Principles for email newsletters

You want to project the right image, while ensuring your email achieves your objectives.

Getting the balance right in a marketing email or e-newsletter is always tricky. You want to project the right image, while ensuring your mail-out actually achieves your objectives.

So here are my top seven design principles to keep in mind when trying to meet these two objectives. I’d value feedback – so do tell me what I’ve missed and what I’ve got wrong.

Number 1. Design for the preview pane

Most people preview emails in the preview pane of Outlook, Mail, or their preferred email program. In most cases this means they only see the top 200 pixels or so of your email. If this is a large, irrelevant heading, for example, there is nothing to encourage them to scroll down or to open the email and read it. Make sure the top portion of your email includes engaging text that encourages recipients to open your email and read on.

Number 2. Make the introduction relevant

It’s easy to stray away from the real purpose of a newsletter email and begin an introduction with a chatty comment on the weather or football results; however, your readers probably signed up to receive something rather more interesting. So keep the introduction relevant. Some may argue that they are building relationships with customers – I think providing them with the useful information they signed up for is more productive.

Number 3. Content complements design

A newsletter is all about the content. Design and content go hand-in-hand and design should complement and enhance the content, not vice versa. Test your email in a number of email programs. Statistically, over 40% of your readers are likely to have images switched off by default so view it with images switched on and images off. Can you get the gist of what your email is about without images and without scrolling? If not, change the design.

Number 4. Add a list of content

Make it easy for your readers and help them understand what your newsletter is all about in the shortest possible time. Every newsletter should have a simple, easily readable, short content list. This provides some reasons to scroll down and read the rest of the content. Place this list near the top in clear text.

Number 5. Deliver on promises

If subscribers signed up for news on the widget industry, give them news on the widget industry. It’s always tempting to fill up the newsletter with special offers and promotional material, or to drift off subject, but if that’s not what you offered people when they signed up, then this should be avoided. If you want to send out specials via email, that’s fine, but don’t call it a newsletter! Of course it’s ok to include both, but keep it in balance.

Number 6. Be aware of mobile devices

Check out the statistics on users from your email campaigns. You’ll probably see a fair number of people are viewing your emails on mobile devices and this percentage is growing exponentially. As there is limited screen space on a mobile, it pays to make sure it’s readable for these people too.

Number 7. Check the numbers

One of the great things about email marketing is that it can provide you with lots of usable data that can help you to improve results. If you know what your objectives are (sales or website visits, for example), you can make small changes from edition to edition and work towards improved results.

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