Creating an e-mail newsletter isn’t rocket science, or at least, it shouldn’t be.  In fact, we’ve found that keeping it simple often gets the best results, and by simple, we mean fewer words, less graphics, and going easy on the sales pitch.  Read on for more ideas on how to turn your e-mail newsletter into a crowd pleaser:

#1 Give, And Keep Giving
Save the company updates for your web site – the self-indulgent newsletter belongs in the trash, and that’s where it often winds up.  If you want your newsletter to be read, give your readers useful information.  For example, if you’re a travel agent, you can offer travel tips and highlight trendy destinations, while including links to your holiday packages for interested readers.

#2 Say It With Words
It’s estimated that almost 60% of readers block images in their e-mails, so your newsletter should have more text than images.  More importantly, don’t put vital information in the images, but rather, have it in text format.  And when you include images in your newsletter, use enticing ALT text (e.g. “Checklist For Success!”) coupled with a “View/Download image” link to get the hit.

#3 Subjects Matter
If your reader can’t get past your subject line, it’s practically game over for you and your newsletter.  To be effective, the subject line should contain the title of your newsletter and the topic of the week/month in a nutshell.  Once you’ve got a catchy liner, run it by a few friends – would they open your mail?

#4 View From The Top
Most of your readers at work will be viewing your mail through their preview pane – even if they’re not impressed with your subject line, they may give your newsletter a chance, depending on what shows up on their screen.  It’s reason enough to think twice before you stick that ad banner or instructions on how to unsubscribe at the top of your page.

#5 Every Second Counts
You’ve got 51 seconds to grab your average reader’s attention, or so says the Nielsen Norman Group.  If you’re writing an editorial note or summary, highlight issues that your readers are interested in.  You may also want to feature a hyperlinked table of contents at the top of your page; research shows that bottom-listed articles are rarely read.

#6 What’s Next?
Sure, your newsletter should be a good read, but what happens after?  Chances are, you’d like to direct traffic to your web site or your store, and to do that, you’ll need to tell your readers how to take action.  This can be anything from printing out a newsletter coupon to qualify for a store discount, or clicking on a link to your product promo page.

#7 Write It Yourself
Outsourcing writing is the rage these days, but when it comes to understanding your company, no-one does it better than you.  So don’t be afraid to give writing a shot, just keep these pointers in mind:

  • Be Conversational: Write as if you were talking to your reader; avoid jargon, corporate-speak, and anything else you wouldn’t say to a customer.
  • Don’t Waste Words: Keep a lid on your word count by weeding out redundancy (e.g. don’t write “close proximity” when “proximity” already means nearness) and words that dilute your message (e.g. don’t say something is “very/quite/sort of breathtaking,” when “breathtaking” alone will do the job, and with greater impact).
  • Avoid Clichés: It’s tempting to reach for a cliché or catchphrase, but an over-reliance on common phrases makes your writing look tired.  The same goes for rehashing material that can be found elsewhere.  The best way to beat this: coin a phrase of your own and provide an original viewpoint as often as you can.

Once you’ve prepared a draft, consider hiring someone to edit or proofread your work.  This way, you’ll produce copy with passion and polish.

#8 The Ultimate Test
Before you unleash your newsletter on the public, test it on different e-mail clients (including web-based e-mail services) and operating platforms to make sure it shows up as intended.  eConnect Email allows you to send up to 10 test emails – that’s enough to test your campaign on all the well-known web-based e-mail services – so please use them.  After spending so much effort on a great campaign, the last thing you need is to realize the images aren’t in the right place or haven’t been linked properly.  And don’t just test the visuals, remember to click on your links to see what happens – are they pointing to the right URL, or are your links even working?

#9 Know Your Holidays
If you’re out of ideas for newsletter content, try checking your calendar – it’s easy to link products and services to common holidays like Christmas.  However,  avoid sending out your newsletter close to (or during) the holidays, because readers tend to take a break from their computers as well.

#10 Same Time, Same Channel
Decide on a date, time, and frequency for sending out your newsletter, and stick to it so your readers know when they can expect to hear from you.  As a rule, anything more than once a week is too much unless you’re in the horoscopes business, and anything less than once in two months is too little for readers to remember your newsletter.

Your campaigns won’t become a smash hit overnight, but the only way to get there is to start improving on what you have.  Enjoy sending your campaigns and remember this: Always respect your subscribers.

About James Trumbly:
Director of Business Development for eConnect Email, an email marketing software company. James enjoys spending time at the beach and traveling in his free time. Follow him on twitter @eConnectEmail