Every day, I receive an abundant number of emails from so many different companies that are attempting to better engage their customers through newsletters. Unfortunately, nearly all of those emails get moved straight to my “trash” folder, and I rarely ever open any of them (although there will be the occasional subject line that actually catches my eye and I will briefly consider looking at it). If anything, I will only feel a slight annoyance about how inundated my inbox can get — yet I do not even feel enough annoyance to actually take five minutes of my time to unsubscribe from a company’s list serve. (Does this remind anyone else of the emails you get from clubs that you only signed up for during Freshman year at the activities fair because they had free candy?) Clearly, when consumers do not care enough to even take the time to unsubscribe, there exists a disconnect between how consumers feel and what these companies’ marketers are trying to accomplish through their use of digital newsletters.
Out of maybe 15 digital newsletters a day, the only ones that I regularly open are TheSkimm and the Buzzfeed Animals newsletters. So what it is that the marketers of so many of these companies have gotten wrong? What is it that TheSkimm and Buzzfeed have gotten right, at least for me?
Here are a few key points I think other marketers should keep in mind when they decide to use digital newsletters to reach the attention of consumers:
1). Focus on being Educational, not Promotional!
Okay, maybe Buzzfeed Animals isn’t exactly educational, per se. But it is definitely entertaining! After all, the Buzzfeed Animals email is obviously a great way to make any day better — you receive an email from them a few times a week, and once you open the email, you are able to look at a bunch of adorable animals (don’t believe me? Just click here or here to see a few cute pictures for yourself ). That’s all there is to it. Buzzfeed is not really trying to sell anything through this newsletter, although there certainly exists a certain amount of opportunity for advertisers to place ads for consumers to potentially click on. Nevertheless, the main purpose of the newsletter is to get people to become more engaged with Buzzfeed overall, and I would say that it has worked rather well. The newsletter serves to simply make people happier, and the effect of that is such that it helps people have a better perception of Buzzfeed as a whole. Therefore, the marketers at Buzzfeed have clearly recognized that there is no need to ruin such a great newsletter by explicitly using product promotions or anything like that. Their long-term, big picture interests are better served by providing valuable educational/entertaining material that does not feel promotional to their consumers.
2). Keep Newsletter Design Minimal
The design of TheSkimm is one of the reasons I decided to subscribe to it as a daily additional news source. It uses a basic color scheme of teal and black, and it has plenty of white space. It also does not try to overwhelm you with a ton of links or pictures or anything else too intense. Instead, it simply gives you some of the highlights of what has been going on in the news through a few witty and entertaining paragraphs. The design of the newsletter also makes sharing things from it very simple, as readers can very see how there are just a few icons next to each piece of news you can click on to share via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.
I really love watching and keeping up with the news, but there are simply so many things happening nowadays that there always still seems to be important events that manage to slip through my radar the day before. Therefore,I really wanted to find a newsletter that I could read in the mornings to start my day off right, and TheSkimm has been my favorite one by far. I love waking up to TheSkimm sitting in my email inbox, and the minimalist design of it is also helpful for opening the newsletter when you are half awake before you have even had your morning coffee.
3). Have Eye-Catching Subject Lines
As I mentioned earlier in this post, there are times that I will actually open a newsletter because the subject line was particularly eye-catching. Whether it was funny, amusing, or shocking, some kind of emotional response was all it took for that email to go from instant “trash” to potentially important. Buzzfeed Animals and TheSkimm are both pretty good at this, but this tip is probably even more important to companies who are having more of a difficult time with improving open rates. They should try to give extra attention to being witty without coming off as though they are trying too hard — a line that may at first be difficult for them to balance, but I think that their efforts will be rewarded in the end.
Of course, these few tips are definitely only some of the many things companies could do to improve their digital newsletters. Let me know if you guys have any other favorite newsletters that you read regularly!