E-mail marketing: finding success with professional newsletters

In this new age of social media, AdWords and other successful marketing tools, businesses often put e-mail marketing on the back burner. This is definitely a no-no since newsletters are one of the most effective marketing tools in online marketing. As a high performance, measurable, and personally-tailored means of communication, it is especially favored in the B2B as well as the B2C area.

The online marketing classic

E-mail marketing belongs to the most traditional online marketing disciplines through which customers are contacted through newsletters and other advertising mails. There are numerous ways of implementation: a typical example is the e-mail marketing approach that many online shops take by informing customers after their first purchase of any offers and sales that are happening. E-mail marketing also offers other sectors, from retail and wholesale to gyms and box offices, the chance to keep in regular and direct contact with customers.

E-mails are a form of direct marketing which focuses on the expansion and maintenance of existing customers. In principle there are two different strategies:

  • One-to-one communication: here the e-mail is addressed to individuals.
  • One-to-many communication: here the e-mail is sent to many recipients.

E-mail marketing is very often part of dialogue marketing, which entails direct contact with the customer. Dialogue marketing normally takes place on the phone, usually via a call center. E-mail marketing targets the customer directly and tries to present them with a personally-tailored offer. The e-mail should trigger a response from the recipient: the possibility of an answer or a response via links or an order form will be clearer in newsletters than with other forms of advertising (e.g. poster advertising that one cannot directly respond to). The “call to action” should motivate the recipient to carry out a certain action, for example:

  • To take advantage of special offers and discounts.
  • To look at new products in the shop.
  • To read current articles on the homepage.
  • To download white paper and e-books.

There is a difference between newsletters and e-mails when it comes to e-mail marketing. It depends on how often these marketing instruments are sent out. Newsletters are sent regularly meaning the recipient is written to on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. E-mails are sent irregularly and are usually linked to a certain occasion or event. The occasion could be seasonal (e.g. holidays or campaign days) or also offer-related (e.g. launch of new products, the start of a special sale).

The challenges of e-mail marketing

Promotional mail doesn’t really have the best reputation. The main reason is the increased amount of spam mails in the last few years. More and more people are buying and reading online so their e-mail address ends up in the mailing lists of many shops, blogs, and other sites. This results in an overflowing inbox and the recipient consequently takes a few seconds to decide whether they want to open or delete an e-mail. Businesses are therefore faced with a big challenge: their newsletters or advertising mails have to arouse interest straight away by being geared towards a certain target group or being tailored to individual customers.

Success factors

Newsletters can be especially beneficial to businesses due to their large coverage and the possibility of targeting certain groups. They can also be directly addressed to the recipient and come across in a more personal way. This personalization also means less waste when it comes to large mailing lists, since relevant content can be custom-fitted to each respective recipient. The combination of relevant content and less waste leads to a high return on investment (ROI), which means that the proportion between expenditure and profit is very good.

E-mail marketing at a glance…
...An efficient and cost-effective form of direct marketing.
...Opportunity to directly and personally address the customer.
...An instrument for long-term customer retention.
...A way of promoting sustainable customer relationships.
...Wide outreach (depending on the address list).
...Offers a high ROI.

The success of an e-mail campaign or a newsletter can be precisely measured. With appropriate tools, you can keep track of which mails have been opened and which links have been clicked on. The comprehensive analysis of individual campaigns enables a continuous adaptation to customers and other interested parties.

Tips for starting an e-mail marketing campaign

1. Create a recipient list

In order to kick-start your newsletter, you first need a list of recipients. It should, if possible, consist of interested readers that could become potential customers. You’d think that the easiest way is to write to your existing contacts, but be careful; promotional mails can only be sent with the recipient’s expressed consent. There are different ways of getting this consent. It is important to use the double opt-in process, which involves the interested party filling in their details. They then receive an automatically generated e-mail and must confirm that they actually want to receive the newsletter.

2. Gain new subscribers

It’s always better to be on the safe side by sending existing customers an e-mail asking if they would like to receive future newsletters. An additional way of expanding the mailing list is to integrate the newsletter registration into the order process (e.g. “yes, I would like to receive the regular newsletter”) or to place it on the homepage. There are different strategies to encourage new customers to subscribe to the newsletter. An incentive is often offered to new customers such as a discount code when they complete the double opt-in process. A popular choice is a free white paper or e-book download that can also be linked in the newsletter.

3. Choose suitable content

As mentioned above, the recipient often has a barrage of promotional e-mails in their inbox, so making your own newsletter stick out from the masses is no easy task. Relevant content is the success of every e-mail campaign. It is important to speak to the customer’s needs and not just to offer them value. You have better chances of besting your competition if you adjust the content and promotions to your target group. This also applies if you want to create a newsletter that will actually be read.

If you want to:

  • Increase your sales figures, you should incorporate product offers and discount campaigns.
  • Strengthen your brand, you should establish a reputation as an expert in your field by providing relevant and trustworthy information (e.g. a white paper).
  • Increase your readership, you should have current news and relevant topics on current affairs available.

4. Pay attention to the design and structure of the newsletter

Even the best content isn’t much use if it isn’t well presented. A standardized layout increases the recognition value and strengthens the corporate identity of a business. The company logo should be in the header with a link to the website. A clear and intuitive navigational structure is just as important as an appropriate and readable font. When building and designing the mail you should always keep readers’ behavior in mind. Here are some rules to follow:

Positioning in a visible area
The “above the fold” principle applies to newsletters as well as websites. Many will know this principle from the classic newspaper adage. All important information should be above the fold (i.e. the page break) so that the reader sees it straightaway. When it comes to the internet, the principle refers to the limited browser window (600 pixels). All the important content, key statements and offers in a newsletter should be in this visible area. Most importantly, the call to action, which encourages the reader to click on more, should be visible without the need to scroll down.  sichtbar sein.

Call to action
The aforementioned CTA (call to action) is especially valuable when it comes to designing a newsletter and can be considered to be the centerpiece of the e-mail. It is only when the CTA speaks to the customer that they will continue to click. The design should look different, the button or writing often stands out from the rest, and the text should be short and concise. Since you only have a few words or a sentence, you need to cut to the chase and give a good reason for the customer to click.

Use visual stimuli
The design (the choice of colors and contrasts) also belongs to the success factors of the CTA as well as content, structure and positioning. Click elements, CTAs and special offers can be made to stand out by using different colors. You can emphasize different areas to direct the reader’s attention to them, but it is best to concentrate on just one or two highlights. If you use images and graphics, don’t forget to include the alt texts. These are shown as alternatives in case the graphics cannot be shown correctly. If you are advertising a big discount sale in your graphic, you should also have this written in the alt text.

5. Dispatch: check the most important information

Before the newsletter is sent, you should check the important factors once more:

Dispatch time
The date and time of dispatch should conform to the respective target group. B2B customers can be best reached between the current business hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Private users should be written to in the evening or at the weekend.

Correct sender and subject
The subject and sender are the first things that the recipient sees. If these look dubious, your mail will quickly find itself in the trash. The sender’s address should therefore be descriptive and clear, which can be achieved by having the company’s name included in it. The subject line should also be clear. Catchy wording will encourage the recipient to open the mail whereas empty phrases and lots of punctuation will put them off. With only 40-50 characters you have to be clear about the promotions and link references.

Appropriate target group
Most programs enable different mailing lists to be created so you can choose which target groups you want to address. The target group has to be defined before the newsletter is created. Check that the right recipient group has been selected before you send.  

Important components of every newsletter
The double opt-in process is very important when it comes to newsletter registration. Just as important is the possibility for the customer to have the option to unsubscribe. You are also obliged to add a disclaimer, which is usually placed in the footer section.

6. Send a test mail

Before the newsletter is sent out, you should check its presentation and functionality as well as seeing if the links work. The presentation can differ from e-mail client to e-mail client. These should be factored in, as should the mobile display. The majority of e-mails and newsletters will be opened on mobile devices. This change in user behavior should be taken into consideration in your e-mail marketing strategy. Responsive designs react to different screen sizes and show the user the adapted newsletter version for their device. The test mail should also determine whether the display is shown correctly on different devices.

7.  Measure and optimize success

Different software solutions for e-mail marketing make it possible to measure the success exactly and to continuously optimize newsletter campaigns. All important figures of the newsletter dispatch are provided through integrated tracking:

  • Delivery rate
  • Opening rate
  • Click rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Conversion rate  

Thanks to these figures, every business can check exactly whether the newsletter design and content were prepared according to the target group. Little by little, you can improve and optimize your mail to carve out the ideal marketing strategy for different recipient groups. A favored method of optimizing subject lines or content is AB testing. This is where two versions of the same newsletter are sent out and the reactions to both mails are then subsequently compared.

Tip

Determining if your audience opens your newsletters, how often they do it and if they click on any of the links, can help you understand how interested they are in what you are offering them.

A permanent element of the marketing plan

As a classic marketing tool, e-mail marketing should be a permanent element of every solid marketing plan. Well-thought-out e-mail marketing, supported by the right tools, leads to individual customer contact and long-term success. This type of online marketing becomes properly sustainable through personalization. This is more than just personal addresses and segmentation. Dialogue marketing works well when each dialogue is customized and contains the exact information that each customer is looking for. Professional software solutions further facilitate this venture.

In our guide book you will find a summary of the different e-mail marketing tools.