Ten tips to get the most out of your email newsletters

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At CharityComms, we send newsletters to thousands of people every month, so it was interesting to rethink how we do things after a recent seminar we ran on improving email newsletters. Here are our ten top tips that include advice from seminar speaker Matt Haworth, digital media producer, at Reason Digital.

1. Look at what others are doing. Did you read the last email newsletter you received? What kept you reading? Subscribing to others' newsletters can give you inspiration and help you to work out what keeps people interested. I've signed up to around 30 newsletters — but only the best ones are read!

2. Add value. We find adding value to our newsletters is effective and keeps people reading and opening our communications. For example, we offer top tips, articles, blog posts, presentations, case studies, sound clips and reports with the aim of supporting our readers and sharing best practices.

3. Know what you want to achieve. Sounds obvious, but newsletters do take time to produce. Make sure you have clear objectives, Haworth said. For example: do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Recruit more volunteers? Or raise awareness?

4. Call to action. Tell people the ways they can engage with your organization. Tell them how they can find out more, follow you on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, donate, visit your site, attend an event, sign a petition etc.

5. Be personable. The most effective newsletters show you as a real person. You can do this by using personal language, using the recipient's name and using your email address in the "from" field.

6. Target and segment. Resist the urge to send blanket campaigns to everyone in your address book. Instead segment your list and alter topics, content order and subject lines to suit the interests of each segment. At CharityComms, we segment by membership status, interests, relationship, job title, event attendance and more, and we hope to make this even more sophisticated soon.

7. Killer subject lines. Make sure the subject line is enticing and gives your key message in the first 70 characters or so. It's worth testing subject lines to see how they change open rates. If you're segmenting try amending to ensure it really captures the interests of your readers. We find that it's easier to write the subject line after the newsletter has been written.

8. Time it right. Apparently there's no magic time to send your email campaigns. I can confirm at CharityComms we've never found a consistently "best" time to send. But it is important to get the frequency right. Haworth suggested no more than once a week and no less than once every six weeks.

9. Monitor and optimize. Check your stats: open rates, click rates and how many people are complaining about you. Haworth commented that the really important percentage is the click rate — and if you have an average of more than 3.5 percent this is good work apparently! However, you shouldn't have any more than 0.1% of people complain about you.

10. Spam test. A degree of common sense about the content of your newsletter will help here. Haworth suggested that if you can't afford a system that gives a spam score, then try sending it to as many different email providers as you can and check that it gets through. Not being able to easily unsubscribe from a newsletter is annoying, so make sure you provide an easy way. If you don't, your readers could end up reporting you as spam.

Emma Wickenden is the events and communications manager at CharityComms.

This article originally appeared at Charity Insight and is reprinted with permission.

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