Please raise your hand if you run an email newsletter and you find getting clicks incredibly tough. Please raise your other hand if you think your newsletter design has something to do with that.
Having someone open your email is the ultimate privilege but not providing something that’s relevant to their needs is the ultimate cost.
Through testing, a bit of psychology, and analyzing what I think are great email newsletters. I’ve managed to simplify the newsletter process for Kayako’s weekly round up.
Get ready to gasp: Kayako’s newsletter used to run on an RSS feed.
Ok now I’ve admitted that, this takes the edge of this a little: I used to run an unbranded campaign newsletter for Kayako.
Why? Because no one likes marketing emails.
Entrepreneur, Ramit Sethi, loathes branded marketing emails, and since he was my unofficial mentor into email marketing (and he’s quite the guru) I decided to revisit my newsletter design.
Note: Check out Ramit’s thread on Twitter asking for great examples of newsletters.
Why you should consider redesigning your newsletter
If you run an email newsletter you know it can be hard work because getting a steady growth of email subscribers is hard. What’s harder is getting people to open those emails and actually click a link. That’s another ball game.
1. The best newsletters in the world aren’t from brands.
Ask a friend or colleague what their favorite email newsletter is. I can bet you 99% of the time it won’t be a brand’s newsletter.
Because newsletters are confusing, it’s like picking up a magazine off the shelf titled “the magazine for everyone”. Within the magazine you’ll get bridal wear, autoparts, women’s fashion, and fishing. Who’s the target market?
Newsletters are just the same, they hold information for readers, prospects, and current customers. If you’re a customer-driven company you’ll want to keep their eyes away from seeing a CTA to try your product for 14 days.
“So what’s wrong with current newsletter designs?” I hear you ask.
They have the same old newsletter format:
- Featured article or announcement at the top.
- A sentence or two of sales copy selling the click.
- A mid funnel link to a webinar, a course, new product features etc.
- Two supporting articles
Here’s Contently’s newsletter design:
Here’s GainSight’s newsletter design:
If you’re looking to create a weekly round up, don’t look at what brands are doing.
You could argue, “but I run a b2b newsletter not b2c,” we’re all consumers at the end of day, so the only real difference between b2b and b2c is that you have to convince your boss why you’re spending their money.
The best B2C newsletters
One thing that B2C have over a B2B email campaign is that they really have to be worthwhile going into your inbox. Jimmy Daly covered this in a recent blog post of his. Jimmy pays MailChimp $67 a month for the privilege to email 7,000+ people updates on his favorite readings that week.
When the money comes out of your own pocket, you have a tendency to make the newsletter a little better than just on the company’s money.
Let’s take a look at two great B2C email newsletters:
Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday:
Tim’s newsletter is a well thought out email. Although it takes less than 5 minutes to read, it’s exactly what Tim’s readers want: an insight into the life of a top performer and what goes on in his mind.
Tim provides that as a gentle nudge to your inbox every Friday.
Scott Monty’s The Full Monty:
Scott Monty’s email is almost like a summary of news, trends, and insights.
From reading this once, you can clearly see the amount of effort put into running this newsletter. Each caption for the link is a summary of the article from all areas of the online tech industry.
Despite the quality being incredibly high, they all have one downfall: too many choices.
2. Paralysis of choice is not a good way to run an email newsletter.
Sheena Iyengar is a professor and psychological researcher at the Columbia Business School and the author of The Art of Choosing. Sheena conducted her famous “jam test”, When choice is demotivating, at an upscale supermarket.
The study compared customer interaction and actual purchases between two different types of jam displays:
- The display in test one featured 24 flavors of jam
- The display in the second test featured only 6 flavors of jam
Sheena found that display one with 24 jam flavors had a significantly higher “interaction” rate (more customers taking samples), but it only had around 3% of customers making a purchase.
The second display with 6 varieties of jam had over 30% of people make a purchase!
The conclusion from this research is that too many options can cause people to choose nothing instead, and that a plethora choices can actually be demotivating for customers rather than empowering.
The conclusions of this study directly apply to how I’ve improved click-through rates for the Kayako newsletter.
Here’s some data to show the click rates from the changes made to the newsletter:
In the weeks of August to November, we were running a biweekly newsletter – which is why months Aug/Sep and Oct/Nov are combined – that rounded up our blog with three articles, webinars or content offers.
Now though, I run it weekly showcasing just one article and the click-through rate doubled.
3. The finished product of the Kayako newsletter
Here’s a screenshot of what the Kayako newsletter is looking like now:
You may be curious to know why there is three articles down the bottom. Easy to explain.
Ask yourself this quick question: do I open every email I get on the B2B or B2C email lists I’m subscribed to? The answer is probably a firm no.
This is why those additional readings are included.
The focus is to get the reader to click and read the most recent article this week. But knowing that not everyone opens an email newsletter, the time that they do it may not even contain a relevant link. This is why I’ve used this approach, if the email doesn’t contain the link for them, they might just scroll to the end of email, and something else might catch their eye. [Currently I am A/B testing this to see if this is a hinderance to clicks].
A lean newsletter design is better than stuffing in content
It can be easy to get lost on the way to successful, easy email marketing, but you needn’t. Sheena’s famous study on jam testing should give you an idea of a lean email newsletter: one email, one link. People are busy, if you’re not going to stuff it with value, don’t stuff it at all.