletters.

In part 1 of our series of setting up an e-newsletter, we looked at how to build an email database. Your next step is deciding how to structure your e-newsletter and what content to include.

Command attention with a great subject line

“Start by making sure your subject line and introduction are punchy. You need to get straight into it,” says Frank Chamberlin, who is the founder of business writing company Action Words and a teaching associate for the Masters of Marketing course at Monash University. “People are time poor and they don’t want fluff at the start. You could start with a question, a ‘how to’ or a quote.”

According to Chamberlin, speaking directly to the reader will help you to grab their attention. “The most important word in the English language is ‘you’ – use this to draw the reader in with something like ‘10 tips for you’.”

E-newsletter structure

Many people will quickly scan an e-newsletter, rather than sitting back to read it thoroughly. Consequently, when setting out the structure your e-newsletter, the main rule is to keep it streamlined. This means using short sentences and paragraphs and simple, direct language.

“Include three or four points, stories or links. Give each one a short, snappy heading or precede so that it’s easier for the reader to find the sections that interest them,” advises Chamberlin.

Graphics can be used to make the e-newsletter attractive but don’t go overboard, says Chamberlin, as the main point is simple communication. “Don’t use more than one or two images and make sure they’re relevant. Try to use photos, which are seen to have more credibility than illustrations.”

Action words are essential, says Chamberlin. Use simple, active-case verbs as much as possible: rather than saying “xx should be considered” or “take into consideration” say “consider”.

Should you promote products and services in your e-newsletters?

Sharing knowledge and information in your e-newsletter is far more important and ultimately more successful than blatant self-promotion. “The newsletter is a promotion and a reminder of your brand in itself,” says Chamberlin.

Ask yourself: what will the reader gain from reading your e-newsletter? “Competitions can encourage readership and it can be good to give people the option to sign up for something appealing,” says Chamberlin. “For example, I have an invitation that goes out four times a year and usually 40 per cent of people who receive the email open it. However, this year the event was something really special and the open rate was consequently was much higher than usual.”

To make your business more accessible without in-your-face self promotion, Chamberlin also suggests putting your contact details at the top and bottom of the newsletter, so it’s clear who is sending the e-newsletter; there is nothing more frustrating than struggling to find contact details when you want them!

Include a hyperlink to your website, as well links to any social media accounts you have, such as your Facebook page and Twitter. This opens up the lines of communication with your readers, inviting comments, and it can also create a sense of community.

Include an unsubscribe option

Although you don’t want to lose readers, giving people an easy way to unsubscribe is both mandatory and good business practice. “It’s essential to make it easy for people to unsubscribe,” says Chamberlin. “Just include a button – one click and they’re out.”

If you find that your unsubscribe rates are high, you might want to add an optional multiple choice question to find out why people are unsubscribing, as you may discover that you’re sending out too many e-newsletters, for instance. Chamberlin advises caution, however. “I would be hesitant to ask people why they are unsubscribing. It can be useful to know, but it’s frustrating for the reader and a bit pushy.”

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