Creating Readable Email Newsletters


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Planning and creating a successful email campaign. In the workshop, we'll discuss how people are responding to email marketing, take a peak at successful campaigns, and cover best practices for integrating email marketing into your communications plan. We'll touch on how to measure the success of your current campaigns, and ways you can improve their performance through a defined strategy, design, content, and testing. Along the way, you'll pick up practical tips for making your next email the attention-grabbing, captivating, and successful communication tool you need it to be.

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  • Introduction: who, what, how, & whyHashtag: Use the hashtag just in case I say something tweet-worthy, but more importantly and more likely – use it to connect with each other. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in this room. Capitalize on this experience to connect with someone who faces similar work challenges as you face. Ask questions and have conversations about our topic today using the hashtagefocusrva.
  • On Tuesday night Refresh Richmond had an event where a UX Designer from MailChimp came to town to speak about mobile optimized emails. I know a couple of you were there – hope you guys enjoyed the html and css code he shared in his presentation bc there will not be any of that today.He brought up a good point. Over the past few years there have been great advances in web design & development, and social media seems to grow and evolve even faster. Yet – everyone seems to have forgotten to tell the guys making emails.Most of the technology for creating and reading emails has remained constant over recent years. However, what has changed and evolved is our behaviors around email.I thought we’d start today’s talk with a look at some recent stats on user behavior with email.Um – thx to all the smart folks who did the actual research and published these findings.
  • For a long time we use to ponder what was better having someone’s personal email address or their work email address. Turns out, that may not matter. Most people surveyed used the same inbox for managing multiple email addresses.What does that mean for us? We’ve got some stiff competition. We’re competing with emails from co-workers, clients…and also invitations to dinner with friends, pictures of babies from sisters, and notifications from Facebook.It also means that there are some of us who get 100, 200, maybe even 300 emails a day. And that has led to the creation of various Email Religions. These unique Email Behaviors includeFiltering – the act of scanning email and marking it as good, bad, or ugly, where the good is read immediately, the bad isn’t necessarily a bad email just delivered at a bad time for consuming it so it gets saved as to be read later if there is time, and the ugly which is spam, junk, and irrelevant email that is instantly deletedScheduled times for checking emailInbox ZeroHave you ever talked to someone who follows GTD or Inbox Zero? I don’t use either of these practices currently, but whenever I talk to someone who does I always feel like they are trying to convert me to their email religion.
  • Over half of people surveyed have a separate email address just for junk mail. Oh, you want to send me coupons – I’m guilty of this. When checking out at a store and they ask if they can have my email address for coupons I feel horrible about rejecting them. I know the person at the register has nothing to do with the emails, but I still don’t want to turn them down. So I give them my junk email address bc really, I don’t need that kind of stuff interrupting my day. or if I give you my email address you’ll send me something for free? Ok, here’s my yahoo account that I check a couple times a month.It is vital that you start to build trust at the point of registration and with your first email. How can you convince the reader that you are not junk, and that your messages belong in their real inbox?
  • The Digital Divide1 in 5 Americans do not access the internet and traditional that divide has been visible with differences in education, income, disability, and not having english as a first-language.However, mobile is changing the digital divide.88% of American adults have a cell phone, and according to Pew 6 in 10 of them use it to go online, but I’ve seen more recent reports saying that 80% of american adults go online using their mobile device
  • 31% of Americans who use their mobile phones to go online only or mostly use the internet on their mobile phonesBut that number grows drastically as you cross the digital divide. I want to stress this because I know many of you are npos and your service groups are typically on the opposite side of the digital divide as you are. And people with mobile phones are using them to connect to the internet….including to access email
  • Mobile can be anywhere – so where are people reading their emails?I’m willing to bet that nearly 100% of the people in this room have read an email on a phone. In fact, I saw some of you checking your email while waiting for this presentation to start.Use phone as alarm clock – with that in mind, if you send late or night or early in the morning is your design and messaging appropriate for that experience?
  • CDP: emotional video that made client cry, but only 6 people of the 250ish on the list clicked the link to watch the video and one of them was the staff person. No one clicked to watch the video and then went back to the email to click the donate button
  • Who, what, why, and howWhat I’ve found is that I love creating goals, and I love defining how I’m going to measure if I was successful in reaching those goals. Any typically that is all I need to create a good email.However, the other people that I’ve worked with like designers, writers, SMEs, and stakeholders (i.e. the people who have to approve my email), they don’t work so well with my goals. It’s like a foreign language to them. But what has worked well is creating user personas. These are simple stories about made up people that represent various segments of the target audience. Personas can get very detailed and research based, but most of the time I keep it very simple. What I want is to humanize the goals by interpreting them as user needs.This document has been much more successful in getting SMEs and stakeholders to stay focused on the readers and not try to fill up emails with company jargon and information that no one cares about. It is also helpful in uncovering the tiny little details that are often missed, but can make a user’s day.In addition to creating this document, I sometimes outline the personas’ lifecyle, especially if there is a major event or action involved:EmailsSocial MediaOffline CommunicationsEventsPurchasesDonations
  • Other considerations regarding subscription:Thank you page for subscribing, confirmation link emails, welcome email, unsubscribe form, unsubscribe confirmation and/or email
  • Signup forms needs to be short, simple, and sweet. Yet – it is also the chance to start segmenting your list. Segmentation is one of the best practices that can improve your email performance. By segmenting your lists, you can send information to your readers that they find to be relevant. CZC example
  • When it comes to designing your email, you have a couple of options. One have a developer create the html code for you, or second – use a template from an email service provider. Either way, there are some basic structural elements that are effective
  • How do you select a template? First have to examine the types of content you are sending. There are basic designs:Basic email newsletter: two columns, like the handout with one main column and a smaller one for promos and special news itemsBasic email newsletter with 1 columnHoliday promotion: usually a postcard style template where the main graphic can be swapped outLetter from the president or VIP: lots of whitespace, little formatting and simple branding that makes it look like letterheadEvent invitation: usually has a side column or special treatment to make the “What, when, where” info easier for skimmingShare how working at CZC they wanted to do one general newsletter to everybody….donors, volunteers, and families served. Why? Maybe laziness, but there was a belief that if you email volunteers about volunteer things and sneak in a story about a donor, then they would magically want to donate. I always tried to image how that would work in a real life situation. I think it would be like me standing at the door and whispering to people who walk by “hey – the people in here are learning about email newsletters. Email newsletters are a popular way to communicate. You can talk to her if you want to learn more.” And them saying, “Um, I’m just going to get a soda.” Is that the most effective strategy? It wasn’t for our populations. They didn’t crossover. Why? Was it annoying? Did it send the wrong message? Overall, that style of communication does not build trust. It does not build a relationship. If every time I saw you I rambled nonstop about what’s been happening in my life, and never offer anything of value to your own interests or needs, I bet we’d have a pretty weak friendship.Segment your list, create content particular to those audiences, and it will be easy to find a structure for supporting the message.
  • Just like websites can be optimized for viewing on a mobile device, emails can be optimized. One thumb, one eyeball and at arm’s length – simplicity is your friend
  • If a developer is coding your html, then he or she can use media queries to make your email optimized for mobile. It’s a similar practice to responsive web design. This will also give you the freedom to eliminate certain pieces of content when viewed on a mobile device. For example, in this email from REI they decreased the number of images for the mobile version. If you do not have access to a developer to do such fancy things, you can check with your email service provider to see if they have a template that is responsive. I know that MailChimp’s drag ‘n drop editor allows users to create templates that are responsive. Likely those templates will not allow you to have control over moving content around or contextualizing it for mobile, instead it will just stack the content.
  • If your email service provider does not have a mobile template, then there are a few tricks you can do to make your email easier for mobile readers.Headings and bulleted lists are always great. Also, increase your font size for important pieces of content to 16-22 points. Use buttons or at least give links plenty of padding so mobile users can click on it easier.Also, use two columns for text areas. Look at the example, when I pinch and zoon in to read the text, the text that is in a column is visible on my screen without left to right sliding. But the text that spans the entire width of the email will drive me crazy with the side to side scrolling and therefore I likely won’t read it – which sucks for them b/c that is where they put the contact instructions and info for me.Font Size16-22ptColumns2 columns for text areasAction Buttons44-48 pxLower left side
  • most clicked subject line words: they tend to convey what is going to be of use to the reader; communicate the value in the subject line "what's in it for them" the trick here is not to combine all of these words together into one SUPER MAGICAL SUBJECT LINE but to ask why? why are these words so popular? why did they connect with readers? Answer: Tell me what I get from your email. Bad words: sales-y jargon and words encouraging urgency: i.e. today, soon, now! bc people are in a filtering mood and the sales-y jargon can come across as spam Sentiment: be passionate. extremely positive or negative performs better than neutral....but we'd probably enjoy to be positive
  • This is a great place for your logo, tagline, and branding colors. I see many business and orgs use their branding colors throughout the entire email. While these colors might be great for connecting consumers to the brand, they are not always great as large backgrounds for holding a lot of text. White. We like to read black text off of white background. So put your brand in the header, and then use colors that are easy on the eyes in the rest of the email. Think about those of us who are waking up and reading your emails just after our alarm clocks go off.
  • Organizing the content within your email is probably where most of your attention should go after you’ve completed the planning. You know, b/c it is the most important stuff.People tend to scan looking for information that is relevant or interesting to them. So help them by using headlines, subheads, bulleted lists, short sentences and short paragraphs. This email from Google is a great example of these basic elements that I improve readability
  • If you have a type of content that is repeating, such as a list of articles. Create a simple pattern.
  • We’ve already talk about how much people love images in emails. Combine images and text to help chunk relevant pieces of content together. And pic images that help tell the story.
  • Personalization The Science of Email Marketing – I think email marketing & commbc you can get nearly instant feedback on if readers enjoyed what you created. Because of that, testing is essential to making sure you are staying intune to what your readers need & want.However, sometimes it can get really nick-picky, like testing blue buttons vs. green buttons or how many words are in a link. And those details can have an impact on your performance, but the giants of improving performance are segmentation and personalization.Using simple merge tags to include the reader’s name or their company name can have a significant impact on performance.
  • People love images in emails. But, you have to be smart about using them.Make sure you’re coding images using absolute paths and that your images are hosted ona public web server (if you use an email service provider like mailchimp or cc, you’ll be fine) Also make sure your jpgs are in rgb format bc they won’t display in your browser as cmyk.
  • However, most email programs do not automatically download images. Anyone ever see an email come across like this?You can’t prevent that from happening, but what you can do is use alt text when uploading your images so that the recipient knows what content is in the image.This is a great example bc the email is actually a large image promoting a big sale, and with the alt text I can see that. So I’m interested in clicking to download the images. Without it, I’d like just delete email and move on to the next one in my inbox.
  • Make them easy, make them clear and consider your mobile readers
  • Footer has information that is required by CAN-SPAM such as your contact info, permission info, and the unsubscribe link. You can also use it for social media links.
  • Anyone ever had a conversation about the best day of the week or the best time to send an email? I know that I’ve had about a gazillion. Each email I prepared at my previous employer sparked a conversation of “when?”Early in the week and early in the morning has been the timing mantra for a long timeYet, at my previous employer our highest performing email was sent on a Friday at 4:45. Test different days and times with your various segments and learn what works best for them.But – something that I rarely hear spoken about in regards to timing is how quickly can you respond to a user’s actions? Your newest subscribers tend to be the best and most active. They are getting to know you. If I sign up for an email newsletter with an org or company that is new to me, then it is likely after I have been browsing their site or heard of them from a friend. It is when I am most interested in learning.Take advantage of that and create an automated email with interesting content that goes to new subscribers. Maybe create a lifecycle of messages that bridges them into your regular editorial calendar.frequency: lots of variables - content, audience, cta, etcbut - there's not a big difference in ctr on sending 1x week vs. every day of the week. There is a significant drop in CTR when increasing frequency from once a month up to 2-3x month, but after that it stabilizes. One report showed this as a drop from 6% t0 4%. But the same report showed a CTR of 5% when sending 21-22x/month (likely every business day).
  • Story about mimicking – if you to a restaurant and order a grilled cheese sandwich, salad, no fries and the waiter responds “ok, so you want a grilled cheese sandwich, salad no fries” tips are 70% higher than if the waiter had said “ok. Go it.”Why is this? Probably the person ordering the food felt heard and understood. They had a level of comfort and trust that their dinner was going to come out exactly the way they want. But also, the act of mimicking had an effect on the waiter. It made them more intune with the person who placed the order, causing them to be more attentive to their needs. It is the basis of empathy. When I work with designers, writers, and marketers the best of the best despite their skillset or level of experience…are the ones who can cultivate empathy for the end user. Your photoshop skills may need to improve, you may not be the most clever writer, or you may be brand new to email marketing…..but having empathy for your audience will be a stronger determinate of your success.
  • Creating Readable Email Newsletters

    1. 1. Creating Dynamic& Readable eNewsletters Alicia Lane @leashal #focusrva
    2. 2. Email TrendsThanks to PEW Internet, Hubspot, &Mailchimp for these stats.
    3. 3. 88% of people use the same inbox for work and personal emails #focusrva
    4. 4. 58% of people have a separate email address for filtering possible junk mail #focusrva
    5. 5. #focusrva
    6. 6. #focusrva
    7. 7. 77% check email “everywhere” or “obsessively” + Public transit + Waiting in line + Out to eat + In bed (72%) #focusrva
    8. 8. Takeaways + Competition is not + People are particular who you think about when and how + Have to gain trust at they check email registration and first + You must consider email mobile #focusrva
    9. 9. Planning a Successful Email
    10. 10. Don’t email yourself.Don’t email your boss. Email your audience. #focusrva
    11. 11. #focusrva
    12. 12. Email Design Finally!
    13. 13. Sign-up Form & Segmentation #focusrva
    14. 14. Structure #focusrva
    15. 15. Mobile #focusrva
    16. 16. Subject Line #focusrva
    17. 17. Subject LineIncreased Open Rate Decreased Open Rate + & vs. “and” + ? + [ ] vs. ( ) + # + First Name + Company Name #focusrva
    18. 18. Background Table #focusrva
    19. 19. Teaser #focusrva
    20. 20. Header #focusrva
    21. 21. Body Copy #focusrva
    22. 22. Images #focusrva
    23. 23. Actions #focusrva
    24. 24. Footer #focusrva
    25. 25. Timing #focusrva
    26. 26. Questions? #focusrva
    27. 27. Time to play #focusrva
    28. 28. What is something really cool or helpful that you’ve recently learned and put to use?
    29. 29. Interview
    30. 30. Dig Deeper
    31. 31. Needs: things they are trying to do (hint: look for the verbs)Insights: new learnings about your partner’s feelings or worldview
    32. 32. (Partner’s name)needs a way to (partner’s need).Unexpectedly, in his or her world, (insight).
    33. 33. Sketch 3-5 ideas
    34. 34. Share solutions & get feedback
    35. 35. Reflect & generate new idea
    36. 36. There’s more… #focusrva
    37. 37. Thanks! #focusrva