The word on the street is that sending an email newsletter is golden.  It’s easy.  Just grab an email template from your ESP, throw in some information about your company, add a promotion and you’re good to go.

snag_program-0408But it just doesn’t work that way.  Email newsletters are a whole different beast.  They act differently, readers behave differently, and they don’t work the way you expect.

Here’s the four most common mistakes I see in your email newsletters that keep them from being effective.

1.  They’re too long

I worked for a company a few years back and we sent our newsletter to 600,000 readers every Friday afternoon.  We packed the newsletter with sometimes more than 12 pages of content.  It was good content too!

Here’s what we heard from our readers.  “I love your stuff.  I created a special folder for them because they’re too long to read when they hit my inbox.  But I never seem to get the time to go back and read them”

What happens is when someone is going through their inbox and they see a BIG newsletter, they are more likely to pass it over and/or file it away–and they just don’t always get the time to go back and read it.

The fix?  Shorten your newsletter.

2. They’re selfish

Most newsletters I read aren’t about me.  They’re about the company who sends them.  But there is a fine line between sharing a story which provides some insight into your company and its beliefs and boring self-serving content.

Try this instead.  Share information that HELPS your client.  “How to” articles are good examples of what your readers would find interesting.

3.  The layout is ugly

OK, no one wants to hear they have an ugly baby but I’ll say it.  Your newsletter is ugly.  Why?  Because you probably took an off the shelf template and added some content to it.

Here’s an example of good design.  One column vs two or three columns.  There have been enough studies on click habits to know that readers are almost blind to information in the right column… and if readers don’t see it, why is it there?

With one column the reader starts at the top and reads and reads and reads until you lose them or they click on something or they finish.

4.  You don’t send them

Lastly, you have good intentions but other priorities arise and soon a month goes by and then another and then you send one and so on.  I agree, even an email newsletter sent every other month is better than none at all.

If you start to send a newsletter, and it’s a good one, make sure you continue to send it monthly or biweekly or weekly.

I have clients that send newsletters weekly and have no trouble filling it with useful content.  In one case we’ve created and sent a newsletter for this client every Wednesday for 82 weeks in a row now.  Readership and engagement is still strong.

So here are your marching orders.

Create a simple email layout, fill it with useful, relevant information, keep it short, and send it every month without fail.