5 Things That Make Successful Newsletters Tick.

Chapters:
Article written by Gabriel
Community manager at PadiCode
Google+ profile

We all know why people unsubscribe from newsletters, but what about the people who keep reading them for a long time? Why do they keep at it, and what are these marvelous newsletters doing to stay close to subscribers? Are they the only ones who managed to avoid doing all the mistakes, or is there a newsletter fairy involved in all this magic?

Newsletters aren’t forever.

91% of all your current subscribers will unsubscribe at some point. This doesn’t mean, however, that the rest of 9% will stay with you forever. They will either delete/not open your emails until you will remove them from your list, or they will just hit the Spam button instead.

Now that we cleared that up, we can start focusing on what newsletters are really all about: creating a pleasant and mutually beneficial relationship with your customer, for as long as possible. And just how long would that be? I’m glad you asked.

In order to satisfy my curiosity on long-living newsletters, I created  this survey. The results are not encouraging. Almost half of my respondents unsubscribe in under 1 year, and only 2 of them still read the newsletters 4-5 years after subscribing (only e-newspapers and job related newsletters).

The rest of them aren’t as determined, but they still unsubscribe in 4 years at the most. This doesn’t give the usual business a lot of time, so you should make the most of it while you can. Here is how.

This isn’t about you.

It’s all about your customers, and you’ll should give them whatever they want. Concentrate on providing interesting content in an unintrusive way while keeping in mind the latest trends in email marketing.

1. Your customers will want to know what your newsletter is all about, take MailChimp’s advice and write exactly that in your subject line. Try to avoid lines unnecessarily creative, that look like magazine headlines, or unnecessarily boring (naming each newsletter “Newsletter” might not be best way to go). Instead, adapt the style to your business and the brand’s personality.

Also, chances are that more than 30% percent of your customers are already reading your newsletters on their phones, so make certain your email is smartphone friendly.

2. Don’t give them any reason to leave. The top two reasons of unsubscribing are lack of content relevance and a high email frequency, so be sure to provide interesting content to each of your subscribers, and don’t send newsletters too often.

Start by giving them a choice when subscribing: do they want general newsletters, or they mostly like promotions? What subjects are they interested in? How often would they like to receive emails? And then give them exactly what they asked for.

3. Personalize the content, make it engaging and valuable. Experiment, to make sure you are choosing the best option: use A/B testing, split test the emails, segment the list. Try using preheaders and check your stats after each newsletter. Analyze them and make the next email even better.

Due to inbox overflowing and the new priority policies applied by email providers (like the Gmail’s priority inbox), reaching and maintaining engagement will become increasingly difficult this year. However, this will also mark the difference between the opened-and-read emails and the ones who’ll never make it. Our own PadiAct and PadiTrack can really help you figure out what works, especially if you have a long term strategy in mind.

4. Integrate social media into your newsletter. Recent research shows the email/social media competition for attention is getting more serious. Shouldn’t you just dump email altogether and go for the next best thing? The answer is no. Email marketing might be getting old, but it’s more effective than social media when it comes to delivering traffic to your website, as Jesse Noyes showed recently.

Besides, social media is perfect for branding and PR, but purchases rarely come from these sources, perhaps with the exception of  Pinterest. Furthermore, your customers are social beings and they will appreciate the ease with which they can share the awesome content you created for them. So go beyond email and social media and integrate them with everything else, e-commerce, offline activities and up-to-date technology.

5. Give them an easy way out. Unsubscribing must be a click away at all times. And don’t worry, no one will hit Unsubscribe just because they see the button. But if they do choose to leave you, you might want to use an exit survey as the unsubscribe page (keep it short, though). In this way you can find out if you can do something to improve the newsletter for the other customers, or it’s more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation.

Mind the big picture.

While this article focuses mainly on content, the perfect newsletter might remain unopened without a good email marketing strategy, so think long term. Moreover, everything else you do has an impact on your customer relations, and implicitly on subscriptions and sales. You cannot afford to overlook anything, from design to the way your employees interact with your customers, everything must consistently reflect your brand’s values.

Why is this the case? Of all the reasons for long term subscription, the first one is the usefulness of the information with 95% of votes. It makes sense, we know from the reasons for unsubscribing that this is the newsletter’s most important feature.

The second one, with 64%, is a general appreciation for the company’s communication style, voice and personality; the third, with 36%, is simply liking the company. And here is where branding, PR, product quality and everything else come into play.

So, what does make a successful newsletter tick? All you have to do is provide smashing content, avoid making any silly mistakes, and be a lovable company. Easy peasy, right?

A thing to remember is not to worry if most people stop reading the newsletter after 1 year, a perfect fit is a matter of chemistry. Pay attention to those who stick around for more than 1 year, they are the ones you appeal to. Perhaps you should try attracting more people like them.

What is your experience on the matter? Do you still read newsletters years after subscribing, and why? We’d love it if you shared your thoughts in the comments below. Also, feel free to take the survey, we can send you the results via email.

Sources:  www.clickz.com,  www.copyblogger.com,  http://mashable.com,
www.customerthink.com,  econsultancy.com,  mailchimp.com,
getresponse.com and their  2011 Report, http://www.digital-results.com,
http://www.smartinsights.com,  http://www.campaignmonitor.com.

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