How to create e-mail newsletters that break through clutter

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E-mail newsletters are an inexpensive tool for communicating with current and prospective customers and make up over half of all e-mails sent. They are expected to double in the next four years. You need a solid newsletter strategy to achieve long-term results. Here are five ways to make your e-newsletters break through the clutter:

Clearly define your newsletter goals. Are you trying to acquire new customers? Increase customer satisfaction? Extend your brand or image? Is your audience current customers? Prospects? Identifying and keeping focus on the primary goals and audience for your newsletters will help define your direction and success.

Keep content relevant and valuable. Reach your readers the way want, with what they expect and need. First, identify yourself clearly in the "from" address; your first connection with recipients. The subject line may be the most critical piece of the content you provide; make it concise, compelling and ideally, less than 50 characters. Your newsletter content should first pay off the promise of the subject line: b-to-b communications should help people do their jobs better; consumers want content of interest to their lives.

Create an effective and compelling design/format. Take the time to develop a well-designed, professional template that features your unique brand. You'll reinforce your company's image and recipients appreciate a clear, professional format. Send text versions with every HTML newsletter, but incorporate your brand with clear labeling and tone. Add the visual element with a link to a web-page version of the newsletter.

Timing and targeting. Listen to your customers. After investing the time and resources to develop a stellar e-mail newsletter, don't undermine its success by sending too much, too little, or to a non-opted-in list or too broad a list. Even your current customers should opt in. Segment the lists to provide the most value to the various groups, and make it easy if they choose to unsubscribe. Communicate how frequently they can expect to hear from you and stick with it.

Measure and track results. A big benefit of e-mail is that it is easy to measure. Monitor your e-mails for any abrupt changes in metrics due to complaints, open rates and bounces. That can indicate a deliverability problem you need to fix. You can also shape future content based on the content readers click on. Compare your results with your e-mail newsletter goals and make adjustments to content as needed.

Becky Repka is marketing manager of StreamSend E-mail Marketing. Reach her at brepka@streamsend.com.

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