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Outperform your competitors with a professional newsletter
Even today, the newsletter is among the most cost-effective communication tools because it’s very affordable and easy-to-use.
It may drive lots of inbound traffic to a website and plays a key role in strengthening the bonds with the sender’s community as it’s a way to convey a message and monitor the brand image. This implies spending time handling the email marketing strategy though.
95% of marketing professionals use email marketing, still a very large part of the newsletters sent on a daily basis is neither opened nor read.
You have to pay special attention to your newsletters so that they bring return on investment.
The more professional your newsletter, the more serious you will appear and the more profitable it will be.
But making your email marketing strategy more professional goes through many stages, from the subject to the overall design of the email campaign, including a whole series of rules about your identification and the authentication of your sends.
This white paper will help you design professional, credible, impactful and cost-effective newsletters, whatever your business is.
The tips you will find here are easily actionable and will help you stand out from the constant flow of emails that passes through your contacts’ inboxes.
Structure your newsletter
A professional newsletter means it is structured a consistent way. Being creative will make you stand out, but careful, basics and immutable rules must not be left out.
In this chapter, we will look into the various elements a newsletter may be or is made of, where to put them and how to make your whole newsletter professional from a structural standpoint.
What is a pre-header?
The pre-header is the sentence that comes right after the subject in the inbox email preview.
Senders often misuse it or forget about it, still it’s an opportunity to give extra clues about the subject and increase your chances of being read. The pre-header displays the very first sentence of the email. In most cases, it reads «Display in web browser « by default.
Remember this sentence CAN’T possibly display as a preheader in any of your newsletters. Or else you would miss an opportunity to push the reader to open the message.
You can consider it a second subject line.
Make the most of it!
Careful, not all email clients display the preheader on a computer. However, it tends to read on most mobile devices, though it’s shorter as the screen is smaller. Be snappy and concise!
The header is the whole heading of the email. It’s meant to reassure the recipients at a glance and let them know who’s sending the email.
Check the below elements are present:
The pre-header comes first
The web copy, or mirror page, is a link that redirects the clicker to a webpage hosting your email. This way, recipients who have an issue displaying the image can consult your email in their default internet browser. You could write e.g. «Click here to display this email in your browser».
The logo/name of your company: it often shows at the top right/left hand corner and allows the reader to recognize who’s sending the message and make sure the content is official.
The subject of the email (optional): you can always specify further the type of email you are sending, e.g. «Newsletter No. 12» or «Newsletter April 2017».
Contact button (optional): think of the pros of putting a button to your contact form in the header. The content will most probably generate requests from your readers, and the header is where they are the most likely to look for your contact details.
These are the reasons why the header is a key element. It’s both a means to reassure your readers and to show you are a seasoned pro.
THE TEXT / IMAGE RATIO
The text/image ratio is the proportion of images compared to that of mere texts in an email.
It has an impact on several elements:
How easy it is to read your email: anyone should be able to read and understand your email whether you have included any pictures or not. Most email clients block picture downloads by default.
This is why your email should be easy to read in case pictures are not displayed by default. In case it is mostly made of pictures, it will become impossible to read your message.
ALT text is an alternative in case pictures don’t display. Each time you are including images to your newsletter, you should be asked to add an ALT text or ALT attribute.
Such attribute aims at replacing the picture by some text in case the email client blocks it. Make the most of it and add text that be USEFUL. Don’t e.g. add a description of the image, rather more details about it.
Also remember to include the size of your images in the IMG tags to make sure their proportions don’t get changed, even though they don’t display. This will make it possible to maintain the layout of the newsletter and display ALT tags efficiently.
The deliverability of your email: in case there are too many pictures, your email might be considered an unsolicited message by anti-spam filters and ISPs.
The best and only option to avoid such issues is to have a 40% pictures-60% text ratio.
Such ratio is calculated based on the size of the message. Your preferred option should be to include very light pictures so as not to get your emails to the junk box.
THE CALL-TO-ACTION BUTTONS
They are commonly referred to as «CTA» (Call-to-action). CTA buttons have two main objectives: get clicks and lead to a conversion.
The more attractive and efficient CTA buttons are, the more conversions you’ll get.
This element is key in making your campaigns profitable as it will push your readers to click the button and land on your website.
The CTA should be made of a verb either in imperative (such as «Get the scoop»), or in first person (e.g.»I want to know more»).
The CTA button will also bring contrast into the email as a whole. If the background color is white, dare choose a bright color so that it captures and holds the readers’ attention.
Don’t hesitate to put a CTA at the top of the email to highlight it, and a second one at the end of the newsletter as a friendly reminder.
THE IMAGES AND GIFS
As previously stated, a professional newsletter is made of 40% of images and 60% of text.
This is why you should choose the pictures you want to include to your email carefully. Images are assimilated far quicker than text.
Include eye-catching illustrations to your newsletter to guide the readers’ eye, because that’s what they’ll see first.
Use bright and colorful images, they will push by 80% the recipients to read more!
You can also use GIFs in your emails. These «animated» images are made of several images that come one after another and make it possible to highlight products from different angles, to display banners, etc.
For instance, ready-to-wear fashion brands use the GIF format to gather all the features of a product in one single image.
The majority of email clients play animated GIFs, except for the 2007 and greater versions of Outlook.
No worries still, as non-compatible email clients do display the very first picture of the GIF. So make sure this one says it all!
To sum things up, images, whatever their format, should definitely be part of your email strategy!
Images do have an impact on the number of clicks your email triggers... Be sure the impact of videos is even greater.
Using «Video» in the subject of any emails boosts the opening rates by 19% and the click rates by 65%!
On a side note, about 60%* of marketers reported that using videos in their email campaigns has a positive impact on conversion rates and purchases.
This means videos have a significant impact on the results of the campaigns.
Still, it’s not so easy to embed a video into an email. Some coding techniques allow it, but unless you have knowledge in development, it’s quite complicated.
Why so? Email clients display the elements of an email in different ways. Very few of them will integrate a video player.
You might already know the trick many email marketers use: you just need to include a picture with a dummy play button in the middle, or just make a printscreen of the web player where your video is hosted (e.g. Youtube).
This type of button strongly pushes your recipients to click. Add a link on the picture and redirect your reader to the webpage where the video is hosted.
Test and see how efficient the button is!
In case you feel like you are a code expert-to-be, below is the technique you should use:
The < video > tag is a html5 tag, so very few mailboxes display it. However, the technique above shows how to replace the video tag with an image when it is not launched.
We recommend to link two video formats (mp4 and ogg) for a better reading on different mailboxes.
Just like the header, the footer should contain basic information that will turn the message into a professional newsletter.
We are referring to the footer here. It should include:
Links to social networks: if your company is present on different social media, this is where you should place your social media buttons and engage your community.
Your legal terms (optional)
Reason why they received this email: This is to explain recipients why they got the email in a few words, e.g. «This email was sent to email@example.com as a subscriber of mycompany.»
The opt-out link: this one is CRUCIAL and mandatory. It should be obvious and allows the reader to unsubscribe.
These pieces of information will build up your legitimacy as an honest sender.
Don’t hide your opt-out links, you would be more likely considered a spammer, something that would alter your e-reputation and deliverability.
In case you’re used to liaising with US-based readers, remember the CANSPAM law makes it compulsory to report your mail address in the email. Again, the footer is the best option.
Identify yourself and reassure
Email marketing is strongly affected by the massive arrival of SPAM inbox, but also phishing techniques and multiple scam attempts by email.
On top of this, the future of email marketing has often been reported as somewhat uncertain by many recently.
Yet, no need to prove how efficient it is, and how solid a cornerstone it is in today’s marketing strategy.
How to make sure you aren’t considered a spammer?
First thing: make yourself recognized and reassure your recipients. There are different ways to do it, including customizing your sender name.
THE SENDER NAME (ALIAS)
Making your newsletter professional starts here, and that’s where you’ll read more professional than many companies.
You sure receive impersonal emails from company x, y or z on an everyday basis.
How can they possibly gain their recipients’ loyalty while being so distant?
Using your own name as a sender (or that of the person sending the email) will create bonds easily, something the frequency of your newsletter will strengthen. Knowing the sender’s identity is key for your readers!
Forget about emails you send on behalf of «mycompany.com» and go for e.g. «Tom at mycompany».
THE SENDER ADDRESS
Same logic applies here. Using an email marketing tool will most probably allow you to customize your sender address.
This address will appear below your sender name when the email opens. You should put the name of the department as well as your company name, e.g. «firstname.lastname@example.org»
This will again will build up your legitimacy as an professional sender and reassure your readers.
Did you know that using free email addresses with domain names such as @outlook.com or @gmail.com tends to be a bad option? ISPs block senders using a professional platform without a customized domain name.
THE SENDER DOMAIN
Using your own domain as a sender will make your header look more professional, something ISPs, webmails and recipients pay attention to!
Without a domain name, your sender address may be displayed with a large number of characters.
But using a custom domain, you can reassure your recipients with a clear header, without a sequence of random characters that could scare them.
Whenever you visit a house, you first look at the facade, don’t you? In case it looks derelict, you will probably feel like you’d better run off.
Emails are the same. The subject is like the entrance to your newsletter. It should push the recipient to walk inside and not backward.
This is where you’ll start in order to write a catchy subject. Don’t write it last minute in a hurry just before you hit Send!
It must be core to your strategy when sending out email campaigns. Your only goal is that it should be a trigger towards openings.
But careful: the subject has to be consistent with the content.
You should explain very clearly what your approach is and what you can bring.
Customizing your message using the personalization fields (e.g. first name and last name) is another technique to boost the impact of the subject and improve the opening rate of your email.
You might be interested in testing the Split Test feature. It makes it possible to send two different emails to a sample of your database and compare the results. You could e.g. test two different subjects, choose the one that triggers the best open rate and send it to the rest of your database.
Segment to customize
The one-to-one approach is on the rise. Target your recipients, customize your message and your communications will be even more efficient.
This is especially true in email marketing. Personalizing an email is becoming a necessity to make the tool more profitable.
Still, a quality database is the first step towards successful customization. Prior to this, you’ll need to spend time on data collection.
The collection of email addresses is a crucial step in your email marketing strategy. This is the starting point for all your success.
An unqualified database will automatically lead you to failure. You must do everything to get your contacts legally and independently, making sure they are relevant to your business and that they have given their consent.
How to collect contacts?
You can collect contacts many differents ways. Start by placing a registration form on your website. This is indeed the easiest method.
You can also launch a contest to retrieve email addresses from subscribers,cold call your prospects, collect contact details at a trade show, offer an e-book for download ... Use social networks as much as you can to boost your visibility and increase your subscription rate.
On Twitter for example, you can add a Lead Generation Card. This will allow your followers to register directly to your contact list in one click.
Facebook offers a call-to-action button redirecting to your webpage or posts to encourage registration (the Power Editor tool can help you).
Your recipients must receive newsletters they feel are relevant and useful. When providing you their email addresses, they don’t agree on receiving unrelated campaigns. So make sure you send significant emails, and respect your recipients’ privacy!
Of course, collecting email addresses will not be enough in itself. You need to get as much information as possible from the first contact without being too invasive.
Collect useful data such as email addresses, last names, first names and one or two additional pieces of information that may be useful depending on your industry (field of activity, age, civility, city, etc.).
The data you collect will be used to segment your database and send different campaigns to different people.
The more targeted a campaign, the more effective it will be. This data will also allow you to maximize the possibilities in terms of personalization.
But don’t stop there. You need to maintain the relationship with your contacts to better understand their expectations.
Après quelques mois de campagnes, munissez-vous de votre solution emailing et analysez les comportements de vos destinataires. Repérez les plus fidèles, relancez les lecteurs occasionnels, supprimez les inactifs…
After a few campaigns, open your email marketing platform and have a deep look into your recipients’ behavior. Find the most loyal, prompt occasional readers, delete the inactives ... In short, save all information, sort it out and send reminders or thank you campaigns based on recipients’ behavior.
Do anything you can to get to know your readers better. The more info you have about them, the more you can slice and dice and tend to have a one-to-one strategy.
You can customize your newsletters in a variety of ways. The more segmented your database, the greater number of possibilities.
What is personalization in email marketing?
It consists of adding elements such as texts and images that will adapt automatically for each recipient based on the info you have about them.
Your database consists of columns with data such as the email, first name, last name and title for each of your contacts. Such pieces of info have been collected previously based on what you need.
An email marketing tool makes it possible to display the full name of the recipient in the subject, and this doesn’t prevent you from sending the whole campaign to several hundreds of contacts.
Personalization doesn’t stop at the subject line or when displaying your recipient’s first name though.
Big data means you have access to a plethora of information. Think of it... don’t you know much more about contacts than you would have expected? e.g. date of last order, last product they bought, geolocation...
You can even customize pictures and links!
To be clearer, here is how you can re-use information from your database and customize it in your newsletter:
Personalization is an important step. It generates on average a 14% increase in the click-through rate, a 10% increase in the the conversion rate and a 26% increase in the openings... Think about it!
Work on the design of your campaign
The appearance of your email is of utmost importance. It will highlight your professionalism and strengthen your legitimacy.
In addition, the «first impression» is often what will make your recipients stay or leave. An email without a nice layout will not capture and hold their attention.
The design of your emails is thus a priority. Let’s look into how to make your recipients stay and read your newsletters.
Before you start, keep in mind that the overall design of your newsletter should allow your recipients to recognize your business at a glance. The logo, corporate identity, types of images used ... All the graphic elements in your newsletters must be associated easily with those of your website or your blog.
This will not only bring harmony between your various communication media, but it will also reassure your recipients on where and who the emails they receive come from.
Also, by sending regular emails, your recipients will get used to see to a certain «graphic signature» they will associate with you in the future. And it’s so important that they remember you!
Indeed, you can easily identify a brand, a company or a blog when you’re able to connect it to a graphic universe of its own.
However, if the design of your newsletter is way too different from the design of your website, your recipients will not associate them with each other.
Finally, the overall design of your newsletters should reflect the personality of your brand.
Adapt the visuals and the general layout according to your industry, the type of article you share or the general tone of your communications.
For example, a public agency will send informative newsletters in a rather classic style (beware, «classic» is not pejorative!), while a startup specializing in high-tech can afford an original and out-of-the-box design.
Whenever people subscribe to your newsletter, YOU are the one they are interested in. So, they will expect to find the same caracteristics in your newsletter as on your website. Don’t disappoint them!
MODERNITY AND SIMPLICITY
While following the previous tips, make your newsletter nicer to the reader’s eye. If your newsletter is not good-looking, you risk losing subscribers.
A pleasant and modern design brings confidence. And that’s what you should try to gain from your recipients.
Strive to be «up-to-date», although this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop being original and indulge in a certain style.
2015 was about flat design: flat shapes, simple fonts, space, plain and bright colors. Minimalism was the priority.
In 2017, flat design is still key, although it’s evolving towards a 2.0 version: Material Design. It’s in a way flat design with a bit more. It aims at using more interactive elements to help the internet user navigate thanks to shade effects and overlaying elements.
Material Design is sure more into details, but it’s still simple and refined and makes it possible to understand very quickly what the content is about. Also, minimalist design allows the reader not to be distracted by the layout.
You shouldn’t use these trends at all costs. Your own graphic universe is what matters.
As said previously, your campaigns must remind the readers of the colors of your brand and your website. It’s not about putting colors that you like!
Think of «contrasts». Ideally, use a light color in the background and create contrast with bright colors that reflect your visual identity to bring out your titles, action buttons, icons, etc.
This will make your interactive elements pop out at the eyes of your readers, and will help increase your click-through rate.
Warning: it is important to match the contrast «light background/dark font» and not the opposite. A white text on a black background will bring a poor reader experience and make your text difficult to read. This advice also applies to your website!
To not forget anything in the graphic design of your newsletter, here is our special webdesign checklist:
Use classic, easy-to-read fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Georgia… They will make the reading easy and quick.
Avoid amateur fonts: Comic Sans MS, Times New Roman… You are no longer in high school!
Avoid underlined titles Go for titles in bold, for a more pleasant and less loaded overview.
Make your texts concise No need to rephrase, optimize your texts for a quick and pleasant reading.
Main information must be visible without scrolling The recipients must understand what it’s about and have access to the main information without scrolling your email to the bottom.
Use 1 visual for 1 article / idea Don’t overload your email with useless visuals.
Choose a clean and simple style Get inspiration from Flat Design and Material Design.
Choose two to three colors maximum A dominant color, and one or two colors for the contrast (for your buttons, titles ...).
Avoid dark backgrounds Instead, opt for a clear background and a more contrasted font so as not to assault the eyes of your readers.
Find a balance between the elements and their positioning in the email If you use columns, align the elements together and play symmetry for a better rendering.
You have built a beautiful newsletter, your content is relevant and your subject line makes you want to read it, but there is a key point that remains for your email to have a real impact: to ensure that your recipients will receive it correctly.
To do so, you have to work on your deliverability, a concept many don’t fully understand and pay too little attention to.
WHAT IS DELIVERABILITY?
Many marketing professionals mistakenly think that deliverability is the number of emails accepted by the recipients’ email services, a rate that is simple to calculate based on bounces.
But reality is more complex. It’s the rate of emails that made it inbox and not in spam.
And whether you like the idea or not, there is no true reliable solution to calculate deliverability accurately.
It is possible to estimate at best, by sending your campaign to several addresses and different messageries to see which ones declare it as spam. But it is a complicated process and not always very reliable.
The only technique to check whether your deliverability has been impacted at a given time is to analyze open rates based on email services in the long term.
This is why you have to implement various practices to optimize it to the maximum, keeping in mind that 100% of deliverability is almost impossible to achieve for a mass campaign.
To improve deliverability, there are of course best practices to apply, and respecting your recipients is probably the rule of thumb.
Below is the list of actions you might want to take to optimize your deliverability:
Get opt-in or douple opt-in contacts That’s where respect starts, i.e. when you collect data. You want to send mass campaigns to databases you bought? Be aware you run the risk of being blocked by ISPs and webmails, and even by the routing service you’re using.
Leave it to recipients to choose and opt them out if they wish to. An unsubscribe link is required by law in any email campaign. If it’s not working, you may receive complaints and your reputation will be significantly impacted.
Use a customized sender domain You can use a shared sender domain, e.g. that of your email provider. But you may be affected by the actions of other users and undergo the mistrust of spam filters. If you use your own domain, ISPs/webmails will trust you and you will improve your chances of making it inbox.
Respect what the subject of the email promises If you try to mislead your recipients with overly rude or lying items, they may declare you as a spammer and file a complaint with their email provider.
Be recognizable Your recipients need to know who is sending them an email before they even open it. A clear sender name will help you avoid being considered a spammer.
Don’t use too many «spamwords» If you overuse marketing, sales-related or suspicious terms, you will be identified as a spammer. This includes terms such as «free», «cheap», «promotion», «you won», and so on. Overall, words related to money, gain, health and everything that can be associated with an attempt to scam should be banished.
Avoid «full-image» Many email services don’t display images by default. If your email is exclusively made of images, it will not only be impossible to read and pushed to the spam box, but it may also appear suspicious and damage your reputation.
Use a professional solution Please, don’t send newsletters and campaigns with Outlook or any other messaging software ... These are dedicated to interpersonal and professional communications and are absolutely not made to send blast emails. By doing this, half of your emails will go to SPAM.
CHOOSE YOUR EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
Choosing your email marketing solution is not always the easy part, as there are many players on the market .
The offer varies depending on many criteria: the quality of the solution, the reputation of the senders, the pricing, the support team, the functionalities, complexity ...
Before picking your solution you must first make a list of your needs:
How many emails do you send on a monthly basis?
How many contacts do you have?
Do you need specific features?
Do you need any follow-up?
Anyway, and unsurprisingly so, I’ll explain the benefits of the Mailify tool. It’s of course up to you to define if it fits your needs.
Mailify is a powerful software allowing you to create, send and track your campaigns and newsletters from A to Z.
Mailify’s parent company, Sarbacane Software, was created back in 2001 and is the leading player on the french market. It is located in France where servers are constantly under watch 24 hours a day. Our international support teams are based in France and Spain.
You can reach our consultants easily in case of any questions. We can also take care of the design of your campaigns and offer a custom follow-up to make the most of your strategy.
Mailify’s user-friendliness is perfect for any neophyte and the creation of newsletters via the EmailBuilder is extremely intuitive.
The latest version of the software offers a wide range of features that both beginners and advanced users will be happy to use:
Thank you for reading this whitepaper dedicated to making your newsletters even more professional.
I hope you learnt things reading it and it helped you take a closer look at your email marketing strategy.
Note that all these tips are overall advice. All industries have their own specificities that will influence your strategy. Only the B2C/B2B sectors require a very different approach.
Email marketing is a vast topic. Most of the items we shared could be covered in a whole book as they encompass many possibilities. But it’s indeed a first, insightful approach to the world of email marketing!
Anyway, feel free to use all these tricks to improve your newsletters, be professional and impress your recipients. Be sure the return on investment will be worth the effort!