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Tips for a Better Newsletter Plan

Posted on Jul 31, 2015 in Blog, Newsletters

I’ve seen newsletters change a great deal since the early days, and to be honest, I kind of miss how important they once were to brands and subscribers. Now, it seems they fall into one of two categories—neglected or abused. But, your business is better than that, so let’s just make sure you fall into the third category: nailing it. Here are tips for a better newsletter plan.


How often should you send your newsletter? 

Communicate at a pace that is conservative for your industry. Yes, conservative. I promise your messages will be more powerful the less you send them. I recommend sending a newsletter every one to two months. Occasionally, you can add a bonus announcement to the mix if you have something really important/awesome to say, but make sure it’s clear that it’s a “different” kind of news. It’s easy to create a unique template for special messages like this.


What should you say? 

You want to be informative (news) and genuine (letter). Think about what you can do for your reader, not what your reader can do for you (bad JFK quote usage, but he probably didn’t write it anyhow). Once you’ve checked with your team and made a list of informative and genuine content that could be included, you’ll need to edit it down. How do you do that?

Consider that you have 10-15 seconds for someone to scan your newsletter before they decide if it’s going in the trash, or worse, hit the “unsubscribe” button and banish you forevermore. With that lens, cut, cut, cut until you have 1-2 primary messages and 1-3 secondary messages. If you have more than that, well, either you have a unique audience (plausible) or you’re a gambler and you need to seek help.


What should it look like?

I’m a strong supporter of using templates through email management tools like MailChimp (Super Stahh) or Mad Mimi (great for beginners and small businesses). The templates are somewhat confining for folks who are used to the old way of doing e-newsletters, when we could create whatever we wanted and then have a developer cut and code our beautiful design. Some tools still let you do that, but keep in mind that templates are already inbox-friendly, whereas spam filters may not be so keen on your custom html.


Some quick tips on style

  • Keep your images to about 30% of the overall design. I know we are all loving today’s image-driven Internet landscape, but spam filters are curmudgeons; they just want to see safe text content, so don’t toy with them.
  • Avoid leading with an image. Give inboxes something to “read” first so they know your newsletter is cool and not spam.
  • Check that your images have healthy “alt” text that says what the image is because spam filters can’t “see” images but they still want to know what’s in the picture. Example: “Apple Pie Recipe” is good alt text, “img00023334.jpg” is not.
  • Newsletters are coming in at 600 pixels wide, and for good reason—they display well across most inboxes (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.). Most newsletter tool templates default to this, so just know they’ve got your back.


What should you say in your subject lines?

If you find a tool that has truly figured out how to correlate your newsletter subject line with subscriber behavior, I’d love to know about it. After many years of discussing, researching, and flip-flopping on this, I’ve come up with two formulas for subject lines. Here they are:


Formula 1: Call-to-action + Content 1

Formula 2: Content 1, Content 2, Content 3




Formula 1: Help us send school supplies to South Sudan

Formula 2: Supplies needed, meet our CEO, gala sponsorships


Photo on 7-30-15 at 10.38 PMThat’s somewhat scratching the surface, but it’s a solid start. If you’d like help with your newsletter strategy, please contact us. We’re here to help.

Blog posts with photos in them improve SEO. This is a picture of me writing this post.



Bonus reads from MailChimp

Email Marketing Field Guide
How to Avoid Spam Filters





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