11 Basic Best Practices for Email Newsletters

As part of a social media project I’m working on, I spent some time tonight researching different email marketing tools. I also looked for best practices when sending newsletters.

Photo credit: http://www.principalspage.com/

The result? Some surprises – others, not so much. Here are my top 11 findings:

1. Keep emails social – i.e. Make sure subscribers can easily share your emails with friends/followers. Also, make it easy for them to spot links to your social networking sites.
2. Send welcome note. Establish the relationship early.
3. Avoid the following words: free, help, percent off, reminder, donation.
4. Avoid using the exact same subject line.  Avoid exclamation marks.
5. Use 50 characters or less in the subject line. Consider the use of questions in the subject line
6. Do the occasional A/B testing.
7. Never buy or rent a list. (Get people to subscribe.)
8. Avoid spammy phrases; also, avoid all caps. e.g. “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” or “LIMITED TIME OFFER!”
9. Make it easy for subscribers to unsunscribe if they want to.
10. Include your organization name in the “From” line.
11. Include great content.

I do send email newsletters in my current job, and so this was also of particular interest to me. I think doing A/B testing is really important because, as I’ve learned in the last Net Tuesday meetup I attended, what works for one company may not work at all for another organization. Including great content is another no-brainer, but it’s nevertheless good to be reminded to do it.

It’s a bit of a surprise to learn that using the word “help” is not a good idea. Same with “free”. I suppose we see these words so frequently now that we (and the spam filters) just assume that marketers use these to trick consumers.

Did any of these tips surprise you? To read more about email newsletter best practices, visit these helpful pages from MailChimp and Emma.

Email is NOT Dead: My First Net Tuesday Meetup

Photo credit: Net Tuesday Vancouver MeetUp Page

Last Tuesday, I went to my first Net Tuesday meetup. I was interested with the meetup for two reasons: first, because part of my role at my co-op job is to send out bi-weekly newsletters, I thought that the meetup’s content would be relevant . Secondly, I was so impressed with Net Squared Camp, and so I knew that Net Tuesday might be a good thing.

The September  meetup did not disappoint. I got many nuggets, some of which I’m hoping to bring into my current role at  SFU Volunteer Services.

Some of the best tips I got include the following:

  • Email is not dead yet. Shanon Daud, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ communication director and one of the three panelists at the event, pointed out that for some of the people belonging to CCPA’s target audience do not use Facebook or Twitter. For these individuals, email is the preferred/main/only way of communication. Shannon also pointed out that email is still more direct and reliable than many social media, and that the tool is great for creating and maintaining long term relationships.
  • Test, test, and test some more. Duncan Owen, who is involved with the David Suzuki Foundation, emphasized the importance of testing. Some segmentation might work well. For instance, one group might get a newsletter with the same content but with a different subject line as another group.In fact,  this advice stood out to me:
    Sometimes best practice isn’t best practice for you.What works for one organization may not work for another (because of the different target audiences, the size of the mail list, etc.) and so some testing becomes imperative.

    You can learn more about A-B testing in an email campaign here.

  • Keep it simple. This is the main tip from Ben Johnson, who is involved with the Union Gospel Mission. He advocates for simple content – i.e. keep it short and concise. Note that this doesn’t necessarily negate point #2. All the panelists, in fact,  agreed that too much segmentation of a mail list may be counterproductive. (They also pointed out that it takes too much time to segment lists, and doing so might cost more than its benefits.) Finding that balance between simplicity and testing is key.   For some audiences, segmentation may not work at all; for instance, in the case of CCPA, Shannon said that readers are usually interested with a breadth of topics; thus, no segmentation at all is done on that list.

There were other notable tidbits from the meetup, including a lively discussion about —- surprise! — measurement and analytics. Some names were thrown out there such as Emma, Campaign Monitor, and Vertical Response. I use MailChimp at work and I must say that the tool is easy to use and provides some great reports.

I’m sure I’ve missed something here, but if you’d like full notes, go to the Net Tuesday September webpage. Also, if you’re interested with this meetup, go to its official site or like it on Facebook.