There are now so many e-mail newsletters most of us probably can’t remember the first one we ever received. That’s because it might have arrived unexpectedly, in the days when simply doing any kind of business with a company gave them permission to add you to their database.
In the era of more strict legal regulations that require customers to opt-in directly for any kind of mass-mailing, however, marketers have to work harder than ever to make sure they’re able to offer an e-mail newsletter that makes signing up irresistible. That may mean thinking differently about the format and content of what goes in the newsletter, along with when you send it out and other choices.
Most organizations have likely used an e-mail newsletter format we’ll call the “Here’s What’s Happening.” This tends to be an update on recent activities taking place within the company sending it, whether that’s new product launches, the appointment of new members to the team, the opening of new locations and so on. Another variation on the “Here’s What’s Happening” are special promotions or discounts on the products and services the company offers.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the “Here’s What’s Happening,” but it faces one major limitation: it is always inward-looking, with the expectation that your customers only want to hear about your company. As content marketing has evolved, though, more organizations are recognizing they also need to provide information and insight about what’s going on within their customer base, the market or even the world at large. By doing so, they show they are tuned into what’s relevant to their customers, that they want to genuinely help customers and not simply sell, and that they are able to create truly engaging content.
Here are five different e-mail newsletter formats you can try to shake up what you’re creating, sending and managing through tools like Marketing Cloud:
1. The Trend Report
Whatever you’re marketing is intended to help customers overcome a business challenge. But why does the business challenge exist? Where did it emerge in the first place? How does it relate to the other business challenges companies in that market might be going through?
The “trend report” format can point to other assets in your resource centre, such as blog posts, white papers or infographics, that paint a fuller picture of what’s going on within your customers’ lives, rather than simply what’s going on within your own office walls. The use of statistics and data is always helpful here, if your firm conducts or commissions original research. If not, you may be able to tell a more qualitative story based on trends you’re seeing in the way customers are trying new technologies, a new form of leadership technique or responding to the macroeconomic changes in their particular vertical.
2. The Explainer
Marketing teams have a long history of creating great lists of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the products and services they offer. This e-mail newsletter format takes that approach, but extends it to other areas customers care about. This could include:
- What customers need to know about a new piece of industry regulation
- An emerging form of technology or business practice that they should consider
- New jargon or terminology that they might soon hear at an industry conference or event
Explainer formats are effective because they are timely, but also because they show how companies are truly thinking like their customers in terms of what burning questions are running through their minds.
3. The Expert Interview Series
Existing e-mail newsletters that follow the “Here’s What’s Happening” format might already feature comments or insights from your internal subject matter experts, or at least provide some alerts about trade shows and conferences where they might be speaking.
You can also use your e-mail newsletter to conduct Q&A articles or even videos with third-party subject matter experts. These could include market research analysts, members of the media who cover your sector or (best of all) other customers.
If that sounds too onerous, it’s not. Imagine a newsletter series, for instance, that summarizes or gives the highlights of the best quotes from your most recent case studies and testimonials.
4. The Curation
One of the biggest barriers to exploring fresh newsletter formats is the feeling that marketing departments, members of whom are already overworked, don’t have time to start developing a lot of additional content. One of the many good things about the Internet, however, is that they don’t really have to start from scratch. Instead of creating, in some cases, they can curate.
Think about sending an e-mail newsletter, in other words, that merely links to an interesting news story about your industry, the most recent research report from an industry analyst or even a thought-provoking post from one of your customer’s blogs. Add a few lines to explain why you chose a link, or any other context you feel is relevant. You’ll quickly be offering a valuable service of filtering all of the good stuff online for your clients.
Some Final Considerations
You don’t have to stick rigidly to any of these formats. Mix and match them according to the way you’re A/B testing your content through Marketing Cloud, or based on how the particular format aligns with your objective for the week, month or quarter. There will be times, for instance, where you want something that merely generates interest and attention to your web site, where ‘The Curation’ format might work best. Then, when it comes time to launch a new product, the ‘Here’s What’s Happening’ might be the right option.
As you get more sophisticated with Marketing Cloud, meanwhile, explore how you can segment your list and begin personalizing the content — maybe you’d have a specific newsletter with the Explainer format for one of the markets you serve, for instance, and a ‘Trend Report’ format for a different segment.
Remember that e-mail newsletters don’t have to be bound by the limitations of print mailouts. You can try new formats often, as long as you track the results, and as long as you keep your audience’s needs top of mind.