Newsletters: a quick how-to

The first in a series of posts on how to make your startup marketing more awesome.

Screen Shot 2012-06-20 at 1.46.19 PMI probably get more marketing emails than anyone, for two reasons: I like love mail, and I want to see how other marketing pros make either great strides, or how to avoid their mistakes. 

I've spent a lot of time using newsletter services, both to build out regular customer communications, and to get feedback at the early stages of a marketing campaign. Here's a few tricks I've learned along the way.


Yo, dawg. I got you some pro tips!

Sell? Sell. Your company exists because you want people to pay for something. If you're not a revenue-based business, you're selling an idea that people want to use your product and VC's/advertisers will pay for things like "the light bill" and "all those free Diet Cokes we drink". Get real about this.

Social: a kabillion "likes" doesn't mean doodly squat to your bottom line if you're not using social to drive sales. More on this in another post, but for newsletters, add a link for people to get friendly with you, and especially to forward to a friend. Email is social, y'all.

Subject lines: people tend to open emails with subject lines of three words or less. Make them count. Try to think about what you're asking that customer to do, and what you want the end result to be. 

Keep it short. Too much text on the page confuses the eye, especially when there's graphics involved.

Speaking of graphics, your customers are able to see what they are. Zappos does a great job at this, selling a few items a week that people can click through to on a landing page geared to their past purchases. 

Subscribe & unsubscribe: these basic functions should be as easy as possible for your customers. Countless headaches can come from a customer who can't figure out how to sign up through your site, and ill will can quickly add up if they're forced to jump through hoops to explain why they're leaving your site.

Test, test, test. Send yourself the email first. Click around! Are your customers opening emails more frequently on certain days, or at certain times of day? I've gotten tons of email communications from West Coast companies that arrive after 4 on a Friday in my time zone. Sorry, pals, I'm going to delete those without a second thought. 

Mobile: do you know how many of your customers are reading their emails on their mobile devices? Find out. Adjust accordingly, and test – what looks amazing on a designer's monitor may look like a hot mess on a phone. Do more of your customers use PC's and Blackberries when your office is all-Apple, all the time? Get an emulator, or better yet, keep those most commonly-usde devices handy in your office for real-world QA.

Screen Shot 2012-06-20 at 1.43.57 PMDoes your message match up? If your marketing team is an actual team, then you'd better be sure someone who controls the overall corporate messaging either takes a look over the newsletter, or you're so versed in your company's lingo that you don't make a blunder. Anthropologie is great at selling this experience of some otherworldy life where everyone flits around in a perfect dress.

Updated to add: don't use all caps in your email titles! Anthro did this today, and I almost fell off my chair. Do we really have to go over this again? 


Comments are open on this post if you've got other ideas, comments, questions, or you just want to tell me I'm full of shit.