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10 Fast Tips to Boost E-newsletter Performance

Let’s face it: People have a love hate relationship with their email. It’s a time suck, yet we are addicted to our in-boxes -- even if it’s just to quickly scan emails to stay up to date. Given the email clutter your subscribers battle daily, how are your organization’s e-newsletter open and click-through rates looking these days?

Here are some useful tips to increase your e-newsletters performance rates.

1.    Dig Into Your Data: Look at your statistics and find out which subject lines are generating the highest open rates, and which articles and subjects are generating the most clicks. The top area of any e-newsletter is prime real estate. How are standard links at the top (such as Tell A Friend) and content areas (such as a Letter From The Editor area) performing? Poorly? That’s a big red flag that you need to change things up.
2.    Survey Your List: Ask your subscribers which subject areas they are interested in reading about. Do their answers match up to what people are clicking on in the e-newsletter? Gather demographic info if you don’t already have it.
3.    Ask For Feedback: Ask subscribers what they would like to see in future e-newsletters. Ask them what they like and dislike about your current e-newsletter.
4.    Short And Scannable: Develop a style guide and make e-newsletters concise, to the point and scannable. Many e-newsletters are too long and not well organized. Headlines should be short. Incorporate a “Read More” link after a brief blurb on the topic you are highlighting, to help decrease clutter. If readers are interested they will click the “Read More” link.
5.    Punch It Up: Think about incorporating “Top 5” lists around an issue you want to highlight. For example: “5 Things You Can Do To Break Your Bottled Water Habit.” [Did you notice the title of this blog post, by the way? “10 Fast Tips…”]
6.    Use Graphics Strategically: Graphic elements such as photos break up cluttered text, highlights key content areas and makes e-newsletters easy to skim.
7.    Get Interactive: Ask people to take a poll or share a story.
8.    Segment Your Subscribers: If you have the staff resources and a lot of subscribers, think about segmenting your e-newsletter subscriber base, and then tailoring different versions of your e-newsletter for each segment (e.g. by age, interest, activism level).
9.    Give Options: Offer subscribers a web version of your e-newsletter. Some email browsers like Gmail don’t render images properly and some people prefer to read e-newsletters on the web instead of via email. This also gives your organization the opportunity to archive e-newsletters and allow web visitors to read your e-newsletters even if they don’t subscribe.
10.    Experiment with A/B Testing: Try sending out two different versions of your e-newsletter to small samples of your list -- either with different subject lines, different copy or both. Track the open and click-through rates of each version to see which does better, and then send the more successful version to the rest of your list.

Follow any or all of the above tips, and you are bound to see better performance. And then circle back and tell us about your experience here on Frogloop!

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Reader Comments (3)

One thing I've found that works extraordinarily well for large, national NGOs is mailing on local issues. 1)It demonstrates that you care about issues that directly affect people's lives, and 2) because those issues are close to home, people are much more likely to respond.

Even if it's just moving down to state-level issues, I've found that response rates improve as a result.
January 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamer
Excellent suggestions! I had just been rereading Nick Allen's "Landing Page Optimization 101" on NTEN,* and was struck by how A/B testing came up in both. This is a very important technique, one that Amazon and Google for example use very effectively, and one that with a little practice is easy to experiment without a budget. Especially in blog and social network contexts, it fits in well with #2 and #3: get your community's feedback on which they like better, A or B, and why. Following up with these new connections gets them involved -- and very often gets valuable suggestions for improvement.

Also, especially if you are using multiple media, targeting different audiences with different appeals, and/or breaking things down demographically, it can be very hard to get the numbers you need for statistical significance with large "asks" like donations. You can get a feel for some relevant patterns by tracking (say) responses to appeals for simple online activism efforts.

As for #1, as always, think hard about your metrics. "open rate" is almost always a means an end; you're typically trying to maximize the number of people who act (and if your shooting for viral spread, the number who forward in some way).


January 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjon
Allyson -

Thanks for the useful tips; the last one was especially a good reminder on the value of experimenting. Sometimes the desire to be perfect from the get-go can block opportunity to learn what works directly from readership.

-Offering Mayra Ruiz at www.mayraruiz.com as another creative source to observe for e-newsletter style (her newsletter has taught me alot on establishing voice as well).

...congrats to you on Frogloop and Care2!
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill Foster

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