Email newsletters are still one of the most effective marketing tools for small businesses. An effective email newsletter can drive traffic to your website and boost customer engagement. Failure to deliver your message cleanly and clearly, however, may have readers hitting delete.
Below, Jessa Barron, a writer for research and consumer advice website NextAdvisor and an email marketing expert, shares tips for avoiding six common errors people make with their mass-email missives, plus best practices to make sure you deliver a strong message that will grow your mailing list and draw in new customers.
1. Broken or Missing Links
One of the most important things your email newsletter does is drive traffic back to your website. If the links in your newsletter don’t work or send interested customers to the wrong content, “it’s going to frustrate them and they might unsubscribe,” says Barron. “Always double and triple check [the links in] your email before you send it out.”
2. Sending Too Often, or Not Often Enough
Whether it’s appropriate for you to send email newsletters daily, weekly, or monthly will depend on your business (daily menu updates for a restaurant vs. monthly reminders about auto maintenance from a repair shop, for example) and your subscribers’ wishes. “I think it’s really important to allow your subscribers to choose how often they receive your emails,” Barron says. Most email marketing programs such as Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and Get Response, provide an opt-in form that allows subscribers to choose how often they want to get emails and even specify what type of content they are interested in.
While bombarding potential customers with email can have them scrambling for the unsubscribe button, if you wait too long between newsletters you’ll lose out on the opportunity to stay top of mind with potential customers or clients. Once a month is the minimum frequency for emailings, in most cases. A best practice is to let your subscribers know how often to expect your email newsletter and stick to that schedule.
3. Subject Lines That Sag Instead of Zip
The subject line of your email is like the headline of a news article. An intriguing subject line can increase your open rate and keep your newsletter out of the trash. “Keep them short and direct,” says Barron, who recommends using no more than 15 words in your subject line — fewer if the words are long. Longer subject lines get cut off on mobile devices, which makes recipients more likely to delete without reading. Barron also suggests making subject lines more personal by addressing your readers directly. For example: “X ways you can lose weight this summer” instead of “X ways to lose weight this summer.”
4. Spam Words in the Subject Line
“There are some spam words that you should always avoid with subject lines,” says Barron. These are words that will automatically send your email into the receiver’s junk folder, even if you are on their contact list. Big offenders include:
- Percent off
- Earn money
- Make money
Barron notes it’s a good idea to do a Google search for “spam words” periodically in case there are additions to the list. You can also search your own email to see what words consistently end up in your spam folder.
5. Failing to Format for Mobile
Recent studies have shown around two-thirds of emails are viewed on mobile devices. “Mobile is extremely, extremely important with email newsletters,” Barron says. A newsletter that doesn’t easily resize for mobile devices (or, conversely, only looks good on mobile and not on desktops) is going to have a lower open and click-through rate. Make sure your newsletter is formatted correctly for mobile by sending yourself a test and opening it on your mobile device before you distribute it to your whole mailing list.
6. Leaving Out Social Media
“Do cross-platform promotions,” Barron says. Otherwise, you’re missing out on a great way to integrate your marketing and promotional efforts. Add follow buttons for your social media channels to your newsletter. Promote your newsletter on Facebook so customers who have “liked” you can opt-in to a subscription and receive reminders of your product or service right in their inbox.