Anatomy of a Newsletter
The email newsletter hasn’t changed much over the years but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure we have social media and a zillion new websites to choose from but good ol’ email still remains an extremely valuable asset to all affiliate marketers.
The format has generally remained the same yet marketers have found new strategies to take the old and breathe new life into this platform.
Let’s grab a scalpel and dissect the inner workings and anatomy of an email newsletter.
The Inner “Guts” of a Newsletter
A newsletter truly boils down to four elements:
- The Content. The content is the first and foremost important element of a newsletter. Content is the reason people will subscribe whether it’s for a one-time download of a freebie that helps build your brand of if they’re in it for the long-run to get as much information as possible. Your content keeps people subscribed and becomes the vehicle for your marketing message.
- The Value. Everyone perceives value in varying degrees; your email subscribers will definitely have a different perception of your brand and information because they are in a segmented niche of your business – it’s exclusive in comparison to those that only view your website. Your value, whether it’s through the actual content or an affiliate resource, needs to be on par with what your brand represents.
- The Offer. Every newsletter should have a means-to-an-end. Meaning: your newsletter should have an ultimate purpose of increasing some area of your affiliate business; this could be increasing affiliate sales or just gaining more subscribers to your Facebook page. Each newsletter should always have some kind of call-to-action otherwise you’re missing an important opportunity to get valuable results.
- The Consistency. Newsletters need to be a regular feature for your subscribers. Irregular publications of your newsletter will create confusion and a slip in your subscriber’s attention. Publication on the same day, around the same time, and with similar headline elements will keep readers expecting a new newsletter which increases the chance that they’ll participate in reading and acting on your information.
Between these four, a newsletter is, in essence, a piece of content that would otherwise be published on your website but formatted specifically for email subscribers.
The format of an email varies in comparison to website content but the message remains the same: your goal is to create a desirable action in your favor through the use of value.
The Skeleton Framework of Effective Newsletters
The four elements covered in the previous section should get you a firm understanding about the amount of work you’ll be placing into your email campaign.
With that out of the way, let’s begin to explore the actual inner framework of what goes into an effective newsletter.
The Email Subject Line
The subject line is everything.
Believe me. You can pour hundreds of hours into crafting the perfect email sequence and body content but none of it means a thing if your email is never opened. Your email subject line is the first and most important element of the newsletter because this is what gets the click and the content read.
Email marketing service provides like MailChimp has actually published data, from their customer base, detailing the effectiveness of each email subject line.
From this article alone, we can deduct that the most effective headlines to have the following elements:
- Timely information relevant to the subscriber
- Personalization from the sender and to the receiver
- Important, expected information
- Slight variation for repetitive email subject lines
- Short subject lines without fluff
In another comparison of email subject lines, MailChimp was able to deduce the same elements with very slight degrees of effectiveness.
As our take away: we can understand that the email subject line needs to be short, extremely relevant and timely to the reader, and have some kind of personalized, important information attached.
Still stumped? Try the following posts as inspiration:
- The Best 100 Headlines Ever Written
- The 20 Best Headlines Ever
- How to Write Great Headlines that Get Results
- 63 Great Email Subject Lines from the SXSW Catalog
Let your imagine wander when digging through these resources but always rely on proper testing when it comes to subject lines. There are features within most email marketing services that allow you to segment and run A/B tests with your list. Track the open rate of successful newsletters and apply what works for future endeavors.
The Email Body & Call-to-Action
There are two elements to stay on focus when working in your email marketing body content:
- Your Message
- Your Call-to-Action
The two of these go hand-in-hand. Your body content is the vehicle for your call-to-action where as the later is the ultimate focus and topic to which you will craft content in your email.
Ideally, emails used in newsletters should be short and sweet.
In an email marketing report published by iContact, list of best practices by Hubspot, and additional resources provided by Clickz, we can deduce the following about the body content of your email marketing campaigns:
- Keep the main message and call-to-action with the average area of an email client; you can go further into the topic but have your main information right up top.
- Avoid jargon and spam keywords such as free, act now, buy, and other words that have been commonly abused by spam marketers.
- Format your newsletter in both HTML and Text-based formats to ensure the best chance of deliverability to your recipients.
- Use your email marketing as a vehicle to deliver value; as a way to wrap your call-to-action within a contextual manner.
- Personalize your emails, if possible, to increase the trust and direct nature of marketing to your customers and list subscribers.
When examining the actual content provided in the email newsletter, we can find that there are a lot of options at your disposal. Here are a few ideas:
- A recent product release by your business
- An exclusive piece of content that aids the reader in your niche
- Special offers, discounts, and coupons for affiliate products (or your own)
- Interviews and write-ups about a community members’ experiences
- An invitation to a webinar or one-time event
- Polls, surveys, and questionnaires to aid in your research
- New privacy policies and legal information about your business.
- Reviews, testimonials, or feedback from your community
The options are endless when you begin to tap into your business and community. In fact, you could often use regular suggestions from your community members as the basis of your email newsletters.
To take the idea further in terms of content marketing and using call-to-actions to spur sales: you could treat your email marketing as if it’s a completely new segment of your website where subscribers feel an “exclusive” access to content that isn’t found on your actual website.
Finally, as noted, the call-to-action needs to be toward the top (and bottom) of your email newsletter.
Your call-to-action can take on many appearances and roles:
- A picture (with copy) of a new product that takes readers to your product pages
- An invitation (stylized) that brings people to a sign up page for a webinar
- A buy now button for affiliate promotions that send them to the sales page
- A link to a reader survey along with some kind of bonus for participation
In fact, your call-to-action could be as simple as asking for your readers to visit your web page with the use of copy (like “go here to see the latest posts) to not even having a direct call-to-action and teasing your readers with an upcoming announcement that will have them active on social networks, guessing what you’re about to release.
In all, the body content can be treated like a piece from your website (blog, article, etc). Your goal is to deliver as much value as you would with your website but condensed and driven through email.
Bonus: The Email P.S.
Believe it or not, most people will never read your email newsletter; they may open them to take a quick glance but, for the most part, people discard them list junk mail.
However, there are certain elements of a newsletter that nearly always gets attention and that area is the P.S. at the very end.
It’s not entirely understood why but speculation suggests that the P.S. is generally used to summarize and share the most important pieces of information about the newsletter (or upcoming ones); people quickly glance over these as the “too long, didn’t read” mentality that we all share because of limited time and short attention span.
This area of your email newsletter should house the same value and quality of information used in the entirety of the newsletter but condensed to a single sentence (like a summary). If anything, people will take a glance and get the full understanding of your newsletter; for this reason, include your call-to-action within the P.S. for maximum effectiveness.
As someone that’s been on dozens of email marketing lists – most of them suck.
We all process our email like we do junk mail; we hover our cursor over the delete function and trash anything that doesn’t look interesting despite the incredible value that could be tucked within.
In your use of email marketing, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. You will learn, in time, what your specific readers want. There is not general, blanket approach for each and every newsletter.
The best approach to implementing and understanding email marketing is to examine the best practices and what works throughout the anatomy of a newsletter. Only after understanding will you have the know-how of successfully implementing your own.