5 Next-Level Tips for Better, Smarter, Sexier Email Newsletters

Team Braze By Team Braze Feb 10, 2016

When it comes to customer outreach, your tool belt is full. You’ve got push right there in the hammer-holster, and in-app messaging close at hand. Then there’s the email newsletter: tried and true, a mainstay, around for the long haul.

Have you rethought your email newsletter strategy lately?

Digital marketers have been using email since forever. You’re solid in your strategy and approach. Then again, maybe your conversions aren’t what they used to be. Perhaps, like so many others, you’re stuck in the hurdles of the email newsletter: spam, open rate challenges, and difficulty in tracking ROI, to name a few.

But, customers still prefer it. Almost half of all email engagement comes from mobile, and mobile CTOR continue to rise. So, how can we breathe new life into an old thing to ride the rising tide of mobile engagement, and make the most of it?

Let’s start by remembering why email newsletters work as a marketing tool

  • Email marketing provides an opportunity to share different types of content in a single send: a sale or promotion, company information, polls and surveys, whatever else you’ve got—it can all find a home in your newsletter, as long as you compile thoughtfully.
  • Segmentation is simple and accessible in this channel.
  • Email newsletters reach a guaranteed audience of opt-in subscribers.
  • Plenty of time and money is spent on customer acquisition. Once you’ve got those acquired customers on your email subscriber list, you can focus on optimizing their LTV. Long-term relationships take cultivation, and a regular newsletter is a huge asset to your strategy.
  • They’re a great opportunity to get more mileage out of existing content by re-sharing links that are already doing well.
  • People check their email all the time!

5 ideas to jumpstart your thinker, and resuscitate your marketing newsletters

We all get emails in our inbox every day that are about as exciting as a sack of wallpaper paste. We also get emails that we find ourselves drawn to engage with, sometimes despite a marginal interest in the subject matter. What subtle magic does that second group have, and how do we channel it?

Here’s a collection from our own inboxes of five of our favorite ways to jazz up a newsletter. We realize that not all of these are right for everyone, all the time. For example, your conversion targets may be built around driving purchases, and someone else’s may be built around driving engagement. Find one or two on the list that resonate with you and your brand, and give them a whirl in a way that makes the most sense for who you are.

1. Be funny

Note to Self, a public radio sponsored tech podcast, recently had an episode built around the theme FOMO (fear of missing out). Their newsletter followed suit, with this snippet.

It’s not just a conversation about staying in while your friends go out, or living with the consequences of buying the wrong kitchen table. It’s about technology, ethical software design, and a phenomenon Fake calls ‘social peacocking.’”

Giraffe frightened by peacock

Serious stuff! They immediately lightened the mood by following that blurb with this delightful gif of a peacock frightening a baby giraffe. You’d have a seriously cold, dark heart to not be at least mildly amused.

Why it works: They drew us in with the topic at hand, then encouraged some laughter. We get a great sense of their personality as a brand—they’ll tackle hefty topics, but don’t take themselves too seriously. As the reader, we got to laugh at something silly, and think about something interesting. It’s a well-balanced recipe for click-through.

2. Help a lot. Sell a little.

Your email marketing may be a great place to promote a sale, but the value of your recurring newsletter is significantly diminished if you only use it to promote your own sales.

We’re being sold stuff everywhere. All. Day. Long. You don’t like it. Why would your subscribers? Find your balance by offering your users content that’s helpful to them and relevant to your brand. Create some good faith in the space between your users and your product by giving some stuff away—even if that “stuff” is just ideas or advice. Mapmyride does a good job of finding equilibrium. Granted, their major goal may be engagement over direct sales, but ultimately they hope to drive users toward in-app purchasing.

In this recent issue of their newsletter, their “Beat Winter” call to action encouraged a click-through to their 5 Tips to Keep Riding During Winter.

Provider useful content

Why it works: Cyclists might love to map their ride, upgrade to the MVP in-app purchase option, or get geeky about a hundred other things related to their sport, but ultimately what mapmyride’s customer wants is… to ride. What cyclists care about is cycling. The content in this newsletter brings the customer closer to their own end game.

3. Get focused: narrow down your themes

We mentioned above that you can include all sorts of content in your email marketing. Sales, polls, surveys, content, cross-promotion, whatever. The newsletter is a great catch-all! That said, the hodgepodge approach works best when content is organized around a single theme.

Holidays, major weather events, the changing of seasons, big pop culture moments… these are all no-brainer happenings that can define a thematic thru-line in an email newsletter. Even, a yoga lifestyle newsletter, found a way to capitalize on the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Are Yogis actually Jedis?

It can be a little more challenging to find themes in the dead times in between, but there’s always something in your brand that can be categorized and collated.

Why it works: People respond well to compartmentalization. It’s easier for all of us to digest ideas and isolate our responses when there’s a pared down theme or focus.

4. Make it feel exclusive, a wedding planning website, creates a term of endearment for their users, and addresses their subscriber with this name in the first email interaction. The salutation, “Hi Knottie,” gives members a sense that they’re in a special club right out of the gate.

Email with in-joke salutation

Other common techniques of exclusivity include creating deals that are just for fans and followers. Offer “sneak peeks” of new features to certain users, or invite groups of users to play around with a new feature while it’s still in beta.

Why it works: Remember FOMO from tip #1 above? Special terms or opportunities create a sense of community. They tell the user they’re part of something—something that, the subtext says, isn’t open to everyone. Instilling the sense that users are part of something exclusive, even hinting at it in small ways, suggests that the user is on the inside, which is ultimately where everyone wants to be.

5. Gamify to build marketing directly into your product

Gamification and community are twin engines of good, sticky marketing content. Find a way to gamify a certain feature of your product that can be delivered in your email newsletter. Then, let it exist as its own entity, separate from any conversion target.

Grammarly is a browser extension that checks grammar, spelling, and syntax. Their conversion targets are built around getting users to sign up for paid premium service. They get email marketing right by offering every single subscriber a “weekly writing update.” This update shows users how active they were compared to other users, compares their grammatical accuracy to other users, and tells users how dynamic their language was compared to their peers.


Image credit: Marketing Buddy

Why it works: It’s fun. Games and competition tap into the psychology of motivation to electrify people in so many different ways. There’s been loads written about why gamification works on a psychological level, so we don’t need to get into it too much here.

For some brands, it’s easy, but for many brands, it’s a tricky point. Not every product or service feels suited to gamification, and yours might not be. You might find unexpected ways to utilize games, giveaways, competition, and prizes to engage users through email marketing. After all, turning grammar and syntax into a game or competition doesn’t seem so obvious, either, but Grammarly hits the nail on the head. This strategy might not be for everyone. If it speaks to your audience, give it a whirl, track the data, and see where it takes you.

Braze Customer Success Manager Sal Marciano on great campaigns to send during the IP warming process

Email is here to stay…

…but the digital landscape will continue to change. With it, so must our ideas about the right and wrong and best and worst ways to use our marketing tools. Email remains the most rich and dynamic way to message users. It’s getting easier to send lovely, responsive email messages on mobile. There’s never been a better time to shake it up with email newsletters than right now.

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Team Braze

Team Braze

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