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How to overcome the bad rap of email newsletter marketing

by Tim Rimington | January 31, 2012

Let me begin with a simple question: Do your customers look out for your newsletters or do they flush them away as an annoyance?

Not long ago, email marketing held poll position as the preferred method of connecting with customers online. Companies would invest time building their contact databases, and direct campaign to those contact lists, bestowing upon each lucky recipient a wealth of information, offers and all-round good advice. Once upon a time, email recipients were indeed a lucky bunch.

But something sinister occurred between those wondrous days and the present. Daily offer websites, coupon discount websites, et-al popped up overnight and successfully tapped into the consumer's need for lean-greed, “Look! A USB-powered kettle for just $10!”. Drop everything, tell your Mother, forward the email to another group of hungry friends and colleagues! Snap up the offer for a 1Tb portable hard drive for $79 because this offer will never come again! Puleeeeease!

If you were like me and set sail with the daily deals websites in 2010-2011, your initial enthusiasm has now probably died down to that of annoyance each time a new coupon offer arrives in your Inbox. Before I began writing today's rant I actually unsubscribed to the half-dozen or so newsletters I subscribed to 12 months ago. Enough was enough!

My experience, and that of my friends also caught up in the wave of don't-miss-out consumerism, is perhaps indicative of countless more Australians fed up with the Inbox bombardment. With the mass-delete occurring each day, the worthy offers and info-newsletters are going out with the bathwater. So where does this leave you, the genuine email marketeer?

The more information you receive, the more you learn to filter. And the more you have to filter, the more likely you are to delete something worthwhile (goodbye bathwater). While I'm saddled in my rant, you can throw the 800+ Tweets you receive each day in your Twitter feed into this conversation as well. Same issue.

Before you reach for the email database delete button, it's time to get smart. Learn to eliminate the hoopla from your campaigns, and try a few campaigns cut back to basics.

A quick example is a newsletter I subscribed to 6 months ago from a USA company selling guitar tools and components. Every few weeks I receive their newsletter with a how-to guide and no hard sell. I learn something new with each campaign. But at the bottom of their newsletters they place a list of tools used in the how-to guide, and link to each product's place in their online store. I love it and I look out for it! Do your customers look out for your newsletters or do they flush them away as an annoyance?

Here's a few tips to send your campaign ROI back where it belongs:

  1. Newsletters should be a source of assistance. A short, sharp collection of helpful ideas. Remember your first kiss? Did you jump straight in and expect Hollywood? How did that work out for you? Not too well, eh? Speak to your customers in a casual, human tone and don't go in for the kill in your first sentence or heading. Ease into it. Offer something useful, something handy. Then slowly introduce your offer, if there is one.

  2. Reassess your content. Newsflash! Your readers are busy people and they're the best skim readers this side of Bourke. Bold type the useful bits and introduce bullet points if it suits what you're saying. Keep your helpful message short, and as we like to say 'round these parts, “Remember, it ain't 'War & Peace'!”.

  3. Reassess your campaigns. Bargain hunters will always be on the look out for their monthly 25% off deal, but mix it up with helpful newsletters similar to my guitar tools example. Not every campaign has to be about free shipping and steak knives.

  4. Compose a subject line in similar fashion as your website's META descriptions. When you're perusing your Google search results you're on the look out for key words and phrases relevant to your initial search request. Smart web content marketers have positioned their most important keywords towards the front of their META descriptions. You need to adopt a similar approach with your email subject lines. But unlike META descriptions you don't have 160-odd characters at your disposal. Keep it short and make it interesting – and for goodness sake, if you're an online seller who throws 25% sale offers around like wedding confetti, concoct something a little more interesting than, “25% Off All Stock!”. Yawn.

The point of this article is to get you thinking. Think outside the square. Look for ways to assist your customers and get creative. If your campaigns are all about free shipping and steak knives, then it's quite likely that your last campaign got flushed with all the other daily deal coupon rubbish.

Email campaigns do work; your customers will read your newsletters but give them something useful, don't always think about propping up your bottom line - that will come over time.

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