6 E-Newsletter Best Practices for 2016

November 3, 2015 | Email Marketing, Tips

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Best E-Newsletter Practices 2016As we head into 2016, email marketing continues its reign at the top of marketing tactics.

It’s easy to get distracted with social media, search or pay-per-click ads, but study after study puts email marketing as the most effective way to build awareness, acquire leads, convert prospects, and retain current customers.

These days, it’s easy to send out an e-newsletter, but it’s hard to send out a really good e-newsletter: one that builds your brand, closes sales and grows your business.

If you’re ready to jumpstart your e-newsletter in 2016, start by focusing on these best practices.

1. Mobile first

Depending on your audience, mobile email will account for 15 to 70% of email opens. If smartphone users are not your largest group of email readers yet, they may be soon. And no matter what your statistics show, you can’t ignore this group.

According to Movable Ink’s “U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2014,” 66 percent of brand marketing emails were opened on a mobile device (smartphones and tablets) during the first quarter. This represents a huge leap from just four years ago, when only 9 percent of email opens took place on mobile.

Why does mobile matter? Because reading email on a smartphone is a different experience.

Make sure you’re sending emails that are optimized for smartphone readers as well as desktop email clients. Check that your email service provider (ESP) has templates that are responsive in nature, not just mobile friendly. Not sure what the difference is? Read: Responsive vs Mobile E-Newsletter Templates.

You want your readers to have a great viewing experience on any kind of device.

Tailor design elements to a small screen. Buttons should be large enough to be easy to click. While most web designers are aware of this issue on mobile-friendly web sites, it often gets overlooked by e-newsletter designers.

Limit the length of content. People often use their phone to check email when they just have a brief moment. They expect to get through your email content quickly, so make your e-newsletter as short as possible, while still being useful.

Studies of eye-tracking when reading e-newsletters show that most attention is spent at the top left corner and then interest drops quickly after that.

Rather than sending one e-newsletter with many articles, consider sending each individual article as an e-newsletter. This will lead to higher frequency (improve your brand visibility), and probably higher engagements in your e-newsletters.

2. Snippets, previews and subject lines

Whether on your phone or on your desktop, we’ve all learned to quickly sort (and delete!) our email. In most e-mail clients (the software you use to read your email) you see the from, the subject and sometimes a snippet or preview.

Use snippets and previews carefully in your e-newsletter

Carefully craft the message in your preview snippet. I receive far too many e-newsletters where after the subject line all I read is “Having trouble viewing this email? View it online.”

Figure out how to override this setting! (Here at Mail on the Mark we make this really easy for our clients by making this an easy-to-edit field.) Customize this content for every e-newsletter.

Boost your brand visibility even without an open. After every e-newsletter you send, you’re probably eager to see what your open rate is. And that stat is still critical. However, think about the message you want to convey to people who don’t even open your email.

For example, I get a lot of e-newsletters from retailers I shop with. If I’m not looking to buy from them right now, I just quickly swipe and delete the message. But before I do, I’ve registered two things: 1) who sent the email (aka brand visibility) and 2) what the offer is (aka key message).

Keep subject lines short. Yes, subject lines are still critical and on smartphones they are often truncated. So, keep keywords to the first few words and make sure your message is understandable with only a few words.

3. Personalize your e-newsletters

There is growing proof that personalizing content increases engagement, and e-newsletters are a prime vehicle for creating personalized messages for your readers.

Go beyond just “Dear {First Name},” People love to see their own name. So, make sure that you are collecting at least first names when you have people sign up for your e-newsletter.

However, we are all aware of how easy the {First Name} “trick” is. So, in addition to the typical: Dear {First Name}, consider other places where you can add personalization. For a B2B marketer, you might weave in the recipient’s company name, if you have that data. For a retailer, try inserting information about a recent purchase.

Segment your lists. An important way to tailor your messages to your readers is to segment your list. All of your readers don’t need to receive every email you send. In fact, fewer messages that are better targeted is a far more effective email strategy.

Make yourself personable and human too. The whole idea with personalization is to give authenticity to an email. Make your own information human too. The “from” address and who signs the e-newsletter matter. Unless you are marketing for a very large firm, consider who the email is coming from. Make it a real person.

4. Raise your email newsletter quality, or lose readers

One of the biggest challenges with e-newsletters is the sheer volume of email we all receive. It’s hard to cut through the noise. If there is nothing special about your email, it will be quickly deleted, or worse—permanently unsubscribed from.

Most readers want one of three things when they sign up for an e-newsletter:

  • special offers
  • exclusive information
  • or to stay in touch with you.

Let’s start with the third one first.

Assume people don’t care that much about you. Very few people (besides your Mom) will sign up for your newsletter just to get “news” from your company. That will rarely attract people to sign up for an e-newsletter, so you’ll have trouble building your list.

There are a few of exceptions. Some non-profits, school, or events can get away with this approach. You probably have signed up for an e-newsletter from a group you support or your kids’ school because you want to be kept up-to-date on things like people hired, upcoming events, or even photos of the holiday party, etc. But very few people want to hear similar news from their insurance broker, restaurant, etc.

For everyone else, figure out what’s in it for your reader.

People want special offers. The number one reason people cite for joining an e-newsletter list is special, exclusive offers—coupons or special sales only available for subscribers.

Use these offers to entice people to sign up and don’t dilute their power by then turning around and offering the same thing to everyone.

Share exclusive information. Some businesses, especially B2B firms, are not going have sales or offer coupons. That’s OK. Your subscribers are probably looking for information, rather than offers.

Just like with a blog, your newsletter should provide useful, expert thoughts, tips, etc. that would be time consuming to find elsewhere. Your e-newsletter is the perfect place to position yourself as an industry expert.

Improve your visuals. It’s easy to quickly add a royalty-free photo to your e-newsletter without much thought. But an image that doesn’t add to your message and maintain your brand identity is a waste. In fact, it detracts from the whole e-newsletter.

Consider developing graphics—photography, charts or other imagery—that are customized to support your brand and message.

Make sure your e-newsletter looks professional. Sorry, but there a ton of ugly e-newsletters out there. Think how many times you let you out a sigh as you cringe at yet another poorly-assembled newsletter. It is clear that the person sending it out didn’t have a full handle on the email tool they were trying to use.

Maybe the colors don’t match the brand, or there are strange formatting issues like a mix of centered and non-centered type, or randomly bold type. These are often a result of rushing through the process of creating your template.

Turning over your e-newsletters to an email marketing expert may be the best way to proceed.

5. Connect your e-newsletter to your blog and social media

When you think about your e-newsletter, blog and social media, stop thinking about three different silos. Rather than three different channels that need three times the attention, think about how they can complement each other and build on each other. Yes, you will have to do work in every medium, but you don’t need to start each from scratch.

Write once, promote everywhere. It’s hard work writing great content and developing high-quality imagery to accompany it. Cross promote your content across channels.

The most efficient way to do this is to create a blog post and have the full content live there. It’s on your own domain and web site, so that’s the best place for its permanent home.

Then, send out an email blast with the beginning of the blog post and a key graphic included. Have people click through to read the entire article. That keeps the email short and gives you something to track (clicks).

Then, promote the blog post through social media using a similar technique. Make sure new viewers to your site are encouraged to join your e-newsletter list with easy-to-find signup forms.

6. Stop sending e-newsletters, start email marketing

Overall, you may want to stop thinking about e-newsletters and start thinking about email marketing.


The idea of an e-newsletter conjures up the idea of a monthly, multi-article format. First of all, that format is too long (see #1 above). Secondly, your email marketing program could be much more robust. Once you’ve mastered your e-newsletter, it’s time to think about auto-responders, drip campaigns and more.

Any good e-newsletter tool should make it easy for you to build these systems.

Create auto-responders. Make sure you have auto-responders so that when someone signs up for your email list they immediately hear from you. This auto-responder should be sent to new subscribers immediately or within a day or so. This is when they are most interested in hearing from you.

The great thing about auto-responders is that you set it up once, and it goes on auto-pilot for you, reaching out and communicating to all your prospects, effortlessly.

Build drip campaigns with multiple emails. A drip campaign is a series of emails in a certain sequence. It may be a robust form of an autoresponder for new subscribers.

Also, a drip campaign can be longer and more thorough almost amounting to an online course. Your e-newsletter service provider should make this easy to setup.

Coordinate these automated efforts strategically and visually. Be careful when you set up different email systems. If you have a regular newsletter, an auto-responder and drip campaigns, they should all look like they come from the same brand.

The design does not have to be exactly the same. In fact a drip campaign that works like an online course will most certainly violate our prior suggestion of being as short as possible.

However, all your email marketing should maintain the brand identity. Remember, every time your email lands in someone’s inbox it either builds or destroys your brand’s trust.

If you’re going to send an e-newsletter, do it right!