How to Improve Email Newsletter Performance? Here’s the Engagement Opportunity You’re Missing
September 12, 2017 | Kaleigh Moore
When it comes to lead generation and ROI, email continues to dominate. Campaign Monitor data shows that email produces 174% more conversions than social media.
In a way, it’s still a sacred space: Email isn’t at the mercy of a platform’s algorithm. That’s part of the reason so many companies are focused on constantly growing and improving their email marketing efforts.
In fact, according to 2017 data, 73% of B2B companies see email becoming even more important in the future, while 33% are already planning to increase their budget for this medium in the year ahead.
The thing is: Even the biggest budget can’t drive engagement. You can send the best-designed campaign and hire the top copywriter to write the smartest subject line – but all that means nothing if your emails don’t engage readers.
You need something that activates your audience.
Including interactive content experiences like polls, quizzes, and interactive video takes you beyond the open and click rates.
By “activate” I mean something more than just opening, scanning, reading, or even clicking. While clicking is definitely a good KPI, what happens after they click? How do you know they’re still an active participant and fully engaged?
Including content calls to action to interactive experience is part of the equation. Think instead of “Read More”, you see “Find Out” or “Test Yourself.”
In this post, we’ll dive into some email newsletter best practices and then look at how you can tie in interactive content to drive clicks within your email marketing efforts.
Email Basics and Best Practices
Before we talk about how you can upgrade your current email efforts, let’s lay a foundation of some basics and best practices (and look at a few good examples, too.) Here are some basic email principles to keep in mind when you sit down to create an email campaign:
- Attention spans are short. Most readers only spend 15-20 seconds scanning an email before moving on, so in the inbox setting, less is more.
- Language is important. Because the email setting is more personal than social media, you have an opportunity to build relationships, so use a tone and words that resonate emotionally.
- Make it action-oriented. Your CTA should be clear to the reader and action-oriented. Tell the reader exactly what will happen if they click the CTA button (and give them a good reason to do so.) Also keep in mind that limiting your conversion path to one per email can boost clicks by as much as 42%.
- Design for consumability. Since readers are scanning the content of your email, think about using a template and copy that makes for quick, bite-sized information consumption. Minimize distraction and keep design elements simple.
- Personalize. By including the subscriber’s first name and preferences, you make your emails feel tailor-made for the recipient. Plus, data shows that personalization converts 42% better than non-personalized emails. By tying in custom data and automation, your emails become more relevant and interesting for the reader.
Here’s an example of a well-done newsletter from StitchFix that touches on some of these best practices:
What does it do well?
- The design is action-oriented and the CTA stands out within the email.
- Copy is minimal so it can be quickly read and consumed.
- The language is emotion-based. “So you!” makes the reader feel understood.
- The design is clean and simple.
With these best practices in mind, you can start writing and designing emails that are tailored to the modern subscriber’s wants and needs.
Integrating Interactive Content and Newsletter Email
So, you know how to build a great email. But what can you do to take it to the next level?
Let’s look at a really great weekly newsletter example from CreativeMorning, self described breakfast lecture series for the creative community.
Here’s the top part of their email:
Pretty good, right? It’s clear, visual, appealing and doesn’t require much reading in order to take the next step. The big “play” overlay button is the central driver and leads to a video.
But what happens then?
You can rely on the video metrics to provide insight and include a CTA at the end or even in the middle, which is pretty strong practice. But what if you could ask for feedback or the viewers opinions during the video?
This is where the conversation about interactive content begins. Interactive content gives a standard email something…unexpected – an experience within the inbox.
All day long we get a mix of text-based emails and well-designed marketing campaigns promoting a solution or technology, but both are usually a one-sided messaging. There’s no opportunity for the recipient to interact or engage with that message.
However, when you introduce interactive elements, you invite the reader to do something. Maybe it’s to learn something about themselves, or their business process, through a quiz, for example.
Here’s monthly newsletter example from JewishBoston with a quiz featured:
This layout is also very clean and easily scannable, but the most popping CTA is the quiz. It’s the first button on the email and it’s an actionable piece of content that’s personal and offers a result.
Marketing teams can use the participation results of the quiz to learn more of the prospect, measure actual engagement (beyond just the open and click), and even follow up immediately with users.
Here’s a section from an older SnapApp November newsletter that leverages the holiday for participation:
Not only does the assessment better entertain and inform, but it creates an opportunity to warm up cold databases and to re-engage subscribers in a fun, no-pressure environment.
With this type of interactive content, you’re not trying to make a hard sale – instead, you’re starting a conversation. Sure, this conversation can open the door for future opportunities, but it gets the ball rolling in a low-stakes context. It’s your proverbial “foot in the door.”
“Those both seem fun, but what would a more on-message B2B example look like?”
Let’s look at a Unitrends newsletter section, a backup and disaster recovery company, that would be best suited for leads that are a bit lower in the funnel:
Notice how they created a quiz that’s both fun and lighthearted for the user (and educational.) Users are completing the information gap and learning about themselves, but they’re also learning more about their needs related to backup and disaster recovery at the same time.
It worked, too. This piece of interactive content drove 1,500 engagements and had an 87% completion rate.
Interactive newsletter hot tip:
Include a survey or poll early on in your newsletter, something that is relevant and current for you audience but only takes 15-30 seconds of their time. This can be a simple, on-brand design.
Capture the participants feedback for your own data, but also reveal the results in the next newsletter to create more episodic relationship, getting your audience more involved.
Industry Relevance: Newsletter Email and Interactive Content for Lead Conversion
Let’s look at a way Paycor focused on new payroll regulations to base their newsletter email around, which included an interactive calculator.
With new Department of Labor (DOL) regulations, Paycor focused on helping their audience understand and prepare for the changes.
They offered two CTAs in their email, one for a webinar on the subject, and one that led to a DOL calculator which allowed users to input their own variables to see the impact of the regulations.
Subject line: “Breaking News: DOL Announces Final FLSA White Collar Overtime Exemption Updates”
- 23.40% Open Rate vs. 20.80% Open Rate for Paycor average emails
- 4.75% CTR vs. 3.10% CTR for Paycor average emails
- 20.29% Click-to-Open Rate vs. 15% Click-to-Open Rate for Paycor average emails
As you can see, the results were positive. Average email open rates were higher than the average, and CTRs were higher, too. Overall, these efforts paired with cross-channel distribution for the interactive calculator resulted in a 2.7% return on investment in less than 6 months, and more than 25x ROI after 9 months.
Not bad, right?
The bottom line: When interactive content like this is tied into email newsletter efforts, the inbox becomes a much more action-oriented space.
Scalability and Opportunities
Maybe you’re thinking: “Okay, that’s great, but we don’t have the time to constantly build these out. Our team is already busy.”
The good news about interactive content is that it’s scalable. For one thing, you can create templates that can be customized, swapped out, and re-used time and time again – whether it’s an assessment, poll, interactive video – you name it.
That means you don’t have to start from scratch each time you want to build a new piece of interactive content for your newsletter.
Remember the hot tip about including a poll? That poll just needs to be designed once, and the copy can be swapped out for every new newsletter.
At the end of any interactive experience, follow-up content can be further promoted. The content promoted can be determined on the answers from the participant. Depending on where the reader falls in the funnel (high, middle, or bottom), you can continue the journey with content that moves them a bit further down the path to conversion by delivering relevant materials at a moment when forward momentum is at its peak.
Start Pairing Email Newsletters And Interactive Content
The one thing I hope you’ll walk away from this post knowing is that email is an extremely powerful conversion tool–and its power only increases when paired with more immediate, interactive experiences.
Think about how you can develop an interactive quiz, assessment, or calculator to make your email newsletters more interesting, engaging, and effective for your business.