We can pretty much guarantee your inbox is full of newsletters. It’s inevitable; after years of browsing the web and typing your email into little boxes. There’s no doubt you’re constantly being sent updates and offers. Some are good, some you really couldn’t care less about. We know the struggle, we feel the same.
Now, unless you’re reading this for fun (🤓), you too are contributing to the endless stream of newsletters hitting people’s inboxes every day and you’re wondering how you can improve your digital newsletter strategy. Not to spook you, but the typical inbox is 50% newsletters these days, so making sure your newsletter stands out is a must.
Well, a study from the McKinsey Institute found that workers spend about 28% of their workday in their inbox - it’s the second most time consuming daily task.
It's estimated that professionals check their inbox every 37 minutes on average, which corresponds to around 15 times a day for a total of about two and a quarter hours. Newsletters can be effective, but it’s up to you to make it so.
Why’s nobody taking five minutes to browse your newsletter? This is where your newsletter strategy comes in and where you need to be optimising your efforts.
When it comes to measuring the success of a newsletter, we look to two important figures-- the open rate and the click-through rate. These two figures indicate the success of our subject lines, by convincing the reader to open, and our content, by providing enough value that the reader wants more.
We learned how to make a successful newsletter, as will you, by looking at what other people are doing and asking ourselves: why? Then we applied these answers to our own newsletter strategy and BAM: new newsletter, who dis? It wasn’t that simple though- our new newsletter is the product of a process that started where all great plans start: Step 1.
Now, this doesn’t mean heading to the biggest name’s newsletter and plagiarising their work. It does mean looking through what others in your field are creating, seeing what they’re doing right, and identifying opportunities to improve from other newsletter marketing strategies.
Image from OneCoWork
When redesigning our newsletter, we looked at over 30 other coworking and non-coworking newsletter designs from all over the globe. We learned from these newsletter examples, saw how they were working, and started thinking about how best we could bring an equally enjoyable experience to our own.
We wanted our readers to be as impressed by our newsletter as we were by other companies' newsletters. This doesn’t just come down to content, but also design and feel as well as colours and flow. It might sound like rubbish, but we promise it isn’t.
It’s important to realise that a newsletter that met your community’s needs at the beginning of your journey may not necessarily do so today. Our most recent redesign isn’t our only redesign, and will by no means be our last.
Understanding how your community’s wants and needs are changing is key, and adapting your newsletter strategy for them is super important for an enjoyable experience.
Don’t just compare visually, though. Another great way to compare yourself to the competition is [by finding out where the industry average lies with open and click-through rates.
Mailchimp conducted some research into the different industries on their platform and produced a very useful chart containing an array of important email messaging KPI’s.
Image from Mailchimp
Once you know how well you stack up against competitors and how your newsletter is performing in relation to the industry average, you’re better equipped to critically evaluate your own newsletter and set goals.
Subject lines, along with preview lines, determine your open rate and have two main goals:
To tell the reader what’s inside.
Convey why it’s of value to them.
When asked what made them open an email, 47% of respondents attributed their interest to the subject line. The subject line is one of the first pieces of information your reader will receive, it’s the most influential newsletter copy you will create, make sure it’s not off-putting.
Whilst there’s no way to make your audience open your email, there are definitely things you can do to improve your chances.
Subject lines written in all caps and bursting with emojis and punctuation don’t call the reader in, they scare them off.
Research conducted by Retention Science found that the ideal subject line length is between six and 10 words, with less proving more effective if outside that range.
It makes sense given that the average office worker receives 121 emails every single day. It needs to be brief and concise, or it’ll end up as just another newsletter in just another junk folder.
Image from Retention Science
Alongside subject lines, preview text is another important aspect to consider. It should complement the subject line and further convince the reader of why your newsletter is of value to them. Consider keeping it short and include a sense of urgency to grab the reader's attention.
Since optimising our subject lines we’ve seen a 3.6% increase in our open rates, from an average of 21.7% to 25.3%. This might not seem like much, but considering we started with a respectable open rate, it’s encouraging to see the efforts materialise into positive data.
Once you’ve perfected your subject lines, you can move on to other adjustments that can drastically improve your open rates.
Personalisation has the power to change your email marketing completely; eConsultancy found that 74% of marketers who used personalisation strongly agreed that it improved customer engagement. Imagine the wonders personalisation can do to improve your newsletter open rate.
Whilst mass personalisation is great, it’s rather tricky and can often go wrong. Make sure you have the data necessary to personalise your desired fields is essential. There are some simple changes using easily-collected data that you can make to improve your newsletter engagement rate.
Subject lines containing personalisation are 26% more likely to be opened than those not personalised. Using the same data, you can also personalise the “To Field,” meaning the email is addressed with the recipient’s name, not their email address.
Both of these, apart from simple personalisation, are great ways of avoiding the spam folder. Nobody’s opening your emails if they consistently go straight to spam.
Another way to improve your open rates is personalisation not of the recipient, but of the sender. In fact, it’s the sender that triumphs over the subject line when persuading readers to open your email, with 64% of those surveyed saying it’s their biggest reason.
Image from Relevance
If that wasn’t enough, Pinpointe also found that a known sender could increase open rates by up to 35%. Recipients take mere seconds to decide whether or not to open your email, and personalisation is a great way to encourage a positive decision.
Once you’ve gotten recipients to open your email, the next thing to look at is what they do with the content you’ve provided. The click-through rate, another key marker for newsletter success, is essentially a mark of whether what you’ve sent is of actual value to your community.
Every community is unique, which is why every newsletter should provide content tailored to that specific community. It’s no use sending deals on rib-eye steaks to your local PETA organisation.
In order to best understand what your community wants from you, look to past newsletters and see what your readers are clicking on. Most email newsletter marketing platforms have this function built-in.
What was most interesting to our readers were events they could access locally and news that affected them. This not only better educated us on what to contain in our newsletter in the future, but also on what information to put in the subject line.
The above image shows the three most-clicked on links from one of our last newsletters before the redesign. The majority of clicks were received by local events or news, which guided us moving forward.
Research also found that using buttons in place of hyperlinks for CTA’s can increase clicks by up to 28%, so we swiftly implemented them into our redesign.
These are the most clicked on links from a more recent, post-redesign newsletter. The nature of the content is, of course, different, but their accessibility remains the same.
We took the 7 newsletters from before we implemented these changes in content and compared them to the 7 following the changes.
As we’re talking about content, we looked to the click through rate to measure success. By listening to our readers and reading the data, we saw our average click-through rate increase from 4.2% to 10%. Speaks for itself, really.
Put plain and simple, if your newsletter is an eye-sore nobody is going to want to read it. Sure, maybe it gets decent opens once every couple of weeks, but that’s because people have forgotten it’s ugly.
This is where the customer research conducted at step one comes in handy-- what are others doing that you like and how can you adapt it to your audience?
This step is different for every single newsletter, as your template needs to fit your content and your content should be catered to your community. Sometimes a new template isn’t essential or even necessary, but it can be a powerful tool for improving your newsletter if needs be.
When we started working on our newsletter, it looked like this. It was long, difficult to digest, and overall not the impression we wanted to give our community. It had the sections we wanted but wasn’t presenting them in a way we were satisfied with.
We set out with the intention of creating a more flexible newsletter. We wanted it to be both engaging for our audience, and a platform for us to communicate with our community. This led us to first rethink the content and sections we wanted before trying to build a new template.
Once the sections had been condensed into more manageable chunks, we thought about how we could make the scrolling experience more enjoyable for readers. That meant starting from scratch, and completely redesigning the look of the newsletter.
We researched colours, moved things around, and created various mockups until we finally landed on a design we felt hit the goals we wanted to hit.
In the new template, we took lots of the same information and reorganised it to provide a more enjoyable experience. No longer does the reader have to scroll through pages of content to reach what they’re looking for. The buttons grab the reader's attention, and less information throughout makes the newsletter feel a lot less cramped.
Image from OneRecruit
We also added the ‘Newsletter’ banner to make our newsletter recognizable in the recipient’s inbox. It’s flexible and can be expanded to communicate key information to the community. It’s a great addition to the newsletter for us as a business and a great addition to the reader’s experience.
In terms of content, we added one section that we didn’t previously have-- user-generated content. Involving your readers provides a reason to come back, which brings us to our next and final step.
When we redesigned our newsletter, we made sure to make way for a section dedicated to the OneCoWork community. Every week we now include member pictures and news, as well as anything happening in the spaces that involve the community.
Implementing UGC is a great way to foster and encourage your community, and acts as an incentive for them to keep producing. We wanted to create a space to showcase our community and have them empower other members.
Furthermore, by including our members in our newsletter we’ve seen an increase in the amount of content they’re creating. Since adding our community section, we’ve seen a 50% increase in the amount of content our community is producing. That’s insane, don’t you think?
Improving your newsletter is no small task, but we hope these tips will aid you in your journey. To truly test what works for your audience, don’t implement all changes at once. Slowly introduce them, see how they perform, and be flexible as you move forward.
We made our changes with the intention of adding value to our coworking member’s experience and created a template that works for us. It’s more spacious and concise, which is what we found works. It better represents our company, and what we look to provide. That doesn’t mean to say the same will work for your brand. Be flexible with your changes.
There are lots of different ways to improve your newsletter strategy, so don’t just stick to our tips. We learned from others and learned from our community to finally land on something that felt right and was backed up by data. We found what our audience wanted, and we gave it to them. We encourage you to do the same.
It’s been a pleasure,